Fact check: A look at Mayor Rawlings-Blake's record

In announcing that she would not seek re-election, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Friday she's proud of her record.

"That track record includes not always making what many would think is the political decision or the popular decision, but it's the right decision," she said at a City Hall news conference. "I've always done what I knew would move the city forward, and my record reflects that."


Here is a closer look at some of the accomplishments Rawlings-Blake noted in her speech.

•Rawlings-Blake said she has "put more resources than any other administration into reforming the Baltimore City Police Department, resulting in a collaboration with the Department of Justice."


It's true that federal justice officials launched a collaborative review of police practices last October, after The Baltimore Sun reported that the city had paid $5.7 million in court judgments and settlements in 102 civil suits alleging police misconduct since 2011.

But after the April death of Freddie Gray from severe spinal injuries sustained in police custody, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch launched a civil rights investigation into city police. Such an investigation is not collaborative but rather reviews whether police officers engage in patterns of using excessive force.

It's not clear how much the city has spent on police reform efforts.

•Rawlings-Blake said she reduced the city's unemployment by one-third, adding 12,000 new jobs to the local economy.

Since July 2010, the number of Baltimore residents with jobs increased by about 12,200, or 4.6 percent, according to the most recent Labor Department report, which dates to July. The unemployment rate fell from 11.7 percent in mid-2010 to 8.2 percent in July. Business payrolls also increased by about 4.5 percent.

But Rawlings-Blake entered office in 2010, as the recent recession ended. Any growth since then — considered by economists as a period of recovery and expansion — also occurred statewide and nationally, where by many measures it's been more robust.

U.S. employment increased 6.9 percent since July 2010, while payrolls grew 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate nationally fell from 9.4 percent to 5.3 percent, a larger drop than in Baltimore.

In Maryland, employment increased about 5 percent since mid-2010, while payrolls are up 5.8 percent. The unemployment rate in Maryland dropped from 7.5 percent to 5.2 percent, about the same as Baltimore.

•Rawlings-Blake said she reduced property taxes to the lowest level in decades, with more property tax reductions on the horizon.

In 2011, Rawlings-Blake pledged to cut property tax rates for owner-occupied residences by 20 cents by 2020. Two years later, she proposed a budget geared toward cutting property taxes by 22 percent — 50 cents per $100 of assessed value — over 10 years.

During her tenure, the city has cut the rate by about 14 cents.

Her budget this year included no new taxes and no new fees, but in previous years, Rawlings-Blake instituted new taxes and fees, including the bottle tax, taxi tax and billboard tax. She's also raised rates on water bills.


•She said she reversed the decline in the city's recreation centers, opening the first new center in a decade.

The city built a new recreation center in Morrell Park last year. Another in Clifton Park reopened in 2013 after a renovation, and two more are scheduled to open in the next two years.

But three years ago, she came under fire for deciding to close four recreation centers and turn over 10 others to private operators or the school system. She and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young have been at odds for more than a year about future rec center plans.

•She said she reduced teen pregnancies by one-third.

It's true that teen pregnancy in Baltimore City has dropped by about one-third since 2009. But since 2010, when Rawlings-Blake entered office, it has fallen about 18.5 percent, from 53.3 per 1,000 female teens aged 15-19 in 2010 to 43.4 in 2013.

Declines are in line with broader trends. Statewide, the birth rate to mothers ages 15 to 19 fell 33 percent since 2009 and about 30 percent since 2010.

•Rawlings-Blake touted her fiscal stewardship and said Baltimore is the country's first municipality with a 10-year financial plan.

In 2013, Rawlings-Blake released a long-term analysis of the city's finances after an outside firm estimated that Baltimore was on track to run a $750 million deficit over 10 years.

In the latest budget, Rawlings-Blake said her administration had reduced the long-term deficit by about $350 million through cuts to health care and pension costs and new work shifts for firefighters, among other changes. She also cut the city workforce by more than 1,200 positions during her tenure, bringing it down from 15,343 in fiscal 2011 to 13,984 this year.

Rawlings-Blake faced a $120 million budget deficit when she took office in 2010, after property values dived in the housing crash. But the city finished 2014 with a surplus.

Baltimore is not the only place to make long-term economic forecasts. (Some smaller cities, such as Concord, Calif., and Loveland, Colo., also project a decade ahead.) But there is no uniform standard when it comes to long-range financial planning.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board, which oversees how governments track and report their finances, has explored requiring that all cities include more "forward-looking" information in budget documents to prevent bankruptcies and other financial problems. The proposal faced opposition because projections made so far out are considered unreliable. It has not moved forward.

•Rawlings-Blake also said she has pursued more pension reform "than I would say any mayor or any government official in the country."

The plan she introduced in 2010 required firefighters and police officers to pay more into their pensions, forced some to wait longer before retiring and cut bonus checks retired workers were receiving, while not otherwise changing their benefits.


Pension reform is happening in cities and states across the country. Chicago and San Jose, Calif., are both in protracted battles over cuts to new and current employees' pensions. In Detroit, reforms affecting retirees are already settled — retirees began seeing smaller checks this year as part of steps needed to pull that city out of bankruptcy.

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