Business executives behind an August email to Baltimore leaders complaining about ‘squeegee kids’ were largely silent in the days after Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young unveiled his new plan to draw the windshield cleaning youth away from downtown intersections.
Bill Stromberg, the president and CEO of T. Rowe Price Group, wrote an email Aug. 28 on behalf of some of the city’s largest firms and banks, most of which have offices and property downtown where young people tend to squeegee in exchange for money. The email requested a meeting with the mayor, City Council President Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison to discuss “challenges presented by squeegee workers, particularly those who touch cars or drivers without permission or engage in other negative behavior."
Baltimore Police spokesman Matthew Jablow said Tuesday the department created an official designation for squeegee-related calls on June 19 and has since logged 1,284 complaints in that category — or 14 each day on average.
Young and other city leaders revealed Monday that a holistic plan to address poverty as a root cause of squeegeeing was initiated in July. The project, called the “Squeegee Alternative Plan," seeks to advance the educational and socioeconomic development of youth panhandlers, strengthen families hurt by poverty and provide alternative career paths, the plan outline states.
However, business leaders behind the email have had little to say about Young’s plan.
A T. Rowe Price spokesman referred to a statement issued Monday that the company was working with the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore to discuss the city’s strategy to support youth and workforce development.
Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership, said he met with representatives of the mayor’s office Tuesday for a briefing on the plan.
“It was a positive discussion, and we appreciate the holistic approach that they are taking,” Fowler said in an email. “The Mayor’s Office will soon share the plan with Downtown stakeholders, and we look forward to continued, productive conversations on this issue.”
M&T Bank, which Stromberg named in his email, said in a statement that it supports "any effort that can help keep Baltimore a safe and welcoming city.”
“Baltimore is a great city in which to live and do business," the statement said. "We at M&T have always taken a hands-on approach to improving our community — we volunteer, we contribute, we take on leadership roles in organizations that are helping to shape our community.”
Chris Madoo, general manager of the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, also named in the email, said the business community wants to work with the mayor to promote education, job training and other programs to provide the squeegee workers other opportunities.
Madoo said he isn’t just worried about the negative effect the squeegee workers have on tourism and commuters.
“I worry about the safety of those young people out there trying to make a buck,” he said. “Commuting’s crazy.”
Both Laura Gamble, PNC’s regional president, and Dona Marquez, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor, said in emails that they have not reviewed the mayor’s plan and declined to comment. Stromberg’s email mentioned both businesses.
And Al Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, said in a statement “this is a complex issue and we’re happy to see that the city is engaged in helping to find a solution.”
Other companies and firms included on the Aug. 28 email — greiBO, Aegon USA, Transamerica, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Morgan Stanley, Miles & Stockbridge, Tydings & Rosenberg, Cushman & Wakefield, The Kornblatt Company, Gordon Feinblatt, Grander Capital Partners, Corporate Office Properties Trust and Vision Properties — did not respond to requests for comment.
Councilman Eric Costello, who received the email and represents portions of downtown where the businesses are located, declined to comment Tuesday, stating in an email that he had not yet had an opportunity to read the mayor’s plan in detail.
The Squeegee Alternative Plan is the latest development in a decades-long effort to divert Baltimore’s squeegee workers away from dangerous intersections and into more sustainable career opportunities.
The mayor’s newly created Office of Children & Family Success, headed by former city schools CEO Tisha Edwards, will oversee the plan’s roll out in phases, Edwards said.
Edwards is looking for about $1 million annually to fund the project, about $250,000 of which Young has pledged to allocate. However, she hopes the business community will be receptive to partnering with and potentially funding the city’s plan. Officials said a meeting with the businesses behind the email has been scheduled but did not say when it will take place.
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Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.