Days before the Democratic primary, candidates battling to become Baltimore's next mayor took to the radio yesterday morning for a debate.
During the two-hour discussion on WOLB-AM, five of the seven candidates expressed their views on topics including the tax rate, requiring police officers and firefighters to live in the city, and how to attract the middle class to the city.
Participating were City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., Del. Jill P. Carter, schools administrator Andrey Bundley and businessman Mike Schaefer. Mayor Sheila Dixon participated by telephone for about 40 minutes and then left for an appearance at Patterson Park.
The candidates were asked how they would maintain and expand Baltimore's middle class.
Mitchell said the schools must be improved first and that he would then "work to create wealth" with "opportunity centers" created through public-private partnerships.
Dixon said she would continue working to bring together representatives of the city's core trades with young people and former offenders so that people could be trained in the fields that are hiring.
Carter said that in addition to improving the school system, she would work to build small and minority businesses.
All of the candidates said Baltimore residents pay too much in taxes, and many of them vowed to cut the tax rate.
Carter said the city shouldn't be so quick to give tax breaks to the wealthy, and Schaefer proposed a $100 to $500 tax on commuters who work in the city but live elsewhere.
Mitchell and Dixon support a task force that is examining ways to cut taxes.
Asked whether police officers and firefighters should be required to live in the city, a rule that other cities enforce, most candidates said they prefer to offer the city employees incentives to live in town rather than forcing them to do it.