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Council president pitches Baltimore to White House as good choice for pilot programs

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young met Tuesday with a senior adviser to President Donald J. Trump, pitching the city as a place where the administration could pilot programs designed to help struggling cities.

"My mouth and my mind was racing," Young said. "You don't get the opportunity to talk to senior staff in the White House, not like that."

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Young said he brought up infrastructure spending, crime fighting and education funding over lunch at the White House with Reed Cordish, the son of Baltimore developer David Cordish.

Reed Cordish serves under Jared Kushner and runs a group called the Office of American Innovation, which is charged with bringing private-sector thinking to bear on government problems. The White House did not respond to questions about the meeting.

"He was very receptive to all of the ideas that I put forth," Young said. "He took great notes."

Trump has promised to deliver a major infrastructure package, which could be of particular benefit to Baltimore. The city is dealing with aging roads, bridges and sewers, but the president has yet to make much progress bringing his program to life.

Cordish "said that the president's priorities are inner cities and rural communities, but he's been sidetracked by other things," Young said.

Young's office thinks that because the federal government has ordered upgrades to the city's sewers — at a cost of $2 billion — Baltimore should be a prime candidate for additional federal spending, a point the council president pressed home during the meeting.

Paying for those improvements had led the city to up the cost of water — once two planned increases go into effect by next summer, rates will have doubled in eight years. At the same time, The Baltimore Sun found, the city is failing to reach tens of thousands of poor families eligible for discount programs.

Mayor Catherine Pugh has made attracting federal resources to the city a high priority. She said Monday that she is exploring ways to get more federal funding for battling crime, telling council members she recently met with Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, to discuss the issue.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced it was partnering with 27 cities to provide more support on crime. Baltimore was not among them, which Young said was disappointing.

Members of the Baltimore City Council, all of whom are Democrats, have been hostile toward the Trump administration. The council's first official act after being sworn in for the current term was to condemn Trump's "divisive and scapegoating rhetoric, rooted in hate and prejudice."

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