Mayor Catherine E. Pugh's 2017 Legislative Priorities
Wednesday Jan 11th, 2017
Today, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh released her agenda for the 2017 Legislative Session as the Maryland General Assembly convenes for opening day in Annapolis. Mayor Pugh’s priorities are consistent with her five pillar plan for growing Baltimore, emphasizing reforms in education; public safety and health; and economic and community development.
- School Board: My top priority for the 2017 session is to regain Mayoral appointment authority for the Baltimore City School Board of Commissioners.
- School System Deficit: The Baltimore City Public School System’s recently announced $130 million budget deficit is one example of why I am advocating for Mayoral appointment of the School Board. This month the City and the School System will release a joint report on school funding and the finances of both parties. I am hopeful that this report will create a roadmap to cure this year’s deficit and position the school system for fiscal stability. Year to year deficits are unacceptable and we must address the structural budgetary changes that are needed within the school system - this will require difficult decisions to be made by the Governor, me, the General Assembly, and the School System. The Governor’s willingness last year to provide an additional $12 million in funding to help address the System’s deficit due to declining enrollment gives me faith in a continued partnership with the Governor and our partners in the General Assembly. The City also contributed an additional $10 million to the school system last year to close the gap.
- State CIP – School Construction: I strongly support full State funding of the A and B graded projects in the FY2018 City Schools CIP request made to the IAC. On a related issue, regarding air conditioning in schools, for the oldest school buildings in the State this is much more complicated than it appears. I am confident that the State and the City can come to some agreement on this issue. Denying City Schools much needed capital dollars is not an acceptable solution for anyone, especially our school children.
Public Safety & Health
- Safe Streets: This program has yielded great results in crime reduction in the targeted neighborhoods. Last summer, the State was able to secure an additional $500K as a stop gap measure to keep the program operating through mid-year; that funding was critical and I am working to identify a more permanent stream of dedicated funding.
- Removing the Collective Bargaining Provision for Trial Board: Discipline within the Baltimore Police Department and the trial board that makes recommendations on discipline continues to be a major focus for the Baltimore community. I am proposing legislation that would repeal the existing law that allows for an alternative method for forming a hearing board under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) when the alternative method has been agreed to under certain exclusive collective bargaining agreements. By doing so, the trial board would revert to the default provisions of the LEOBOR and allow for citizen representation, eliminate the three preemptory strikes for the accused officer to decide who sits on that trial board, and allow for a permanent chair of the board, among other things.
- Improving the Baltimore City Civilian Review Board: The Baltimore City Civilian Review Board (CRB) is an important tool for citizen review of law enforcement actions and promotes transparency and accountability. I am proposing legislation that will complement the goals of the common sense reforms that are necessary in the LEOBR. This legislation will ease administration and further expand the role of the CRB in building and restoring trust and confidence between law enforcement and the community. Among other things, this legislation would remove the requirement that complaints to the CRB be notarized. By removing this antiquated step, citizens can more easily file complaints and seek redress as well as increase the efficiency and timeliness of the complaint process.
Economic & Community Development
- State Center: Last month’s decision by the Board of Public Works to cancel the leases with the State Center Developer has forced the City and the State to refocus its efforts on the redevelopment of the area. While I value the potential of a newly developed State Center, it is equally important to me that we retain the 3,000 State jobs presently located at State Center. This is a tremendous opportunity for the Governor and me to work closely to plot the course for the future of this invaluable job center for Baltimore City.
- Preakness: I am increasingly concerned with the prospect of the Preakness leaving Baltimore City. I am anxiously awaiting a study by the Maryland Stadium Authority assessing the current infrastructure needs of the Pimlico race track. Once we receive that report, I intend to work with the Governor and the City Delegation to determine the future of the Preakness and retaining this historic Maryland and Baltimore tradition.
- Surplus School Buildings: As per the 21st Century School Construction legislation, 26 City schools will be surplused back to the City over the next ten years. It is my highest priority to make sure those buildings are put back to a productive use and that they do not sit vacant, deteriorate and become blighted properties for the surrounding neighborhoods. I am asking the General Assembly to sponsor legislation to aid in those efforts.
- Remove Back Ground Rent Requirement on City Acquired Vacant and Abandoned Housing: The City frequently acquires vacant and abandoned properties because the properties have deteriorated to the point where they are a threat to public health and safety, and City intervention is necessary to mitigate and correct the deterioration. Under current law, the ground rent owners for these properties are entitled to three years back ground rent payment, when the City acquires the property. This unjustly enriches the ground rent owners and increases the costs to the City. I am proposing legislation that would allow the City to only pay ground rent moving forward. This change will reduce costs to the City and also ease the process for acquisition.