Better Every Day
Thursday Apr 17th, 2014
Originally posted in The Rawlings-Blake Review, Issue #198
This past Sunday, I joined members of Baltimore’s faith community for an annual tradition, the Blessing of the City. It is good to know that communities of faith are praying for our city’s success, safety, and good health. I am grateful for every prayer, every good thought, and every positive effort to uplift our city. We all know Baltimore City still has many challenges, but we also have a lot to be grateful for. Our city is a great place to live, and a great place to raise a family—and it’s getting better every day.
Blight is being eliminated from many of our neighborhoods, and my Vacants to Value program is hard at work. This week, we celebrated the opening of one of the initiative’s great successes: Fells Point Station. Built in 1860, the building once served as the Eastern Station House in one of Baltimore’s first police districts. It was later used as a Boys and Girls Club, but was eventually left to stand vacant for nearly two decades. Fells Point Station incorporates the rehabilitation of this historic building and the construction of a 39,000 square foot addition to create a 65,000 square foot, 4-story mixed-use building in Upper Fells Point. The building now provides 47 mixed-income residential units and approximately 3,000 square feet of retail space on Broadway.
I am very proud of the work that has been accomplished through Vacants to Value. Since its launch in November 2010, the program has spurred more than $85 million in private investment in communities all across Baltimore City. City wide, Baltimore Housing has demolished more than 800 vacant and blighted properties, and more than 1,200 properties are being rehabbed. We have sold more than 1,000 vacant, city-owned properties. We have issued more than 1,500 citations to vacant property owners. The program has also provided thousands of dollars in homeownership incentives, with more than 30 percent of those incentives going to purchasers who are new to Baltimore City.
City government is more transparent and connected than ever before. This week, I announced a key reform that will bring the financial disclosure process online, making it easier for residents to view their elected officials’ financial disclosures. This new system will replace our current, antiquated process, which requires government officials to submit hard copy forms to the ethics board and requires residents to visit City Hall in person if they wish to view these documents.
This reform is just one of a number of major advances my administration has made for government transparency. It puts Baltimore ahead of the game across the State of Maryland, and it gives residents valuable resources to help them stay informed about city government.
And we have seen a decrease in homicides and violence. These promising results are the effect of a persistent focus on violent repeat offenders and on strengthening partnerships between Baltimore Police and the residents of our communities. As part of our efforts to strengthen these partnerships, I have been hosting a series of Public Safety Forums to let residents know how hard we are working to make the city safer, to present our strategy, and to discuss feedback from residents.
The next stop on our Public Safety Forum tour will take place tonight at 7:00 pm in the Southern District. Please join us at the National Federation of the Blind, 200 E. Wells Street, to discuss how we can work together to make Baltimore’s communities safer.