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Rawlings-Blake speaks out against veto override

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday she has not decided whether she will actively campaign against a special fund to pay for youth programs that voters will be asked to approve in November.

The City Council overrode the mayor's veto this week, sending the ballot question to voters over Rawlings-Blake's objections that it is fiscally irresponsible.

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The mayor said she supports spending more money on Baltimore's children and teens, but believes council's approach will tie the hands of future mayors.

"I stand here very confident that I will be on the right side of history when it comes to the charter amendment, and its potentially devastating effects on the fiscal health of our city," Rawlings-Blake said.

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Voters will be asked whether to pass a charter amendment to earmark 3 percent of the city's discretionary budget for programs that benefit young people. If approved, the council will have to establish a process for allocating the money. It would raise an estimated $11 million to $31 million, depending on how discretionary funding is defined.

The mayor has noted that the city will spend $372 million this year on services for children and youth, which is a 4 percent increase over what was spent last year.

Rawlings-Blake said she put forward an alternative plan to raise money for recreation centers through the sale of parking garages, but City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young has prevented it from having a hearing. Young is the sponsor of the youth fund legislation.

Selling four city-owned garages would generate $40 million to $60 million, according to the administration's estimate. Rawlings-Blake said her proposal is fiscally sound.

"I have hoped for more than a year that council would see fit to let the public be heard on the parking garage sale, and I continue to hope that is the case," Rawlings-Blake said. "… I made it abundantly clear that I think it's a priority. The community has spoken. Questions need to be directed at those who are preventing progress, preventing the public from hearing why this either makes sense or it doesn't."

Young's spokesman Lester Davis said Young does not believe the city should "divest in the assets that are generating revenue. He does not want to let go of assets."

Davis rejected the suggestion that Young was blocking a proposal that would benefit Baltimore's children and teens from moving forward.

"There has been no greater proponent for recreation centers," Davis said.

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