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Baltimore mayor: building progress with transparency, accountability and integrity | COMMENTARY

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott gets a Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccination Wednesday outside BCCC from Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott gets a Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccination Wednesday outside BCCC from Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa. (Jerry Jackson)

Baltimore has heaps of challenges that my administration is determined to solve. We are supporting local businesses, safeguarding neighborhoods and managing COVID-19 recovery efforts. But if we are serious about pursuing equitable solutions, we must follow the fundamentals of progress: transparency, accountability and integrity.

These ingredients are essential for building trust, especially given the public skepticism toward City Hall. That is why it was important that I commit to regaining your confidence and proving that local government can operate in your best interests. As mayor, I have done just that, and I will not let anything distract me from my mission of addressing your most urgent needs.

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I believe that if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. That is why my administration is adamant about ensuring our progress can and must be measured. In the spirit of transparency, I launched a 100 Days of Action Tracker to communicate what we are doing to make your lives better. I also asked you to use this tool to stay engaged, ask tough questions and hold us to our promises.

Technology also plays a key role in a transparent, more accountable City Hall. My administration recently announced the addition of a new chief data officer tasked with launching the city’s first Open Checkbook, an easy-to-use database where residents can explore how we spend your tax dollars.

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And we are upgrading the way our city does business so we can issue contracts in a more equitable way to provide opportunity to local women- and Black-owned local businesses.

In the spirit of accountability, I am holding myself and the agencies under my leadership to the highest of standards to make sure that Baltimore is providing the quality service you deserve. And the higher the priority, the more accountability we need.

For instance, violent crime is our biggest challenge, and reducing it remains my top priority. That is why my office holds PoliceStat meetings regularly with Commissioner Michael Harrison and the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) to increase community engagement and oversight.

This process was designed to build a better department by tracking performance, regularly reviewing BPD’s microzone strategy to respond to trends in violent crime, improve methods for identifying and restricting the flow of illegal guns into Baltimore, and strengthening trust between BPD and the communities they serve.

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We cannot combat a crucial matter like violent crime without allowing the communities who are most impacted by it to have a real voice in shaping a path forward. Far too often, Black communities are forced to endure policies that they not only did not design, but were not designed with their benefit in mind. As mayor, I strive to change that by making my administration accountable and responsive to you.

Combating violent crime requires a holistic, community-based approach. Hence, I established the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), appointing trusted advocate Shantay Jackson as Director. This organization is working on implementing our comprehensive violence reduction strategy, which is based in equity, healing and trauma-informed practices to improve public safety in Baltimore.

And to ensure the success of our Draft Violence Prevention Framework and Plan, MONSE is hosting Facebook live feedback sessions and over a dozen community engagement events to hear directly from you.

Leading with integrity requires the courage to do the right thing. This is not an easy task, especially when contemplating decisions between what is popular and what is honorable. Trust me, celebrities brunching on Instagram look much cooler than scientists instructing you to stay indoors.

But thanks to public health experts and data, my administration formulated a plan with Baltimore City Health Department Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. And we are seeing positive results.

And we continue to do the right thing by extending grace to Baltimore families navigating the pandemic. Teaming with partners, we delivered over 8 million meals, 18 million pounds of boxed groceries and produce, $6 million in direct food assistance, and $740,000 in community food grants.

I will continue this approach as I distribute the more than $600 million in American Rescue Plan funds to get Baltimoreans working again, help businesses recover and invest in the people and places that have been overlooked due to inequitable policies of the past.

Baltimore deserves leadership it can count on and trust. You should be proud of all that we have accomplished in such a short time, but you should be even prouder of the manner in which we were able to accomplish it. And our journey is just getting started.

Brandon Scott (mayor@baltimorecity.gov) is the mayor of Baltimore.

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