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Voter guide: Mary Miller, Mayor, Baltimore City

Mary Miller

Democratic candidate for Baltimore City Mayor


Age 64

Residence Guilford

Occupation Senior Fellow at 21st Century Cities Initiative at JHU

Education B.A in Government from Cornell University; Master’s in City and Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill

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Previous political experience


US Congress Legislative Aide, 1977-78

Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the US Treasury, 2012-2014

Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets at US Treasury, 2010-2012

Why are you running for office?


I’ve lived in Baltimore for 34 years. My husband and I raised our sons here. I’m grateful for what this City has given us, and I want everyone here to have the same opportunities.

I was proud to serve in the Obama Administration in one of the highest positions at the Treasury. The experience inspired me by showing me how government can work for people and get things done.

It’s why I’ve been working to get money flowing into Baltimore neighborhoods that have been left out for too long - investing in housing, small businesses, and creating jobs.

Working in these communities – I see how people suffer from escalating violence. We need to call this the emergency that it is. I’ll give the police commissioner the support to succeed and hold him accountable to make the changes we need.

As I’ve said from day one - Baltimore doesn’t just have a crime problem, it has an opportunity problem. I’ll fully fund the Kirwan Recommendations to strengthen our schools. I’ll drive Inclusive Growth for all of Baltimore’s residents.

I’ve seen how many hardworking organizations are fighting for our city. They deserve a trusted leader who will support their efforts with a vision to make meaningful changes. I’ve managed complex organizations, built strong teams, managed through crises and helped cities across the country rebound from the Great Recession.

I’m the only candidate with the experience, vision, and integrity who is prepared to lead on day one.

Crime

How do you assess the current police commissioner’s performance and the department’s approach to fighting violent crime, specifically murder?


Last year’s record homicide rate and its low clearance rate show that BPD and the City are not doing enough to make residents safe. That’s clear. But I believe Commissioner Harrison deserves a chance to do his job and needs a Mayor who will support him, yet hold him accountable. Baltimore has had five different police commissioners since 2015 and that turnover has severely diminished our ability to execute a crime reduction strategy. Commissioner Harrison has a proven track record of bringing down crime. He’s implemented a Consent Decree in New Orleans and oversaw a change in police culture and community trust, and we need that same restoration of trust here in Baltimore. As Mayor, I’ll provide the Commissioner the support and resources he needs to implement the strategies laid out in the Commissioner’s Crime Reduction and Departmental Transformation Plan. I’ll support programs like Safe Streets and Roca to de-escalate violence and include our communities. These steps include focused deterrence to stop the most violent offenders and stronger coordination across city agencies, the State’s Attorney’s Office and our judicial system. We must also modernize our outdated technology to strategically reduce crime.

Squeegee Kids

How would you address the issue of squeegee kids in the city’s intersections?


No child should have to wash car windows at stoplights to survive in Baltimore. These are symptoms of the lack of opportunity in Baltimore. We need to offer a path towards a living wage job with benefits, taking into account all the social and economic incentives at work here. We know who the squeegee kids are and the intersections where they work. I applaud the city’s efforts to move squeegee kids back to school and into work, but we need to do more. My administration will engage with each individual to end this dangerous practice by offering workforce training, short term financial assistance and education. The larger goal is to create more opportunity so that squeegee activity doesn’t begin in the first place.

Drugs

What strategies would you pursue to reduce drug addiction and associated ills, such as overdose deaths and crime?


While homicide rates in Baltimore claim the headlines, addiction has plagued Baltimore for years as well, resulting in nearly 800 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2018 – more than double the number of deaths by homicide. In 2016, Baltimore had the highest overdose mortality rate of all large metropolitan cities in the United States. I believe that addiction is a disease, not a crime, and should be treated as a public health matter. Instead of criminalizing addiction, we should be focused on caring for those affected. Numerous evidence-driven interventions have been developed to reduce overdose deaths, some of which are already implemented by dedicated non-profit organizations in our community, but implementing these interventions on a citywide level requires focus and commitment from City leadership.

As Mayor, I will ensure the Health Department and other partners have the resources they need to effectively treat addiction. We need to increase funding for naloxone distribution and education. This life-saving drug is designed to reverse an opioid overdose. We should expand our existing needle exchange program, which protects Baltimore residents from drug-related infection. I’ll invest in social and behavioral health supports, so more people in crisis can have access to on-demand help from experienced professionals. Finally, I’ll support more diversionary programs such as the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) for nonviolent and low-level drug offenders to direct them to treatment rather than jail.

Education

How do you propose Baltimore pay for its expected share of the Kirwan education commission ?


Every student in Baltimore has the right to a quality education, but our current education system is deeply inequitable, leading to vastly different outcomes and inadequate preparation for college and/or a career. The Kirwan recommendations outline the path toward elevating our education system by providing more support for students and teachers, with accountability for results. Once we know the final funding formula, we’ll have a clearer idea of the city’s obligation over the next decade and we can identify the revenue sources. My plan for inclusive growth will raise the city’s income levels and grow the tax base, allowing for increased contributions to the education budget. We need to prioritize spending on education in our city budget.

Economic Development

What are the overlooked opportunities for economic development and job creation in Baltimore, and how will you encourage their implementation?


As Mayor, I would make inclusive growth a front office priority with the creation of this position. A recent report called “The Black Butterfly: Racial Segregation and Investment Patterns in Baltimore” documents the dramatic underinvestment in certain east and west neighborhoods of the city. The median annual earnings of black workers in Baltimore is 58% that of white workers, and there is a 14% difference in employment rates. We need to make inclusive growth our goal to close these gaps.

We need to fund an inclusive workforce plan. As Mayor, I would restore funding to the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development to build a coordinated approach for citywide workforce training. We have over 30 organizations engaged in workforce training in Baltimore and plenty of evidence that an industry-focused approach can drive good job placement. We need leadership who can connect training with good jobs.

As Mayor, I will partner with the business community to locate and resource a one-stop center that serves both Main Street businesses and our startup entrepreneurs with business plan development, licensing and permitting, legal and accounting services, and importantly, access to loans and capital for growth. I will also work with our private sector lenders in Baltimore to do more to support our local economy, end redlining and build more capacity to support business growth. I will work to attract more venture capital to Baltimore to help our entrepreneurs, particularly minority and women-led companies.

Environment

Baltimore faces multiple environmental problems, from lead in school water fountains to sewage overflows to illegal dumping sites to Wheelabrator emissions. What are your environmental priorities for the city, and what steps would you take to address them?


Addressing unhealthy and unsafe homes and neighborhoods are an immediate priority. Housing is health – research is clear that people’s homes have a significant impact on their health outcomes. Unfortunately, years of disinvestment in neglected Baltimore neighborhoods has left many families trapped in unhealthy housing environments, leading to thousands of cases of lead poisoning, asthma-related hospital visits, and preventable home-related illnesses and injuries, disproportionately affecting African-Americans. This is especially dangerous for our children, as lead poisoning in young people can lead to lifetime learning disabilities, ADD, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

We need to provide more funding for universal lead testing for children in order to increase the likelihood of detection and better understand the real rate of lead poisoning so we can effectively address it. The City should provide comprehensive housing assessments in high-risk neighborhoods to ensure that no Baltimore family is living in a dangerous and unhealthy home. I’ll direct our Housing and Public Health Departments to work together with non-profits to address unhealthy housing issues to more effectively eliminate lead exposure, reduce asthma triggers, promote energy efficiency, and protect our families from avoidable accidents.

Other environmental priorities of my administration will be improving air quality, addressing the lack of fresh and affordable foods in distressed neighborhoods, protecting water quality in the harbor, and increasing the amount of tree canopy across the city.

Transportation

What transportation strategies would you pursue to help city residents access jobs?


Baltimore should be a city that works for its residents, students and employees, including offering a great transportation system. However, our public transportation system is inadequate, plagued by long commute times, limited routing and a lack of integration. Our city is disconnected and inequitable in providing mobility. In a city with poor public transit, where one-third of residents don’t have vehicle access, this becomes a barrier to gaining employment, grocery shopping or getting your child to school on time. One study found commuting time to be the strongest factor determining the odds of escaping poverty.

Mobility from poverty is central to making Baltimore safe for everyone. We simply can’t afford a weak transportation system that doesn’t serve the most vulnerable populations. A robust public transportation system is essential to green, thriving cities. Today, 23% of workers in Baltimore spend 45 minutes or more commuting one-way – wasting time, burning fuel and adding to poor air quality.

Baltimore needs an efficient, reliable, and affordable multimodal system, a key component of transportation justice. Beyond a strong bus and rail system, walking, biking and other modes of transit like e-scooters should be encouraged with focuses on safety and equity. Complete Streets and East-West busways are two strategies the city needs to improve transportation.

Little has been done to offer solutions to Baltimore’s transportation inadequacies, or a Plan B when programs fall through. We need greater local control of transit decisions, and I’ll explore a regional authority to create an equitable, public-transit oriented Baltimore.

Housing

What can the city do to encourage the development of more affordable housing?


Stable housing can make everything easier for those trying to find jobs, access education and receive better health care. As Mayor, I will oversee the use of the new Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a flexible tool to provide good homeownership and rental options for Baltimore’s lowest-income residents. We should also leverage the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund, and work with non-profit and for-profit lenders to build affordable rental units and increase access to mortgage credit for those who have been shut out of the financial system. I would also scale the Vacants to Value program with consistent funding to provide more affordable housing. I would support innovative solutions for homeless people and families who are seeking permanent shelter.

Taxes

What is your view of the city’s use of tax increment financing, payments in lieu of taxes and other incentives to encourage developments like Harbor Point?


As Mayor, I’d conduct a comprehensive review of our tax structure. Baltimore is overly reliant on property taxes in a city where at least one-third of our landmass is off the tax roles as non-profit entities. While these entities are large employers in the city, our property tax rate is uncompetitive at double the rate of surrounding counties. To compensate, we have a confusing array of multiple tax credits and PILOT arrangements with no clear standards or plan for how these can drive inclusive growth and, specifically, equitable job creation in the city. I support tax incrementing financing for projects, if they have strong local hiring requirements that are enforced and if they are distributed equitably across the City, not just concentrated in the more affluent areas. The City should also be continually monitoring these projects and ensuring that the requirements in the TIFs are being followed.

Neighborhood Revitalization

What can Baltimore do to encourage commercial and residential revitalization in neighborhoods away from the waterfront?


The Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund is a good example of how public dollars can attract private capital for projects in underinvested neighborhoods. The Baltimore Development Corporation’s work with Opportunity Zone investors also demonstrates how the City can help attract more private investment in designated areas. The city must offer an active inventory of properties ready for businesses to expand or locate in the city.

As Mayor, I will provide consistent and higher funding for the Vacants to Value program to increase affordable homeownership in the city, and use the new Affordable Housing Trust Fund to leverage more investment in homeownership. For the city to truly benefit from inclusive growth, we need to make it more possible to live and work in Baltimore. Reclaiming our neighborhoods means giving small developers and residents the chance to work on renovating vacant houses that will create jobs and income. By rehabbing or removing abandoned homes, we create stronger blocks and neighborhoods – building equity for all families. We should give priority to projects that employ local residents.

Leadership

How will you improve efficiency and effectiveness in city government and encourage transparency and accountability in its operation?


As Mayor, I would create strong deputy mayor positions with clear authority and accountability for the equitable delivery of city services to every neighborhood, economic development in our underserved communities, stronger relationships with our state and federal government partners, all within a context of equity and inclusion. The city government must serve its citizens well to restore trust in government.

We’re all exhausted by the corruption and mismanagement that our past leaders have demonstrated. And, it’s a shame that we’re only now talking about ethics, transparency, and accountability in Baltimore City government. I went through two rigorous Senate confirmations when I served in the Obama Administration, and I believe that our elected officials here should be vetted more thoroughly. We need stronger ethics and financial disclosure requirements, public financing of campaigns, and a requirement that the Mayor cannot engage in any outside business dealings while in office.

I’ll lead a transparent and ethical government, and I will never embarrass our City.

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