Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott kicked off a 90-day city cleanup initiative Thursday that will include pothole repairs, graffiti removal and trash pickup.
The Build Better BMore spring city service sprint aims to fill 9,000 potholes, remove 900 graffiti tags, clean up illegal-dumping hot spots and repave 9 miles’ worth of roads.
During an appearance with Department of Public Works crews, Scott said his administration is focusing additional attention on core services as Baltimore emerges from the pandemic.
“There’s no greater feeling, if you’re a resident of Baltimore, than to look outside and see they’re coming to resurface your street,” he said. “We’re going to be focused on things that touch people every day.”
The Democratic mayor, who is entering his third year in office, started the campaign with a tour of DPW sites across the city. In Frankford in Northeast Baltimore, he donned a reflective vest and drove a milling machine alongside Democratic Councilwoman Danielle McCray down Cedella Avenue. In Coldstream Homestead Montebello in East Baltimore, he joined Democratic Councilwoman Odette Ramos and city graffiti crews in rolling paint over several blighted Harford Road properties.
Tony Clark, an employee of the DPW for more than 20 years and a member of the graffiti removal team, praised Scott for restarting graffiti removal services post-pandemic. Clark, who was reassigned to other tasks within the department during a nearly yearlong pause of the services, said he pitched the mayor on restarting the removal efforts when he ran into him at a city vaccination clinic.
Clark offered to let Scott join the crew. “I’m going to get him a truck,” he said.
“I wasn’t always a house cat,” Scott retorted.
Scott also toured a DPW yard, ate a picnic lunch at Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant and participated in an illegal-dumping cleanup with Democratic Councilwoman Phylicia Porter.
The city services initiative comes as Scott gears up for the 2024 election. The former City Council president, who took office in 2020 as mayor, has made clear his intention to run for a second four-year term. The rest of field remains a subject of speculation. No candidates have filed to run for the position, according to the State Board of Elections.
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DPW services have been a source of criticism during Scott’s first years in office. He faced an outbreak of E. coli in a section of the drinking water system, a state takeover of one of the city’s wastewater treatment plants and mounting disapproval from council members over reduced recycling collection. His director of public works, Jason Mitchell, has announced he will depart at the end of June.
Data provided by city crews in the past suggest the 9,000-pothole goal is in line with pre-pandemic services provided by the city. City officials told The Baltimore Sun in 2021 that Baltimore had eight pothole crews and that one crew could fill 15 to 20 potholes each day. To reach Scott’s 90-day goal, eight crews would each have to fill about 18 potholes per weekday.
Residents can submit service requests via 311 and use the hashtag #BuildBetterBMore on social media.
Baltimore’s last big push to fill potholes came during former Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s administration. During the lead-up to the 2020 election, Young announced he would fill 5,000 potholes over the span of 50 days.
Asked about any similarities to Young’s initiative, Scott said his administration is not in competition “with anyone but ourselves.”
“But I will say, there will be no one that mills the streets the way that I mill them,” Scott added.
Baltimore Sun data journalist Steve Earley contributed to this article.