2022 State of the City
2022 State of the City
Good afternoon, Mr. President, Mr. Comptroller, members of this esteemed body, faithful clergy, and residents of our great city. I stand before you this afternoon to share with you the state of Baltimore.
It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as the 52nd Mayor of our city and I remain committed to seeing Baltimore reach its full potential. I am excited to be here with you today in person, now that City Hall has reopened to the public.
I want to take a moment of silence to recognize our first responders and public safety workers who lost their lives in the line of duty, serving the residents of Baltimore. Officer Keona Holley, Lieutenant Paul Butrim, Lieutenant Kelsey Sadler, Firefighter/EMT Kenny Lacayo, and our Safe Streets workers: Dante Barksdale, Kenyell Wilson, and Da’Shawn McGrier. Not only did they commit their lives to making Baltimore a better and safer place – they made the ultimate sacrifice in selflessly serving their city.
— MOMENT OF SILENCE —
To Commissioner Harrison, Chief Ford, Director Jackson, and all of our public safety staff, I want to acknowledge the diligent work that you do to protect Baltimoreans every day – especially throughout the pandemic.
Even before I took office, the Health Department (BCHD) – under the leadership of our brilliant Health Commissioner, Dr. Dzirasa – has been a guiding light in helping us navigate this deadly pandemic.
Sadly, we’ve lost 1,728 Baltimoreans to this deadly virus – 328 this year alone – but while I may receive the credit for making the tough decisions I know we would have lost thousands more if we didn’t have Dr. D’s leadership, expertise, guidance and foresight, as we took science based actions to protect our residents. Dr. D thank you for a job well done. But let us all be reminded, this pandemic is not over. There will be other variants and other surges, and this will not be the last pandemic that Baltimore faces.
When I contemplated how we would spend this enormous funding from the American Rescue Plan, I knew that our health department would be the first recipient. This $80 million investment is about setting Baltimore up to ensure we are prepared for the next surge and the next pandemic while also strengthening Baltimore’s healthcare ecosystem. No matter their zip code, Baltimoreans will have access to quality, equitable healthcare. The public health of Baltimore residents remains my top priority as we navigate the pandemic and cope with a new sense of normalcy. This investment helped us provide tens of thousands of COVID tests; dedicated testing staff; funding to develop telehealth infrastructure for Baltimore health care clinics; and the purchase of PPE.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Councilman Schleifer for his partnership in setting up the AccuReference testing site and vaccination clinic in Northwest Baltimore. This site served thousands of Baltimoreans during the height of the Omicron surge including many of our homebound residents – AND it’s where I received my booster shot. Showing again that when Baltimoreans unite we can achieve anything, even overcome a global pandemic.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge and honor the outstanding work done by the team at the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), led by Chief Wallace. In response to the pandemic, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was fully activated for an unprecedented 738 consecutive days. I want to give a special shout out to the entire team at the EOC for working overtime to support our agencies as they served the residents of our city.
I also want to recognize our frontline workers for getting us through the worst of the pandemic. Healthcare workers stepped up in a big way and we owe them a huge amount of gratitude. However, our home health care professionals haven’t been acknowledged on the same scale as other essential workers. Despite this they have continued to serve our families often in lieu of seeing their own. In light of this, I am partnering with SEIU 1199 to fund $2M in compensation to give these workers the appreciation and recognition they deserve.
Overall, the pandemic has underscored the importance of our essential workforce. Under my direction the Department of Human Resources (DHR) conducted a series of salary studies to improve the competitiveness of city positions in comparison to similar jurisdictions. We are partnering with the City Union of Baltimore to ensure that the City is able to hire and retain the best and brightest employees starting by raising the salaries of 752 employees.
I want to thank my partners in government, the Council President, the Comptroller, the City Council, and our State and Federal delegations. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to set Baltimore on a path to recover from the pandemic and build Baltimore back, better and more equitably. But Baltimore let's be honest. When I came into office City Government was broken and rotten to the core from years of dysfunction, turmoil and misplaced focus. We had to start from scratch and build new systems from the foundation up, no longer putting new windows on a house with no roof. But together we are paving a new path forward for our city and the proof of that is evident.
We are resilient; we are proud; and we WILL win against all odds. We are also a city where excellence - Black excellence - abounds - much like the CIAA.
We had plenty of naysayers when we talked about going after the CIAA, the oldest Black athletic conference, and luring their tournament away from Charlotte to Baltimore. Well, Baltimore, I am pleased to report that your city showed up and showed out for the 2022 CIAA Tournament.
66,000 fans attended the tournament with the championship games drawing over 13,000 spectators to Royal Farms Arena surpassing 2019’s championship day in Charlotte by nearly 4,000 people. CIAA visitors drove early hotel revenue over an estimated $3.2 million which is the highest hotel revenue for the last weekend in February since 2015. The average daily room rate for the period was the highest daily average rate since 2007.
In addition to great basketball and a huge economic impact for our city, the CIAA celebrated HBCUs and Black excellence. And, we were able to do all of this – safely – during a pandemic. CIAA is an example of what we can achieve when we dream big, and collaborate with partners who understand our passion for uplifting our city’s strengths instead of magnifying our weaknesses. I want to thank Al Hutchinson, the Visit Baltimore team, and all of our City agencies for making the 2022 CIAA Tournament a win for Baltimore. Imagine what we are going to be able to accomplish in ‘23.
Under my administration, we will complete a long, long, awaited and debated renovation of the Royal Farms Arena. A huge thank you to our partners at Oak View Group and the best basketball player in the world, Kevin Durant. We are excited to see this transformational project begin and I commend the project team on their commitment to include minority and women-owned businesses. This project will create over 500 construction jobs over the next 12 months. And a new arena will reenergize our downtown, complement planned West Side investments, and help attract even more events and visitors. Together, we can build a better Baltimore by leveraging the power of collaboration. I want to thank Colin Tarbert and the Baltimore Development Corporation for making this possible.
Building Public Safety
While we cannot overlook the impact of COVID. We cannot ignore the fact that our city is still plagued with gun violence, as it has been for decades. Last year, we lost 338 lives to violence. Children like Maliyah Turner Mothers/Grandmothers like Evelyn Player and too many more who will never spend time with their families or reach their full potential. Unfortunately, this year has started off in the same way and it is clear that the effects of violence impact everyone in every neighborhood in our city.
Yes It’s true that we are a part of the national trend of increased violence, however we cannot accept it as ok or normal and we are not and will not be deterred in our efforts to disrupt it.
We are focusing on holding violent offenders accountable and getting them off our streets. Thus far this year, we’ve made 363 gun arrests and recovered 573 illegal guns, including 142 guns used in violent crimes and 113 ghost guns. In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, the Warrant Apprehension Task Force has served 810 warrants – year-to-date – for violent crimes including murder, attempted murder, rape, carjackings and armed robbery; our homicide clearance rate is over 50%, which is up almost 13% from last year. I want to commend the BPD for serving our residents and making Baltimore a safer place to live every day.
If we continue with the status quo, we will continue to get status quo results. That is why we are doing the work to ensure that police resources are being used effectively and constitutionally. To that end, we have developed several initiatives that are part of our strategy to reimagine policing. These are all changes that our residents have told us they want to see, as we move closer toward creating a safer future for Baltimore.
Our Reimagining Policing strategy will allow us to modernize policing and transform BPD into a world-class law enforcement agency. We’ve updated BPD’s staffing model to maximize limited sworn resources – allowing our police to tap into qualified personnel that can advance through the hiring process faster.
It is no secret that Police Redistricting in Baltimore has long been overdue. Population, workload, crime trends, even individual neighborhoods have changed dramatically in the decades since our district boundaries were last drawn. This is why as a Councilman worked Senator Cory McCray, to ensure we were changing our districts regularly to account for our constantly evolving city and that work has begun.
No matter which neighborhood I am in, residents let me know that they want their police officers focused on the violence in our city. However our patrol officers spend half of their time focused on non-emergency calls where there is no one in danger. In the coming weeks we will be unveiling our Smart Policing program – emphasizing innovative policing by having officers focused on what and where our residents need them to be. By implementing a SMART policing strategy, we can free up valuable time spent by our officers on these non-emergency calls so they can be more proactive and have more visibility patrolling our communities and making them safe.
Frankly, all of these initiatives are long overdue, and I know that some of them will cause controversy, however as I stated when I was sworn in, I am dedicated to doing the right thing regardless of criticism. We need to evolve in order to build the capacity – not just to solve crimes but also to prevent them from happening in the first place.
I’ll be discussing these initiatives in more detail in the near future and look forward to working with our elected leaders and our constituents to implement this strategy. But if we have learned anything from Baltimore’s decades of struggles with violence it should be that Police alone will not solve our problems.
This is why I created the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE). We are rounding out Year One – the Foundation building Year – `of the Comprehensive Violence Prevention Plan. Through which we are setting a new tone at the city government level and it will take a public health approach to get there.
We created an all-hands-on-deck strategy around community-centered and collaborative solutions that address violence while strengthening ties in the community. I invested $50 million to accelerate the development of our violence prevention work and support the organizations operating on the frontlines to build a safer Baltimore.
The responsibility to prevent violence falls on all of us – not one person or one agency. My plan is for us to collectively reduce crime. We are forging a wide-ranging coalition of law enforcement across all levels of government to address the violence that plagues our city from every possible angle. This is why not only city, but state and federal agencies are involved, like in the newly re-established Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. I restarted the CJCC to end the finger-pointing, rebuild city, state and federal partnerships. And most importantly put Baltimoreans back at the forefront of our conversations and strategies to improve our justice system.
This year, we have been working hard to start our Group Violence Reduction Strategy. With the partnership of BPD and the State’s Attorney’s Office, we launched GVRS in the Western District in January. This time, Baltimore, we will get it right.
We are focused on and reaching those in the Western – who are at the highest risk of either being the victim or the shooter – with critical, life-saving support and services. But I want to be clear! For those who do not take that support, there will be law enforcement consequences so choose wisely. And we are working to bring this work to additional districts in Year Two.
Safe Streets has been a crucial part of our work to change the way we approach public safety. We are preparing to release the findings and recommendations of the Safe Streets internal evaluation. I tasked the office with this evaluation, with a goal of providing stronger oversight, accountability, and support to Safe Streets. This is about how we ensure the safety of our violence interrupters, who have mediated more than 455 conflicts this year. It’s also about providing the training and career pathways they deserve.
Now, I’ve said before that our public safety strategies will not be effective if they are disconnected, one-off, or incomplete. We must connect our efforts, leverage our assets as a city, and meet our residents who bear the brunt of the violent incidents right where they are.
In the coming weeks, I will outline my vision for a Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Ecosystem for Baltimore – and expanding the capacity of Safe Streets is just a key piece of this CVI Ecosystem. It’s also about caring for victims with services like intensive life-coaching, hospital violence intervention, school-based response and other wraparound support. This approach works and is supported by the White House as a best practice to reduce violent crime in partnership with our communities. This shift in strategy from past efforts will help us cover more ground than the 2.6 square miles of a 90 square mile city that are currently covered by Safe Streets.
Change is happening and violence and violent crimes are being addressed right now. As your neighbor and Mayor, I want to let you know that we are all in this together.
Looking at the year ahead, the City of Baltimore is well-positioned to double-down on our progress to stem the tide of violence. We are gearing up to launch our Returning Citizens Behind the Wall initiative. Which will provide safe return plans, training, and wraparound support and pay them $15 an hour to clean Baltimore before and after release.
Baltimore City has provided post-arrest diversion services for youth for more than a decade. Under my leadership, MONSE has launched our SideStep pre-arrest diversion pilot for West Baltimore youth.
We are seeing the fruits of our labor and will continue to invest in the futures of our young people, not their failures. A sincere thank you to Director Shantay Jackson and the MONSE team for the incredible work they are doing every day to bridge our communities and keep our residents safe.
Our Fire Department has been through so much this year and we see where they need support to better serve our residents. In order to adequately support the men and women of the Fire Department we are making much needed investments in the 2023 budget including allocating $5million to create two new EMS units. We will further reduce the burden on our EMS staff and improve response times by setting up population health and nurse triage programs. And last but certainly not least in partnership with the state and in honor of the heroes who lost their lives in January, we are rebuilding Engine 14 – which was a second home to Lt. Sadler and FF/EMT Lacayo.
In partnership with Councilman Burnett, we are investing half a million dollars in the upcoming budget to create opportunities for our young people through paid apprenticeships with our Fire Department (BCFD).
We need Baltimoreans to stay engaged and continue to be active participants as we progress in building this new era of public safety in Baltimore. I encourage everyone to look at the great work organizations like We Our Us are doing to get involved in this effort. This work is going to take everyone buying into a unified and comprehensive vision to make Baltimore a safer place for us all.
Baltimore’s young people are the key to this brighter future, and I know that we can realize this vision by investing in them – with not only our resources, but our time.
It is no secret that our school system has been underfunded for decades. Our students have been forced to learn in aging buildings and our teachers have been undervalued for far too long. I set out to change that. When we began the process to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, I said the city would do our part and challenged our agencies to help us get there. Today, I am proud to announce that in my upcoming budget we are investing over $65 million more into our City Schools system. This will help us continue and build on the progress being made like the record 6 new school buildings opened through the 21st Century Schools program this year. We are showing our young people that they matter and their futures matter.
In February, I announced my $120M vision for recreation and parks. I was joined by community partners in laying this new, unified vision to support our young people and our communities. We will no longer compete for scarce resources, but instead work together. I am excited to announce that KABOOM! has named Baltimore as their first official partner in their 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity! We are coming together to show our residents — especially our young people — that they matter. We are putting our money where our mouth is, providing them with safe modern spaces to exercise, spend their time productively, and foster excellence through healthy competition. We will put more effort into their promise than their struggles, more in their supports than their shackles, and more in their dreams than their downfalls.
This is how we are truly going to build public safety in Baltimore. Growing up I basically lived in our rec centers. I am living proof of the profound impact that rec and parks (BCRP) has on our communities. They can literally save lives. I wouldn’t be here today without Towanda , CC Jackson, or JD Gross and I want our young people to be able to have that same connection to their local rec center. That is why I was so excited to reopen rec centers that have been closed for years like Towanda and Bocek and why we opened the brand new Cahill Fitness Center last year. Just a couple of years ago we had 40 rec centers across Baltimore. Today we have 52, and this year we will open the 53rd - the incredible new Middle Branch center in Cherry Hill. We are building a new Furley Rec Center as part of the new Furley Elementary School and – Councilman Torrence – we are building the new Parkview Rec in West Baltimore and reopening the Druid Hill Park pool this summer. I want all of us – our young people, seniors, and families – to have access to the rec centers, parks, public pools, and athletic courts they deserve.
A huge thank you to Director Reginald Moore and the fantastic team at BCRP for their undying commitment to supporting our residents and empowering our young people.
We all know that Baltimore is the birthplace of redlining. That legacy shows up in the stark inequalities of our city still present today. Almost a year ago, I announced that Baltimore was taking the first steps to establish a Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. Research shows that guaranteed income projects have resulted in lower poverty, higher earnings and savings. Guaranteed income has proven to be a key tool in improving economic mobility and advancing racial and gender equity. This is an investment in the future of our city and our young families by providing direct support so they can thrive. I am excited to announce that the application will go live on May 2nd for Baltimore’s Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. We are partnering with the CASH Campaign of Maryland to administer the program which brings a wealth of experience in benefits counseling and wrap-around services.
Two weeks ago, we kicked off the 2022 YouthWorks season. Last year – for the first time in some time – we offered a summer job to every young person that completed their YouthWorks application. And this year – we’re doing it again. I’m calling on all area employers - large or small,nonprofit, faith, and community organizations - to plan for your future today by hiring through YouthWorks for your summer needs. We want to ensure that every young person that wants to work doesn’t miss an opportunity to do so. There is still time for young people and employers to sign up to participate in this year’s program. Last Fall, I allocated $8M in funding to YouthWorks to allow the City to serve an additional 4,000 youth over two summers and provide employment opportunities for 100 youth during the school year through the first-ever, year-round YouthWorks Academy, which launched in February.
Responsible Stewardship of City Resources
I was elected on a promise to ensure the Responsible Stewardship of City Tax Dollars, and we are changing the way government operates.
When the Federal government announced ARPA and we – thankfully – received $641M in funding to help us bounce back stronger from the pandemic, I established the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Programs (MORP) to ensure we equitably make strategic investments in Baltimore’s future. I remain committed to this being a transparent process. To that end, I created the ARPA Reporting Center, which allows the public to monitor investments made through the City’s ARPA allocation. I want to thank our first ever Chief Recovery Officer, Shamiah Kerney, and her team for ensuring that the transparent and responsible use of these dollars makes a difference in our communities.
I also want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank our Congressional delegation – Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, Congressmen Mfume, Ruppersberger, and Sarbanes – for their partnership, advocacy, and support in our efforts to secure this historic investment and progress Baltimore forward.
Improving our water system is a key part of our work to ensure that we are being responsible with taxpayer dollars. We all know our water infrastructure is old and bills are too high for our residents. I am committed to making water bills more affordable for our residents while also renovating this aging infrastructure and this work is already paying off.
As Mayor, I have made sure to finally enact the Water Accountability & Equity Act to provide much-needed relief from water bills to low income residents. I want to thank Council Vice President Middleton for her work to make this possible. Water4All is groundbreaking for Baltimore and only one of two programs of its kind in the nation that provides comprehensive income-based protections to both tenants and homeowners. I want to give a special thanks to Director Jason Mitchell for remaining at the table, hearing the complaints from our advocates, and working with them to come to a resolution. A big thanks to the teams at the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success (MOCFS), and our Community Action Partnership (CAP) Centers.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $396 million in WIFIA financing to the City of Baltimore to modernize water infrastructure across Baltimore, focusing on supporting low-income communities and communities of color in East and West Baltimore. Through WIFIA, the City will save approximately $100M that can be used to support other initiatives, including the new Water4All program.
And today, I am pleased to announce that 10% or more per year water rate increases are a thing of the past! Our new water rate increases for the next three years will be an average of 3.2%. For our customers that means for the next 3 years your typical bill will only increase about $3.76 per year. The 3.2% increase is also less than the current rate of inflation, which is at 7.9%.
I can’t talk about the responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars without mentioning our innovative use of data. My staff knows, “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t – so show me the data”. It’s about using proven strategies to maximize transparency and accountability. Under my leadership, many of our agencies are already engaged in meaningful and sophisticated work using data to better understand and improve operations on behalf of residents.
The City of Baltimore is effectively using data to improve residents’ lives and our being one of 50 cities that received “What Works Cities” certification clearly indicates that. I want to thank Justin Elsasz, our first Chief Data Officer for Baltimore City, and Dan Hymowitz, Director of the Office of Performance and Innovation.
We are transparently administering a once-in-a-lifetime allocation, creating an innovative program to benefit our most at-risk residents, and doing it all while being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Equitable Neighborhood Development
The last time I met with Bishop Miles, he told me that we needed a comprehensive housing strategy, including reducing vacant houses that have been plaguing our communities for generations
Under my administration, we are going to build more equitable communities across Baltimore and reduce vacancy.
Last month, I announced $100 million in funding to kick start our equitable housing strategy. Residents in Park Heights, CHM, Uplands, O’Donnell Heights, and Perkins, Somerset and Oldtown in East Baltimore will see activity after decades of waiting.
This coordinated strategy will help us address the dual challenges of disinvestment and middle income flight from Baltimore’s neighborhoods. Through Live Baltimore, I am investing half a million dollars in the upcoming budget to incentivize more Black and Brown families to return to and stick around in our great city.
Part of this investment is also a historic investment to reduce vacant homes. Working shoulder to shoulder with Baltimore’s communities, and leaders at BUILD, we have identified $39 million to strategically reduce the number of vacant buildings in our city. This funding, coupled with the action-oriented recommendations from my vacancy review task force will be the difference our communities have been waiting for. We have already begun to operationalize recommendations made through the city’s vacant property review with the help of Councilwoman Ramos. We’re removing owner-occupied homes from tax sale, providing relief on unpaid property taxes, increasing investments in demolition, stabilization, and rehabilitation of vacant properties. I would like to acknowledge Councilwoman Odette Ramos and Deputy City Solicitor Ebony Thompson who have already begun making great progress with the Circuit Courts to create the separate docket. I also want to give a sincere thank you to City Administrator Christopher Shorter for leading this critical work to transform the landscape of Baltimore City literally.
We launched BuyIntoBmore so that potential buyers can access programs and resources and bring properties back into productive use.
In February, I announced $90 million in funding that will allow the City to implement best practices to make homelessness brief, rare, and nonrecurring in Baltimore.
But, as we continue our pursuit of Equitable Neighborhood Development across Baltimore City, we must not forget our older residents. They are the residents who lived through Baltimore’s racist policies and who bore the brunt of housing inequity. We must ensure they have the necessary resources to age in place with the dignity and grace they deserve. This is why I announced over $16 million in funding support to continue the Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors program which provides modifications, repairs, and wraparound services for our older adult homeowners. I want to thank Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy and her team at the Department of Housing and Community Development for working hard every day to create affordable housing and healthy communities across the City.
In addition to the investment, we have also taken legislative action to protect our legacy homeowners. In partnership with my councilwoman, Councilwoman McCray, the City launched its Tax Sale Exemption Program to protect owner-occupied properties from going to tax sale. This is part of our larger strategy to reform the City’s antiquated tax sale process and protect our longtime residents. I salute Councilwoman McCray for leading this effort in the City Council, and I am grateful for the agility of our agencies to operationalize this new initiative.
And I could not speak about Equitable Neighborhood Development in Baltimore and not mention the staple that is: Lexington Market. Last month, I was extremely pleased to allocate $5 million to complete the redevelopment of Lexington Market for the diverse merchants who will call the new market home – with over 50% of them being minority owners. These funds are going directly to vendors to help us reach the finish line for opening this uniquely Baltimore destination this summer while ensuring that minority businesses are at the center of our work to grow the downtown economy.
And, we are putting $500,000 in the 2023 budget towards identifying more minority- and women-owned businesses and getting them involved in city contracts.
Just over a week ago, we received the great news that Tim Regan had acquired the old Target space at Mondawmin Mall with plans to redevelop the space into a community hub designed to spur neighborhood revitalization. I am sincerely grateful and honestly excited about what this investment represents.
But, we can’t have equitable neighborhood development without equitable workforce development. That’s why I made the largest investment in job training and supportive programs – like TrainUp – in our city’s history. We are partnering with over 20 community-based nonprofits so that 9,000 residents will receive free job training in healthcare, construction, manufacturing, IT and hospitality industries. All of these opportunities will lead to a job and they all come with critical support services including legal assistance, behavioral health counseling, literacy, and financial empowerment services. We are putting Baltimoreans back to work! Like Ms. Shatedra Butler from East Baltimore, who, through MOED’s partnership with the Jane Adams Resource Center (JARC). She will turn 22 in a couple days and is already on her way to becoming a certified welder. Thank you to MOED Director Jason Perkins-Cohen for helping us connect residents to meaningful employment each and every day.
This isn’t business as usual. Through these initiatives, we are engaging in real Equitable Neighborhood Development in the birthplace of redlining, improving public safety and community health by eliminating the excess of vacants in our communities, redeveloping the nation’s longest continuously operating public market with the community, and even working to make homelessness a rarity in our city.
Clean and Healthy Communities
The wellbeing of our residents is my priority, and we cannot truly build Clean and Healthy Communities without addressing the condition of our neighborhoods and improving city services that they depend on daily – like transportation.
In partnership with Councilman Dorsey, I adopted Baltimore City’s first Complete Streets Manual - establishing a project prioritization process centered around equity and safety. We are making our streets more accessible by investing $3M to move us towards ensuring that every ramp, sidewalk and traffic signal is ADA compliant.
And last Fall, we announced the $50M RAISE Grant alongside Secretary Pete Buttigieg in partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT). We are creating a corridor that better serves the transportation needs of our residents by adding additional dedicated bus lanes, bus stop enhancements in more than 100 different locations, including benches, shelters, real-time signage, and ADA upgrades along the 10-mile route served by the Blue and Orange lines. These bus routes connect several residential communities and critical employment centers, including the Social Security Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Downtown, and Bayview. There are more than 180,000 jobs along the corridor. Thanks to the leadership of our federal partners, the East-West Priority Corridor project will further efforts to improve safety, accessibility, and facilitate faster and more reliable transit for our residents. Thank you to Director Steve Sharkey and his team at DOT for all they do to get us where we need to go daily.
When I took office, I instructed DOT to review the Charm City Circulator to assess the current routes and determine where improvements can be made. I am proud to share that over the next few weeks, we will release a draft transit development plan for public comment. This plan recommends changes to these routes based on a data- and equity-driven evaluation. The proposed changes make meaningful connections from where people live to shopping and employment centers and other priority destinations including grocery stores and hospitals. The routes emphasize the neighborhoods with the highest percentage of households who don’t have cars so we can close the transportation gaps in places that MTA buses don’t cover. These proposed changes are also within the current budget for the program. I look forward to sharing this draft plan with you and working together to implement these equitable changes. And Councilwoman Porter I’m proud to announce that the circulator is coming to Cherry Hill!
In the spirit of cleaning up our communities, we are also looking at the city’s carbon footprint and what other ways we can reduce emissions and protect our environment. This year, we set the goal of achieving 100% carbon neutrality by 2045. I want to thank Councilman Conway for leading efforts from the Council side to pass legislation that will put the City of Baltimore at the forefront of setting climate resiliency goals for the region.
Baltimore we are on the cusp of a long-overdue renaissance and we are doing the work to ensure that it happens not just for us but for the generations to come. But we still have so much to do and I am committed to seeing this work through to completion.
Next month, the world will look to Baltimore as we host the Preakness and, Baltimore, I want you to know that we are doing the work so that the eyes of the world are on us the other 364 days of the year.
Before I close, I have a special announcement:
When I was growing up, Harborplace was a destination – a place that Baltimoreans and people from out of town were excited to visit but It has been on a steady decline for years now - no longer living up to its reputation or its promise. Since taking office last December, I have been constantly asked about what the future will hold for this once destination-location.
But today, all of that changes. Today, West Baltimore’s very own, David Bramble, announced that he has the rights to bring private investment for a revitalized Harborplace. Today, we start a new chapter for Harborplace – bringing Baltimore vision, Baltimore community investment, and Baltimore style to transform Harborplace into a landmark destination where residents can go to enjoy the best that we have to offer – thriving small businesses, green spaces, and cultural venues. Dave has my full support and the support of my entire Administration as he navigates the receivership process and works to bring hundreds of millions of dollars of investment into this part of our City.
On top of that, we are reopening the Inner Harbor Visitor Center for the first time since the start of the pandemic to show that Baltimore is ready to welcome all to our great city.
I say that to emphasize that our city is thriving and we will continue to prosper. Recently, we were named as one of the best cities in the country for millennial families; We were ranked in the top 100 best cities for young professionals – and to top if off – one of our two esteemed Baltimore HBCUs – The National Treasure, Morgan State University – was recognized as one of the top 10 producers of STEM graduates in the US. I want to thank Dr. David Wilson who is with us today and congratulate you on your upcoming expansion to the Lake Clifton campus.
So, I say to Mr. President, Mr. Comptroller, members of this body, faithful clergy – and all of Baltimore – that we’ve been through a lot together in the past two years, and we have still been able to advance by leaps and bounds. Baltimore is rising – and that’s a fact.
We will continue to address violent crime and gun violence, restore our communities, and revive the way in which our city government operates. I encourage you all – if you haven’t already – to get involved in your community and in the work that I have outlined today. That is how we will shape a better future for baltimore.
Baltimore, I remain your faithful servant. Thank you.