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Voter guide: Shannon Wright, Mayor, Baltimore City

Shannon Wright

Republican candidate for Baltimore City Mayor


Age 53

Residence Woodring, Baltimore City

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Previous political experience


I have 20+ years of experience with policy analysis with community implications, issue-specific policy advocacy combined with successful strategy and management.

Why are you running for office?


Mayor of Baltimore

Crime

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


We need a comprehensive multi-pronged approach. Prosecution alone is not the answer. We need to be tough on crime, specifically violent repeat offenders, while also being sensitive to addressing the shortfalls of city leadership that have led to a level of desperation where crime seems like a solution.

This must be done in two parts.

  • Improve policing:
    • Go back to community policing with satellite locations throughout the City
    • Beef-up Citizen Patrols to make residents and officers into partners, community by community
    • Give officers the tools, resources, and training based on 21st-century models to be able to do their job
  • Fix what is broken in our communities that has led to increased crime by re-investing in our communities:
    • Re-working prison re-entry, removing barriers from getting and keeping self-supporting wage jobs
    • Increasing City efforts to fully address the opioid epidemic
    • Create a real public-private-partnership with stakeholders to create mentoring fellowships to provide nonviolent offenders access to education and employment training
    • Institute a city-wide restorative justice initiative with all partners and stakeholders at the table
    • Do direct outreach across all involved agencies and the judiciary
    • Develop a coordinated strategy making the case for why it is critical for all to work inter-governmentally to address the issue of criminal justice reform and to improve the lives of all in Baltimore City

    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 or panhandle in any way to survive. The reality is squeegee kids can’t continue working in the streets. In a perfect world, they would be in school. Whether they need a job, or have other challenges, we need to assess the needs and determine the root cause of why they are on the street in the first place.

    These are symptoms of years of failed policy leading to a serious lack of opportunity in Baltimore. We need to plug our kids into the services that they need to provide for themselves and their families. We will provide the wrap-around services including mental health services, job training programs, shelter/affordable housing options, etc., in order to get them on the right path.

    Lastly, where needed, I would create a series of therapeutic foster boarding schools to accommodate youth that are without families to give them a safe place to live. I would Include trades in the curriculum and offer paid internships for maintaining good grades. I would also include a hands-on curriculum that includes entrepreneurship, trades, and business management with a wide variety of life skills leading our vulnerable youth to a position of self-sufficiency.

    The larger goal is to create more opportunity so as to prevent, rather than cure, in the first place.

    Drugs

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


    Modern medical care may have been born in Baltimore, but the health of our citizens doesn’t reflect that legacy. Reducing overdose deaths and the impact of drug addiction will be a priority for my administration for the well-being of our citizens and for our overall crime reduction strategy. I support and would invest in evidence-based treatments, including medication-assisted treatment and counseling. I will also partner with the appropriate agencies at the local, state, and federal level to implement best practices for eradicating our drug problem by addressing the root causes.

    Education

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


    My goal is that we will no longer be a city where your ZIP code determines your future. According to Maryland Department of Legislative Services figures, Baltimore City currently spends less than 15% of its budget on education compared to a statewide average of 36%; that is unacceptable. We need to reprioritize education, and that is not simply putting more money into the school system so it can be wasted. We first would need to evaluate what we are spending on and whether it is working or not:

    1. Analysis of problems
    2. Design for addressing the problem
    3. Develop the strategy
    4. Implement the strategy with regular assessments of outcomes and measures
    I commit to raising the City's contribution to Baltimore City Public Schools. As Mayor, the school system and education will be a priority, unlike other mayors.

    To meet this increased financial responsibility, we will need to transform the way the City spends its money. We will conduct a forensic audit of all dollars in Baltimore City government. We will bring in additional revenue from sources that are not currently supporting the City and our residents. We will also stop squandering resources on TIFs and PILOTs. We will review existing tax incentives, begin phasing out subsidies that are no longer needed, reassess our portfolio of city-owned properties, and determine the feasibility of selling some assets.

    Economic Development

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


    We need economic development and job creation without gentrification across all sectors of industry. I would use the resources of Section III and Opportunity Zones to create entrepreneurial opportunities getting our abandoned properties back on the books and creating a low income home ownership model to allow families to stay in the City and invest in their own communities.

    This is the opportunity to engage HBCUs to position the schools and the City to make full use of the wealth of educational institutions and groom the next generation of thought leaders to move our city forward specific to greener-cleaner energy, technology, and health innovations.

    Also, I would:

    1. Phase in a tax reduction to bring us in line with the national averages, at the same time diligently work to improve the business climate to offset the difference and set us on a path of growth
    2. Remove TIFs
    3. Get abandoned properties redeveloped and back on the books
    4. Offer school vouchers to attract families
    5. Exert solid, steady leadership to stabilize Baltimore City government and create a culture of integrity, transparency, and efficiency while removing the red tape for business creation, development, and growth

    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?


    We have had a long-standing problem in the city with inequity regarding the City’s culpability in several of the detrimental determinants to health and general well-being in our city. We must address issues of lead, food insecurity, and the impact of trauma at a minimum. The folks that live here are the heartbeat of the City, and right now our leadership is failing to care for that heart. We need to get the lead out, we need to increase our green canopy through not just trees but with urban farming, and we need to get our youth involved.

    I will also address the environment, climate justice, and the climate crisis locally, including not only reducing/eliminating greenhouse gas emissions within the City, but also protecting the people and infrastructure from the environmental impact. I would look to see all available data so that we can properly address the problems and create a real plan with measurable outcomes.

    I will work to enforce legislation for greater corporate responsibility. I will work to create a robust urban farming industry in our city. This will help reduce negative health factors and create jobs for our youth.

    Transportation

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


    I absolutely support enhanced investment in transportation infrastructure provided we have a thorough analysis and it is structured in the best interest of all the residents. I also think it is important to create a regional authority to oversee the transit network.

    Housing

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


    We would get our abandoned properties back on the books using a Habitat for Humanity low-income homeownership model. By doing this we are removing blight, creating jobs, and increasing a sense of pride and ownership in our communities through redevelopment without gentrification. This will also inevitably lower crime rates throughout the city.

    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?


    Again, economic development without gentrification. I would call for a moratorium on development for any entity that is not willing to develop projects for areas away from the waterfront that are geared to the City’s current residents. I would phase out incentives that don’t make fiscal sense for the City at this time.

    Neighborhood Revitalization

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


    We need to partner with our local schools, colleges, and universities to promote local talent to partner with leadership to create a campaign to clean and beautify our city. We need to prioritize making our city look and feel like a place we can all be proud to call home. This will include community cleanups sponsored by City Council in partnership with community associations. We will require City Council to perform quarterly State of the District reports so that problems can be addressed in a more timely and effective manner for residents of all parts of our city.

    We will also include:

    1. Community art
    2. Community centers and recreation
    3. Beautification of streets and neighborhoods
    4. Improving infrastructure
    5. Trash pickup and recycling

    Leadership

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


    I would start with the Board of Estimates as it is dysfunctional. Under the board’s current composition, the two mayoral appointees are too close to the Mayor. These are folks who should be objective and not mouthpieces for the Mayor. There needs to be a selection process. Also, the City Solicitor should only be on the board as an ex-officio member, not a voting member. I would also ask the resignation of every department head, then ask if they would like to re-apply, then ask what they intend to do differently to fulfill their mission mandate.

    1. Every agency would be expected to reveal monthly what it spent and on what and how that improved the lives of Baltimore City residents
    2. A thorough and sifting analysis of the City’s procurement process
    3. Every quarter, the City’s head of finance would be required to give a State of the City address in Education, Finance, Mayoral, and Board of Estimates.

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