Voter guide: Bob Wallace, Mayor, Baltimore City

Bob Wallace

Unaffiliated candidate for Baltimore City Mayor

Age 64

Residence Mount Vernon, Baltimore City

Occupation Currently full-time candidate/Business Owner/Entrepreneur

Education MBA, Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College; B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania; Baltimore Polytechnic Institute; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Sojourner-Douglass College

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Previous political experience


Why are you running for office?

As a Baltimore native who grew up in Cherry Hill, I feel strongly about enacting positive change in our community. I’m a business owner and accomplished entrepreneur, not a career politician. I believe now is the time to bring real change to Baltimore through economic empowerment and innovative solutions. As mayor, I have a plan to pivot our economic development focus to the neighborhoods and people of the city. We must root out the corruption in City Hall and turn our focus to the problems that have plagued our city for far too long. Baltimore needs a mayor who will create jobs, drive economic investment into our city, and help businesses recover amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic. I believe I am the best suited candidate for the job.


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

I believe we must act with more urgency to address our city’s soaring rates of crime and violence, and the devastating toll it takes on our communities. As a leader, I would like to see Commissioner Harrison more hands-on and in-touch with the communities most affected by crime and gun violence. Our strategies must be greater than just policing; however, I don't want to get into a constant revolving door of police commissioners. Like the city as a whole, the police department needs continuity. I will ensure Commissioner Harrison has the support that he needs, but I have high expectations for him and other department heads and if at any point I find that they are not meeting the goals and objectives that have been put in place, then changes will be made.

My plan is to conduct an audit of BPD performance and assess Commissioner Harrison’s record on crime. Reducing crime and violence in Baltimore starts with improving accountability and reliability within the BPD. I will work to create long-lasting solutions by expanding trauma-responsive mental health and drug addiction resources and revitalizing the CeaseFire program. Implementing my economic revitalization and jobs creation plan will provide newfound opportunities to residents in underserved communities.

Squeegee Kids

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

The squeegee kids are a daily irritation for many residents and deter people from outside of Baltimore from coming into the city. This situation has to be and will be addressed. Beginning on the first day of my term, squeegeeing in visible areas will be prohibited.

At the same time, I recognize that this is a complex issue and will work diligently to address the root causes that lead to young kids working in the streets. Under my administration, we will develop an app where citizens can identify where there is squeegee activity, which will alert a three-person unit made up of a law enforcement resource, education resource, and social worker, who will be dispatched in real time. I will create a task force that includes community members, squeegee workers, parents, the business community, educators and nonprofits to create and fund a comprehensive plan to get squeegee workers off the streets and into steady jobs that provide a fair wage.

When I was growing up, the Police Athletic League and Big Brothers and Big Sisters provided activities and mentoring that helped young people like me, young men and women living in neighborhoods where finding the right path is difficult. Through partnerships with these types of organizations, we will connect young people with ongoing opportunities to build the interpersonal skills that are essential for long-term success and stability. My plan is to create a work program that will attract squeegee workers and provide real-world opportunities and a legitimate paycheck.


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

To create long-lasting solutions to end the cycle of violence in our city, we must address the root causes of this violence. Communities with the highest levels of poverty, crime and addiction face the greatest exposure to trauma caused by gun violence and violent crime. Historically, Black and Latino communities in Baltimore have been disproportionately affected by this trauma, which can lead to the development of mental health issues. This trauma can be especially detrimental to young people. The problem is compounded when access to resources are limited or non-existent, as they currently are in Baltimore. As mayor, I will expand the availability of trauma-responsive mental health services and drug addiction resources in the communities that need it most. These services are needed now more than ever in all underserved communities and we will address these needs, providing the resources required to keep our citizens safer.

I will also support the integration of social workers with police response to make sure that non-violent offenders are diverted to mental health and drug rehabilitation treatment rather than being arrested. My priority will be to allocate sufficient funding for these long-term solutions and continually measure the outcomes to ensure people are getting the necessary help and resources they need.


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

As a product of Baltimore City Public Schools, I know that education is the foundation on which we build strong, resilient communities. The teachers I had at Poly helped me see and follow a path that I had never imagined for myself, and they provided me with the strong educational foundation I needed to succeed in college, grad school and business. That’s what I want for all of Baltimore’s children and that’s why I’m committed to investing in our youth and positioning them for academic success.

I support the Kirwan Commission recommendations because I understand the importance of investing in our children. As mayor, I will conduct a forensic audit of every city agency to assess if we are spending our money deliberately and reassess how to better allot city agency spending. We will increase investment in education and build out reserve contingencies to fund and comply with the recommendations from the Kirwan Commission. I would also implement a sale and leaseback strategy on a number of city-owned underutilized assets, including properties and vacant buildings to help pay the costs to implement the necessary Kirwan Commission recommendations. This will allow us to capitalize off city-owned assets to fund the Kirwan recommendations, while retaining ownership over time.

Economic Development

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

Baltimore is a city whose economy relies heavily on small businesses, especially family-owned, minority and women-owned businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our city, and it is our duty as city leaders to uplift and support them during these difficult times. My administration will work to ensure equitable investment opportunities for Black and minority-owned businesses.

As a business owner in Baltimore City, I am the only candidate with a proven record of creating jobs and spurring economic development in our city. I am committed to supporting small businesses, helping residents get back to work, and creating job opportunities for our youth, as well as unemployed and underemployed citizens.

Baltimore has immense and untapped talent but lacks the leadership needed to tap into it. I plan to expand vocational training programs for teens, young adults and ex-offenders in underserved communities. I will work in collaboration with city agencies, schools, and Baltimore institutions to create a workforce development plan for our young citizens that sets them up for success.

I have a plan to attract at least $1 billion of investment into Baltimore City. We will grow emerging industries and create a business environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. I will use my global business connections to attract new businesses to the city from across the state and nation. Within my first term, I am confident that we will bring 100,000 new jobs to the city and make Baltimore a city where families can live, work, and thrive.


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?

Baltimore residents deserve a city that is clean, green, and livable. Making that a reality is a top priority under my leadership.

We’ve seen abysmal leadership, especially in recent months, with regard to trash and recycling pickup throughout the city, not to mention the problem of illegal dumping. I will implement aggressive fines to combat illegal dumping. Lead poisoning remains a critical issue in Baltimore, which has been overlooked by leadership for years. My administration will work to ensure federal funding to expedite infrastructure repair and ensure the lead levels are steadily decreasing over the years.

As mayor, I will focus on creating a sustainable future for Baltimore by focusing on sustainable solutions and improving infrastructure. My administration will focus on protecting our waterways and uncovering the untapped economic opportunities that exist with us focusing on a clean harbor and bay. As an Independent, I will work across both aisles to ensure we are bringing in all available state and federal funding opportunities to address the significant environmental needs of our city.


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

Baltimore must provide safe, sustainable and accessible transportation for residents of all neighborhoods. Our current transportation system is broken. Many residents are unemployed or underemployed because they lack access to public transportation that makes it possible for them to get to their jobs. Improved public transportation increases access to jobs, schools, community centers and other resources for all residents.

To address the lack of accessible transportation, I will implement a plan to expand public bus routes to reach historically disinvested neighborhoods to better connect the city. I will also work to expand access to e-scooters, bicycles and ridesharing services, as well as expand the Charm City Circulator from specific population hubs in the city to various city job hubs.

My experience as a business leader who has built several successful companies will be a key asset as we allocate financial resources to accomplish this goal. Where public dollars are lacking, we will build private-public partnerships to provide funding for these essential transportation improvements.

I will also work in coordination with surrounding counties to support and lead a regional transportation strategy.


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

As mayor, I will focus on ensuring that all residents have access to affordable housing. I will work to revitalize blighted neighborhoods fraught with vacant houses through public-private partnerships to rebuild and rehabilitate vacant homes and transform them into affordable housing. I will work to make loans available for low-income families in communities across Baltimore to help city residents achieve their dreams of home ownership. I will create a program to make a pool of funds available for affordable housing loans and eliminate the barriers to home ownership of many of those in our communities across the city. I will also create a coalition of experts and community leaders from across the city, state and country to help Baltimore create innovative and effective solutions to address our city’s housing needs.


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 city’s use of tax increment financing and other incentives that encourage investment in our city and development of our neighborhoods. As an entrepreneur, I know that these can be used strategically to increase economic development and improve infrastructure, which is needed now more than ever in these economically challenging times. My administration will also look at reducing the property tax for property owners so that our property tax rate is competitive with the surrounding counties. With new economic development, we must ensure it is bringing positive changes to our city, including jobs and opportunities for city residents.

Neighborhood Revitalization

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

As mayor, I will make Baltimore a world-class destination. That starts with cleaner streets and neighborhoods, improved and more abundant green spaces, addressing blighted neighborhoods and cleaning our harbor and waterways. An increased focus on maintenance and beautification of our communities will attract people and businesses to our city.

I will create a public-private partnership to clean up our city focused on landscape enhancement, removal of litter and graffiti and the addition of public art installations in neighborhoods and parks across the city. The partnership will be powered by collaboration between the Department of Public Works, Department of Recreation and Parks, individual volunteers, and sponsorships of streets, neighborhoods, public parks and gardens.

My administration will create a $1 billion development fund, with funding from government and private investors, which will be used to revitalize and rebuild the 17,000 vacant properties in the city. The development fund will be managed by the city and the project will begin with revitalization of the 3,500 vacant homes currently owned by the city. We will then expand the program to help rebuild the remainder of the vacant properties in the city.

As mayor, I will lead an equitable process of revitalization, not just downtown, but uptown and into the city’s underserved communities.


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

Baltimore has faced mismanagement and corrupt leadership within City Hall for decades. We need accountable, efficient and transparent leadership that works at every level.

It’s time to hold elected officials accountable and root out the systemic corruption that has run rampant in the city for too long. As mayor, I will create a new position focused on ethics and transparency—the city’s chief ethics officer, who will work hand in hand with me to create more accountability and transparency at all levels of city government. Together, we will oversee the ethics of the city’s employees, budgets and elected officials.

In my first 100 days in office, we will undertake a complete forensic financial audit of every city agency to see how and where budgets are being spent and how well they are being managed.

We are going to leverage technology to create a public dashboard that measures the performance of city agencies that will be displayed for citizens to review. The live dashboard will measure key goals and objectives and make those metrics transparent and open to the public. We will root out mismanagement to ensure that each agency is doing its best to carry out its duty to serve the needs of the citizens of Baltimore City.

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