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Ben Carson well aware of Baltimore's challenges, Hogan cabinet official says

A top Hogan administration official said Tuesday that Ben Carson is a leader in urban renewal efforts who is aware of the challenges facing Baltimore.

Kenneth C. Holt, secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, said he and Gov. Larry Hogan met about a month ago with Carson, a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who was tapped by President Donald J. Trump to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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"It was a wonderful opportunity to sound him out on the needs of Baltimore City," Holt said, adding that they discussed Hogan's Project CORE demolition program that is focused on turning some of Baltimore's vacant and blighted properties into new development or green space.

"When I described to Dr. Carson that we were engaged in urban renewal, he corrected me. He said, 'No, we're engaged in community revitalization, that is the health, the education, the public safety of the individuals who live in this city.' He clearly is a leader who understands the issues that affect all of us in Baltimore City and throughout the nation."

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Holt, whose comments came during a grand opening for a renovated low-income housing complex, said Carson "is going to be a wonderful collaborator." He said he hopes Carson will visit Baltimore in the fall to see some of the neighborhood reinvestment work.

State officials asked Carson for $100 million, but Holt did not say what the money would be used for, or if Carson was receptive.

"The whole concept of collaboration is so essential because it creates a force of will," Holt said.

Without segue, Holt then took aim at the media, saying "Listening to the media makes me crazy. It's more a force of opposition and that doesn't do anybody any good. The hallmark of our administration and how we are approaching our jobs is to work in a collaborative effort with our partners.

"That's HUD, the city of Baltimore ... It's been a fantastic relationship and so productive. It's bringing together historically disparate groups who are now on the same team."

Carson, a former Republican presidential candidate, was confirmed in early March by the Senate as HUD secretary. He lived in Baltimore County while practicing at Hopkins.

A Hogan spokesman previously said that the Republican governor met with three members of Trump's Cabinet in late March, including Carson. The two spoke about about a program to help people with student debt buy homes, in addition to Hogan's efforts to demolish vacant houses in Baltimore.

"It was a very productive meeting," Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said.

A HUD spokesman said the department does "not comment on private meetings designed to allow for frank and open dialogue."

"Since being sworn in, Secretary Carson has met with numerous elected officials to hear, firsthand, their ideas about housing," said Raphael L. Williams, the spokesman.

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