Mayor Rawlings-Blake Delivers 15th Annual State of the City Address
Monday Feb 10th, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE, Md. (February 10, 2014)—Today, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake delivered Baltimore’s 15th annual State of the City Address, which focused on building a better Baltimore through safer streets, economic opportunity, new schools, and a more efficient government. Mayor Rawlings-Blake, committed to making Baltimore a safer city, focused her speech on efforts to increase public safety. She laid out her plan to make Baltimore a safer place by taking steps to implement the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) strategic plan released late last year.
Committed to getting the most violent repeat offenders off the streets, the mayor vowed to continue to work in partnership with local, state, and federal agencies to target violent individuals, enhance intelligence sharing, and modernize the police department through innovative programs that have proven successful in reducing violent crime, such as the nationally-renowned Operation Ceasefire program.
Operation Ceasefire will further the administration’s collaborative public safety approach, bringing community members and law enforcement together by confronting violent individuals, advising them of the consequences of their criminal activities, and providing resources and support to help them turn their lives around. The initiative will utilize interagency collaboration to enhance intelligence. BPD and the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office will collaborate with other local, state, and federal agencies to restrict violent individuals’ ability to evade capture.
“With proactive policing, rather than reactive policing, we will aggressively deploy officers and other resources into geographic zones that are experiencing increased violence,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Data tells us where these criminals are, and we are utilizing search warrants, drug buys, and undercover stings to apprehend them before they commit violent crimes.”
The mayor announced an increase in zone enforcement. In an effort to direct police resources to areas experiencing increased violence throughout the city, her administration has added an additional 13 zones (from 4 zones to 17 zones). Additionally, the mayor announced the expansion of the City’s watch center, previously utilized only during large scale events. Under her administration’s expansion, the center will provide 24-hour crime intelligence assessments to every community in the city. This will result in nearly instantaneous enforcement, with targeted deployments.
Efforts to modernize the police force through technological advancements are an important component of the mayor’s plan to improve public safety in Baltimore. By enabling police officers to take and process reports remotely, they can spend more time patrolling their respective areas. Currently, officers spend a large portion of their time typing and filing reports, instead of remaining visible in the communities they serve.
Referencing her administration’s groundbreaking new contract with Baltimore City firefighters, Mayor Rawlings-Blake spoke about her intention to negotiate a similar contract with Baltimore police officers to make the force more responsive, while simultaneously reducing overtime and offering more competitive pay.
“We need the flexibility to move our officers to the streets during peak times when crime is occurring,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “I look forward to working with the FOP to make this happen.”
Recognizing that young people on the streets at night are more likely to succumb to violent crime or perpetrate it, the mayor proposed the creation of Youth Connection Centers to address youth violence and provide a safe place for young people in violation of curfew laws. The program will expand curfew center operations—currently limited to the summer months—to year-round.
The new centers will provide safe environments for minors in violation of curfew laws, until parents or guardians can pick them up. While there, youths and their families will be connected to services that support and promote positive development.
“Our crime fighting strategy must also include resources to prevent youth violence. I will continue to introduce initiatives to support this strategy, including programs for at-risk youth and additional interagency coordination targeting repeat violent offenders,” continued Mayor Rawlings-Blake.
Improvements in the relationship between BPD and local communities have garnered a 300 percent increase in citizens reporting crime in their communities, and the number of citizen complaints against BPD dramatically decreased last year.
Reiterating her “all-hands-on-deck” approach to combatting crime, Mayor Rawlings-Blake stated, “Building a safer Baltimore requires all of us to do our part. It is beyond the control of each of us if we act as individuals. Baltimore City Police cannot do it alone. City Hall cannot do it alone. Communities in crisis cannot do it alone.”
Building a better Baltimore also means ensuring that citizens have confidence and trust in their government. When the mayor took office, the City was facing a historic $121 million budget deficit and a $750 million structural deficit. Her administration made difficult but necessary choices to balance the budget and crafted the City’s first 10-Year Financial Plan. Through actions taken by her administration to date, the City has closed $400 million of that deficit.
“I do not sweep issues under the rug,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake reassured members of the Council and residents of Baltimore. “Rather, I acknowledge our challenges, roll up my sleeves, and get to work. I vowed that I would be a mayor that would not look the other way or kick the can down the road. I promised that this administration would give the taxpayers a government in which they could have confidence.”
The mayor touted efficiencies implemented under her administration, such as the Billing Integrity Unit, which has saved city taxpayers millions of dollars, and the new water billing system, which will significantly increase customer satisfaction. She touted additional initiatives aimed at increasing efficiency, including the creation of an automated system to reduce property tax collection errors, and the replacement of manual utility meters with more reliable, automated meters that will produce more accurate billing for residents.
Addressing problems with speed camera technology, the mayor recognized that many citizens are questioning the integrity of the program. She reassured residents that, whenever the administration was presented with complete information about a faulty camera, cameras were taken offline, tickets were voided, and refunds were issued.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake noted her administration’s success in creating local jobs and expanding opportunities for small, local, and minority-owned businesses.
“Small and local business is the backbone to the growth of our City,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Successful small, local, minority, and women-owned businesses transform neighborhoods, expand opportunities, and create jobs.”
Major projects and new business ventures will also provide new employment opportunities. The Red Line will produce more than 4,200 jobs; Horseshoe Baltimore Casino will bring 1,700 new jobs; Amazon’s new fulfilment center in Southeast Baltimore will result in 1,000 new jobs; and new school construction will result in a number of jobs in the near future. Additionally, Baltimore City will gain approximately 15,000 jobs through the development of Harbor Point.
Baltimore has grown by more than 1,100 new residents since 2011. Jobs are fundamental to the mayor’s mission to grow Baltimore by 10,000 families in the next 10 years. She thanked local companies—like Under Armour, Millennial Media, and Groove Commerce—that have decided to remain in the city to grow and provide jobs.
In addition, Mayor Rawlings-Blake addressed her administration’s efforts to increase housing availability and build vibrant, green, and clean communities, while continuing to eliminate blight; as well as, to build better schools for the children of Baltimore.
“Anyone can criticize and tear something down, but it takes leadership to build.” concluded Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “And that is what we are doing—we are building a better Baltimore for today and for future generations.”
The full text of Mayor Rawlings-Blake's 2014 State of the City Address can be downloaded by clicking here.