Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at the National Urban League convention Friday in Baltimore.
Gov. Larry Hogan called Friday for a bipartisan approach to solving problems in American cities as he welcomed almost 800 participants to the National Urban League's annual convention in Baltimore.
"We must seek to empower and not to demonize," the governor told those assembled for the civil rights organization's gathering at the Baltimore Convention Center.
The Republican governor received a warm reception from the largely African-American audience after he thanked the league for bringing its convention to the city.
Hogan avoided any mention of presidential politics to a group that heard Thursday from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. The governor has said he does not plan to vote for the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, or for Clinton.
The Trump campaign declined an invitation to attend this week's conference, Urban League officials said. The four-day conference is expected to draw about 10,000 people before it ends Saturday.
Hogan devoted much of his brief speech to recounting the various steps his administration has taken to invest in Baltimore since riots broke out three months after he took office. The death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from spinal injuries suffered in policy custody spurred unrest in April 2015.
The governor pointed to the state's investments in education and blight removal. But Hogan said his urban agenda is about more than razing unsafe and unsightly buildings.
"It's about rebuilding, revitalizing and transforming this entire city" he said.
Hogan also praised his administration's achievements in education, employment and criminal justice. He pointed to the passage of legislation creating so-called P-Tech schools that will combine elements of high school, community college and workplace training.
The governor noted that the state's first two P-Tech schools will open this school year in Baltimore, where students will be taught "in-demand" skills.
"Employers will gain a steady pipeline of the most highly skilled professionals" he said.
Hogan said Maryland has gained 71,000 new private-sector jobs under his administration and vowed to continue efforts to bring jobs to high-unemployment parts of the state, including Baltimore.
He also pointed to the Justice Reinvestment Act he signed this year as critical to breaking what he called the "cycle of incarceration." The sweeping reform of Maryland's criminal justice system is intended to reduce the state's prison population and use the money saved on incarceration for crime prevention programs.
Dennis Serrette, senior vice president of the National Urban League, said the governor of the state and the mayor of the city where the group holds its annual convention typically give a welcoming speech — whether they are a Republican or a Democrat. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addressed the group Wednesday.
Serrette said the "fiercely nonpartisan" organization also typically invites presidential campaigns to have a member of the ticket speak at its conventions in election years but understands when neither the presidential nor vice-presidential candidate can attend.
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