Candidate Elizabeth Embry captured some of the mood Tuesday, calling the race to determine the next mayor of Baltimore a "change election."
About 30 people are vying to replace Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who announced this fall that she would not be seeking re-election. And while the 10 would-be successors who appeared at a forum Tuesday at Carter Memorial Church did not mention her name, nearly all of them focused on the need for changing how the city is governed, faulting the city for mismanaging funds and lacking a long-term vision for how to proceed.
"What we need more than ever in City Hall is real leadership that's going to come up with a vision that's going to come up with a comprehensive plan, and execute on it," said candidate Nick Mosby, a City Councilman. "If we're sitting on our hands and taking a blank sheet to Annapolis, we can't expect them to understand and know the needs of Baltimore City residents."
Others offered specific suggestions for how to improve the transit system, with several candidates calling for local control of the system.
State Sen. Catherine Pugh suggested the city consider a Skytrain, an elevated rail system, while former mayor Sheila Dixon said the city should look to take better advantage of the free shuttles already offered by institutions like Johns Hopkins University.
Some said they would support an expansion of the Charm City Circulator, a free bus that would connect the West Baltimore MARC system to the University of Maryland, Baltimore and downtown, as asked by the moderator.
But Embry, an attorney, said it doesn't make sense to keep adding new systems, without making the ones we have work.
"The Circulator's terrific, don't get me wrong, but we can't just keep layering on expensive programs," she said.
Tuesday's event, which drew dozens of people to Carter Memorial Tuesday, was organized by the Southwest Partnership, a coalition of neighborhoods that came together to bring more attention to their part of the city and released a master plan last year.
Many of the questions focused on whether candidates would support specific parts of that plan, such as a regional recreation center and pool at Carroll Park.
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Some said they supported the idea and would look to fund it using city bonds — or simply managing current resources better.
Dixon, who has been a front runner in polls, said she supports a regional center but did not want to commit to locating it in Carroll Park without further analysis. Still she said she wanted to see change in the city's department of Recreation and Parks, which she said afterward has historically been a source for patronage jobs.
"We have to really throw out practically everything and everybody at Recreation and Parks," she said during the forum.
Other candidates at the forum were City Councilman Carl Stokes, Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, former bank operations manager Patrick Gutierrez, Baltimore police Sgt. Gersham Cupid, former UPS manager Cindy Walsh and engineer Calvin Allen Young III.
The primary election, which will narrow the large field of candidates, will be held in April. Forums are occurring, often multiple times a week, as the candidates seek to introduce themselves to voters and win support.