Democratic candidate for Baltimore City Mayor
Occupation Baltimore City Council President
Education MERVO High School ‘02; B.A. Political Science - St. Mary’s College of Maryland, ‘06
Previous political experience
Councilman, 2nd District, Baltimore City Council
Why are you running for office?
This election is serious to me because people's lives are depending on a change in leadership, strategy and vision. Right now, we are losing entirely too many people to guns and drugs. One life lost to gun violence or a preventable overdose is one too many. In my lifetime, Baltimore has not had a leader who truly stepped up to the plate to address trauma in our communities, who fully invested in our children, and who fully supported our families. We must work holistically to end gun violence and and support Baltimore residents.
I’m running for Mayor because our city needs leadership. And not just leadership, but ethical leadership. Baltinmore needs a candidate who can bring people together, no matter where someone grew up or where they live. That is exactly how I've operated over my career. I’m proud to have a growing coalition of support that looks a whole lot like the City of Baltimore.
While our city has been through a lot this year, I do not believe Baltimore is destined to be corrupt and inequitable forever. In fact, we have an opportunity to build a coalition of Baltimoreans who believe our city deserves better now. I am ready, willing and able to be that leader for Baltimore and do that work across our city.
How do you assess the current police commissioner’s performance and the department’s approach to fighting violent crime, specifically murder?
Baltimore’s violence results from generational trauma, structural racism, lack of opportunity, and systemic under-investment in our youth and families. We will only reduce crime if our approach is comprehensive — grounded in the immediate action we can take today while simultaneously addressing the root causes of violence.
No one can be satisfied with the current level of violence. It is unacceptable, and we must deploy a holistic strategy to turn the tide. BPD finally appears to have stable leadership. However Commissioner Harrison needs a mayor who takes responsibility for our crime epidemic and provides guidance — something he currently lacks.
First, I will implement a group violence reduction strategy. We know we can’t just pull known, repeat gun offenders into a room and tell them to stop shooting. We must bring more credible mentors into this work, partner with the re-entry community, and provide people real opportunities to turn their lives around. That’s something our city has never fully invested in.
Second, I will focus on getting illegal guns and ammunition off the street. As Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I led the way for Baltimore to use the “Crime Gun Intelligence Center” model, which allows BPD to track illegal guns and ammunition.
Finally, I will implement a comprehensive and holistic crime reduction strategy that brings every City agency into this work. Baltimore residents deserve to live in neighborhoods that are safe and secure, where public health is centered and where people of all ages can grow and thrive.
How would you address the issue of squeegee kids in the city’s intersections?
It is not okay for anyone, no matter how old or how young, to commit an act of violence or damage a vehicle, period. These incidents should be reported. However, we know that many of the young people who wash car windows are generating income to support their families. Having grown up in a Baltimore neighborhood where economic opportunities were scarce, I understand what many of these men are going through.
We must provide alternatives and opportunities for the young people in our City. We will do this by expanding programs that work: mentorship, expanded recreation center programming, and a year-round, fully-funded YouthWorks program.
Despite evidence demonstrating the many positive effects of these programs, every mayor in recent history has under-invested in them. For example, hundreds of young Baltimoreans are on a waiting list for a mentor. As Mayor, I will end this wait list while ensuring that organizations doing this life-saving work have the operational and financial support they need.
Our children are a reflection of what we put into them. During the 2020 budget season, my colleagues and I fought to expand recreation center hours to give youth a safe space on Saturdays — for the first time since the 1970s. As Mayor, I will secure the funding to open and operate modern rec centers with relevant programming 7 days a week.
Every dollar invested in our young people returns dividends that compound over time. We must as a City invest more in their present and future.
What strategies would you pursue to reduce drug addiction and associated ills, such as overdose deaths and crime?
I am committed to treating our City’s drug addiction and overdose crisis with public health interventions, not the failed policies of zero tolerance or the War on Drugs. Since 2015, there have been over 1,600 homicides, 3,300 non-fatal shootings, and nearly 3,500 fatal overdoses in Baltimore City. That is a staggering loss of life that has ripple effects throughout our communities.
For my lifetime, Baltimore has not addressed drug use and addiction as the public health issues that they are. The opioid crisis fuels street-level, open-air drug markets and has intensified with the emergence of fentanyl. As Mayor, I will establish a holistic public safety vision that centers harm reduction and gets our most vulnerable residents the support they need to survive.
This crisis has also had a detrimental impact on the violence and trauma that our residents experience. We must prioritize harm reduction strategies, like expanding the Baltimore Stabilization Center and creating overdose prevention cities, to ensure we can save lives first and support people in need where they are.
As Council President, I have been collaborating with harm reduction advocates to explore the role of overdose prevention sites in Baltimore. As Mayor, I commit to working with families who have been impacted by overdose, community providers, the Health Department, and partners at the state level to transform our approach and treat this life-or-death issue with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.
How do you propose Baltimore pay for its expected share of the Kirwan education commission ?
Our youth are the key to realizing Baltimore’s full potential. I want to ensure every student in Baltimore can thrive, regardless of the neighborhood they are from. All students deserve a world-class education, and fully adopting the Kirwan recommendations will put us on the right track.
As Mayor, I will assemble a fiscal accountability task force. This group will be charged with making recommendations for redirecting funds to increase the City’s contribution to schools. It will also change the city procurement system — of which $300+ million a year is spent on professional services. This task force will analyze all city spending, including contract spending, through the following lenses: worker rights and benefits, contract compliance, equity, efficiency, small business support, and minority- and women-owned businesses. I commit to implementing the recommendations from this task force and investing the savings into our children.
We have never had a mayor who considered the school system as their responsibility and made it a priority. In August, in the first piece of my Legislative Agenda, I introduced a resolution demanding the City’s Department of Finance to present the City Council with a proactive plan to increase local funding for our public schools.
I was the first official to fully commit to funding Kirwan. I also called on the Mayor to spend our City’s $34 million FY19 surplus on school infrastructure upgrades. As Mayor, I am committed to fully and responsibly funding Kirwan through smarter spending, re-allocating funds, and strategic public-private partnerships.
What are the overlooked opportunities for economic development and job creation in Baltimore, and how will you encourage their implementation?
As Mayor, I will address overlooked opportunities for economic development and job creation through a framework of equity. My first priority is radically transforming and rapidly improving the quality of basic city services. We are not going to be able to grow our local economy if core city services are unreliable and residents do not trust their elected leaders. We must start with the basics. Supporting workers, employee-owned businesses, and local companies are important opportunities. As Mayor, I will only vote for contracts that include the aforementioned provisions. The City’s economic development incentives must be tied to clearly defined community benefits that broadly support the people of Baltimore. Finally, we as a City government need to be making data-driven decisions when funding workforce development programs. In Charleston, SC, the local government uses data from LinkedIn to see what jobs are forecasted to come to the city and what skills are needed. As Mayor, I look forward to partnering with local businesses to invest in workforce development programs that meet the actual needs of our community. Fundamentally, the health of our communities depends on people’s ability to make a living and support their families. However, barriers created by the criminal justice system can make that challenging. As a city, we must do more to ensure the success of people returning home from prison so they can move on and contribute to their communities. We must also understand the barriers created by high levels of debt and felony records from non-violent offenses.
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?
Too many mayors have ignored pressing infrastructure upgrades and neglected core city services provided by the Department of Public Works. This lack of leadership is exactly why residents lose faith in local government: their trash isn’t getting picked up, water bills are bankrupting households, and safety net programs - like sewage backup reimbursement - are not administered correctly. DPW is fundamentally flawed.
I will restructure DPW and fully implement the Clean Air Act. I will provide schools with the capital they need so all students have safe learning spaces, including lead-free drinking water. I will make it easier to build green stormwater infrastructure, and equitably ensure that all residents live in healthy neighborhoods.
As Mayor, I propose moving the Office of Sustainability to a cabinet level office. Once elevated, the office will be empowered to direct agencies to make operational and capital changes that prioritize environmental equity. This will impact core city cleaning and sewage removal services in DPW, the Health Department’s asthma prevention program, and lead remediation services in the Housing Department. I also commit to funding the Office of Sustainability’s 2019 Sustainability Plan.
I am committed to environmentally-oriented economic development. Humanim is an excellent example of this work. The Housing Department contracts for the annual deconstruction of at least 250 vacant structures across the City. This agreement uses city dollars to employ returning residents and pays family-sustaining wages. I am committed to investing city funds in contracts like these, that provide livable wages and benefits and responsibly reuse building materials.
What transportation strategies would you pursue to help city residents access jobs?
As Mayor, I am committed to equitably improving transportation and mobility opportunities for all Baltimoreans. Almost half of all Baltimoreans of car driving age do not have exclusive access to a car; moreover individual car ownership is costly, increases congestion on city streets, requires more public funds to repair over-burdened public infrastructure, and contributes to climate change. When I was in high school I took public transportation to and from school. I saw first hand how Baltimore’s unreliable public transit can make daily life much more difficult.
This is why Governor Hogan’s short-sighted decision to walk away from years of work and nearly a billion dollars in federal funding for the Red Line was devastating. In order for Baltimore’s residents to be able to get to work or school, we must do more to provide transit options that work for all residents.
As Mayor, in addition to pressing the State to properly fund MTA, I will look for opportunities for the City to help fill the gaps in public transit, including Circulator-like service to the area’s job centers. I will also fully implement the Complete Streets ordinance. I will create at least 15 miles of dedicated bus lanes by 2022 and complete the 77 lane miles recommended by the Separated Bike Path Plan. I will also explore the creation of Bus Rapid Transit. I look forward to working with transit advocates, community organizations, and environmental groups to implement a more equitable transportation future that makes this city safer and greener.
What can the city do to encourage the development of more affordable housing?
For far too long, our public resources have been diverted from the neighborhoods that need them most, triggering a vicious cycle of disinvestment that has plagued generation after generation. Baltimore is the birthplace of redlining, racially-restrictive covenants, and discriminatory lending practices. This inequity continues to impact Baltimore’s Black neighborhoods hardest. This must stop.
For years, a diverse coalition of activists, experts, and community members advocated in City Hall and across Baltimore for dedicated funding to create and maintain a diverse stock of affordable housing in all neighborhoods across the City. The work of the Baltimore Housing Roundtable — now the Fair Development Roundtable — paid off with the creation of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and a dedicated funding stream.
As Mayor, I will fully support the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. My administration will enact all funding recommendations, which include funding Community Land Trusts and other mechanisms to create and preserve affordable housing in Baltimore’s most disinvested neighborhoods. I will also commit to providing adequate resources to the Baltimore City Housing Department to fully implement its equity-driven Community Development Framework with community partners on the ground.
I will also focus on reversing the trend of disinvestment from our Black and historically redlined neighborhoods, while ensuring that residents have a stronger voice in determining the outcome of our shared City resources. Together we can increase the supply of affordable, yet high quality, rental housing across our city so that individuals and families can achieve the stability they deserve.
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?
I support the use of city-financed incentives that encourage development, but they must be analyzed through a lens of equity. I also fully believe that previous mayors, and our current chief executive, are far too influenced by local developers and business leaders. Just look at their campaign finance reports.
We as a City must be fiscally responsible and focused on equitable outcomes when we consider spending our limited financial resources on TIFs, PILOTs and other economic incentives. As Mayor, I will publicly, and with the input of our local communities, announce metrics I will use to judge economic development incentives and provide the public a way to follow along. I will then conduct an annual audit of all projects benefiting from local incentives and measure the performance of each against these standards. This will provide all Baltimoreans a publicly-available way to hold us accountable.
As Mayor, I am committed to exploring as many viable policy and program options as possible to encourage existing businesses and residents to stay and expand in Baltimore City. Some of these proposals include: a second location business grant and expanding BDC’s small business incubator, including expanding seed funding options, and expedited permitting opportunities for good faith business owners. Additionally, I am committed to establishing a formal workgroup that maintains an open dialogue across Baltimore’s businesses to better understand their role in our local economy and what they need to support sustainable economic development in our communities.
What can Baltimore do to encourage commercial and residential revitalization in neighborhoods away from the waterfront?
Over the past decade, Baltimore’s capital budget has prioritized wealthy, white communities over poor, Black communities. Traveling through Baltimore, this reality is plain.
As Mayor, I will make all policy decisions, particularly those about neighborhood revitalization, from an equity lens. I have led the City Council in the fight for policies rooted in equity and have passed legislation to enshrine equity as a key value in local governance and policy. I introduced and passed a ground-breaking charter amendment to establish an Equity Assistance Fund. I also passed legislation requiring all City agencies to analyze all funding and policy decisions through a framework of equity and undergo equity training.
However, almost two years later, little to no work has been done. The current administration is not genuinely prioritizing equity-based work. Once this legislation is fully implemented and funded, City agencies will be equipped and empowered to direct their capital and operational resources to the neighborhoods that need it the most. I will use the same lens when analyzing any proposed development subsidies. Too often, PILOTs and TIFs are used to further concentrate wealth in Baltimore’s White L. This practice must stop. I will use the full power of the Mayor’s Office to ensure that ANY subsidy is offered in a way that benefits ALL residents, not just the wealthy few.
As Mayor, I also commit to providing adequate resources to the Baltimore City Housing Department to fully implement its equity-driven Community Development Framework with community partners on the ground.
How will you improve efficiency and effectiveness in city government and encourage transparency and accountability in its operation?
In order to fight corruption, increase transparency, and make Baltimore more accountable to the people, we must change how Baltimore City government is structured. It has not fundamentally changed for at least four decades.
As Council President I proposed several Charter Amendments that would help to bring much-needed accountability. First, I introduced legislation that would create a charter-mandated city administrator to shift the burden of day-to-day administration away from the Mayor. This would bring Baltimore up to speed with cities across the country and counties in our state.
I am currently working to change the makeup of the Board of Estimates, which approves all City contracts above $25,000, to be only the 3 elected members. Currently, the Mayor has unchecked control over the Board. This consolidation of spending power decreases transparency, making space for corruption and inefficient spending.
I also commit to changing the way we elect our leaders. As Mayor, I will fund the newly created Fair Election Fund. As Council President, I am proud to support this legislation.
Finally, transparency will be at the heart of my administration. My administration will respond to Public Information Act requests promptly. I will livestream all City committees, boards, and commissions, including expanding the use of closed captioning and translation services to increase access. I will also utilize town halls, conducted virtually and across the City, to provide more opportunities for residents to provide input on important legislation, the annual budget, and other important decisions.