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Baltimore residents want safer streets and more money for youth. Here’s how mayoral candidates responded to their priorities.

Baltimore residents want to feel safer. They want to walk past fewer boarded-up vacant houses and see less trash on their streets.

Knowing that their city faces a slew of challenges, roughly two dozen mayoral candidates outlined at a forum how they would move Baltimore forward.

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Candidates responded to questions based on the Blueprint for Baltimore survey results, which asked 5,000 people about their priorities ahead of the 2020 election.

Over two hours Wednesday night at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, candidates laid out how they would improve education, community development efforts and public safety — an all-consuming issue in a city dealing with unrelenting violence.

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City Council President Brandon M. Scott, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, state Sen. Mary Washington, former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah, former city police spokesman T.J. Smith, businessman Rikki Vaughn and former T. Rowe Price executive Mary Miller were among the panelists. All are running in a crowded April 28 Democratic primary.

Forum host Open Society Institute-Baltimore initially expected Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young at the forum, but his campaign spokesman said he ultimately had a scheduling conflict.

While many candidates pointed to their plans for the future, Dixon, who was forced out of office 10 years ago, reminded the crowd that she’s already had success at reducing crime. From 2007 to 2010, homicides in Baltimore dropped from 282 to 238, and the violent crime rate went down each year.

“Let me just put that out there," she said.

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Washington said the city has for too long prioritized its police budget over its education budget. Baltimore is now under enormous pressure to find hundreds of millions more dollars to spend on schools as part of an ambitious statewide education reform plan, and some say officials should reallocate some of the money spent on the Baltimore Police Department.

“We are unified as a city in that we want a safer city,” Washington said. “We need to right-size the budget.”

Candidates also criticized current city leadership for allowing children to attend school in buildings without functioning air conditioning and heat.

“If my students are in classrooms with no heat, then we won’t have no damn heat in City Hall,” Vaughn said.

Vignarajah said city leaders don’t really know where taxpayer dollars are “being spent and misspent.” He says there must be a citywide forensic audit to help officials come up with a better accounting.

When Scott was young, he said, politicians never listened to what he had to say. Now that he leads the City Council, he makes a “point to do that each and every day.”

He hears from young people about how much trauma they deal with, growing up in communities scarred by shootings. Scott said he was proud to oversee the council as it passed a bill that aims to make Baltimore a “trauma-responsive city.”

Smith pointed to his crime plan, in which he calls for “Trauma Go-Teams” to be deployed in neighborhoods that have experienced a shooting or homicide to check on people’s well-being.

Some in the audience said they wish candidates had outlined more concrete plans. Each had just 40 seconds to respond to questions from journalists Tom Hall and Lisa Snowden-McCray, who moderated the event.

“It’s helpful to allow the community to vet people and give their input,” said Diamonté Brown, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. “The thing that’ll make me hopeful is seeing candidates do the work they’re talking about.”

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