Mayor Catherine E. Pugh's Year-End, Year-Ahead Message
Sunday Dec 31st, 2017
As we prepare to draw the curtain on 2017, I want to talk to you a moment about what we have all been through together and what we must work to achieve in the coming year.
Let me be clear - we have endured too much violence, too much pain and sorrow - too much loss. Our hearts ache for the families and loved ones left behind by young lives snatched by gunshot on our streets. Our hearts ache for the young and old alike who are trapped in places where violence is a way of life. Our hearts ache for our City - a truly great City - whose identity has been defined by these tragedies for too long.
As your Mayor - I’m determined that these circumstances will not be our future, they will not define us, nor will we allow them to resist our determined efforts to change our narrative going forward.
I want to assure you momentum and progress are underway.
Violence Reduction is of the highest priority, as well as regaining confidence in our Police Department, which is why earlier this year we forged ahead with the Consent Decree that will help us hire, reform and train our police officers, update technology and increase the number of officers on our force who live in our city.
Many of our city neighborhoods are too dark - making people feel unsafe. That's why we are replacing over 70,000 light bulbs in our city to create brighter walking paths with LED lighting, and adding 6,000 new lighting structures across our city.
The Violence Reduction Initiative which I implemented nearly 3 months ago is working. It has already created a new way of collaborating across our City agencies, and requires working hand-in-hand with our law enforcement officers to immediately address circumstances that contribute to the sense of hopelessness that leads directly to violence.
While no killing on our streets is acceptable, this November - compared to the same time last year and the previous 10 months - we experienced a reduction to 23 from an average of 30-35 murders a month.
Essential to reducing violence is improving the trust of our citizens in their police - men and women who every day put their lives on the line to serve and protect. I am committed to strengthening the police force with an adequate number of officers needed to address crime effectively, and meet problems before they result in bigger problems. We need to equip them with the essential technologies that exist to protect citizens better, and also ensure the integrity of our police.
We are grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for the $5 million investment to improve policing in Baltimore.
You will remember that I launched the “CALL TO ACTION” initiative - a platform that gives all citizens the opportunity to be a part of the solution to reduce violence and strengthen our communities.
We are uniting City residents, businesses, non-profits, churches, educators, and our City agencies to provide real solutions to the real problems our people face, with public safety first and foremost.
Also essential, is improving the health of Baltimore by expanding resources and opportunities for people in need. Just recently, I announced our $1.5 million new partnership with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to deal with the opioid crisis in our communities.
There is no more urgent effort than improving the prospects of Baltimore’s Youth - giving our young people additional paths for achievement with investments in education and community programs. This is why I made Baltimore City Community College tuition free for graduating Baltimore City public high school students starting in 2018.
I see this as one of the most critical paths to success, providing higher education, and equipping our young people with the skills they need to succeed in life.
We're also initiating a program to focus on violent youth thanks to the $6 million contribution by the public and private sector.
We will expand Safe Streets - a program aimed at interrupting violence - to 6 other communities in Baltimore. It’s imperative that we create greater access to affordable housing for our citizens who otherwise are trapped in sub-standard and unhealthy housing complexes. In our bonding package alone I increased bond funds for affordable housing from $6 to $10 million. In 2018, partnering with HELPING UP MISSION, we will see the creation of 300 new units of quality housing for the homeless.
Economic Opportunity for those in search of jobs, including ex-offenders, is also a focus of this administration. Our office of Employment Development is now knocking on doors to help people in need of employment.
We also have a mobile unit moving through neighborhoods to help individuals become employed, and we're adding another in the Spring.
Community investment in neighborhoods, which has been neglected for decades is underway. and will help transform neighborhoods and lives in East and West Baltimore.
All of these actions - and many others - are making a positive, measurable difference. The results, I realize, don’t happen quick enough - but you can be assured that they will happen and as your Mayor, I will not let up. But neither can you.
There is nothing more important to me and to our future than an end to the violence that we have experienced this past year. Without question, getting illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and off our streets is essential. But equally essential is that we address together the conditions that give rise to violence - hopelessness, lack of opportunity, drug dependence, lack of basic needs, lack of job and economic opportunity.
These are the conditions we are working to change - and we need your continued support.
So let us now turn the page on 2017, acknowledging that we CAN, MUST and WILL do better in the New Year ahead.
I want to thank you for all that you're doing where you live, in your neighborhoods, schools, churches, and workplaces to make Baltimore a place where all citizens feel safe, have sufficient opportunity and can pursue their aspirations and achieve their full potential.
Each and every day I’m grateful for this tremendous opportunity to serve you.
Although our challenges are many, they are not greater than our determination to create a better, safer and more prosperous Baltimore.
Together, let us make the New Year upon us a truly happy and healthy one.
God bless you.
Catherine E. Pugh
City of Baltimore