Mayor Rawlings-Blake Delivers the 17th Annual State of the City Address
Monday Feb 29th, 2016
Better Schools. Safer Streets. Stronger Neighborhoods.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE, Md. (February 29, 2016)—Today, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake delivered Baltimore’s 17th Annual State of the City Address, which focused on continuing to grow Baltimore by building upon the strengths of the City’s anchor institutions, leveraging and investing in the City’s corridors and small businesses, eliminating blight, making strides in enhancing access to healthier foods in food desert communities, aggressively implementing police reform while operating through transparency, and maintaining a balanced budget by making fiscally responsible choices.
As part of the address, Mayor Rawlings-Blake discussed her 10-year financial plan and the tough choices that helped the City reduce costs, pump tens of millions of dollars into capital projects such as roads, recreation centers and libraries, and reduce the City’s unfunded liabilities.
“I am not persuaded by what is politically popular, but what is best for the citizens of Baltimore,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “As a result of my administration’s financial plan we have achieved the City’s highest combined bond rating in half a century. But we still have more work to do. In the coming year, we still face a projected $65 million gap between revenues and expenditures. This will require some tough choices by all of us. But without that 10-year financial plan and the hard decisions we have made, that gap would be three times worse – nearly $200 million.”
Mayor Rawlings-Blake also addressed the unemployment rate in the City, which is down by more than a third through the creation of 20,000+ new jobs. This was achieved in part by focusing on the small entrepreneurs in City neighborhoods who are at the heart of job creation, as well as the larger development projects and established businesses that support hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs. The City has approved economic incentives to deliver major new employers to the city, like Exelon’s new headquarters at Harbor Point and Amazon’s fulfillment center in an enterprise zone that created even more jobs than was originally forecast.
In discussing business growth, the Mayor highlighted the City’s anchor institutions, also known as our “eds and meds,” and the Baltimore City Anchor Plan comprised of the City’s hospitals and universities. "These institutions are actively working in partnership with the city to make a difference by building more affordable housing, employing city residents, supporting local businesses, and improving neighborhood amenities. This award-winning program is now a model for cities across our country," Mayor Rawlings-Blake said.
Additionally, Mayor Rawlings-Blake has spurred many investments in the tech and innovation industry, earning Baltimore the recognition as one of the top tech hubs in the country. Inc. Magazine recently recognized Baltimore as a “surprising hub” for tech startups, and Forbes ranked Baltimore as 6th on its list of best cities for tech jobs.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the tough year the City endured during the unrest last spring. The Mayor praised the City’s first responders, including the Fire Department and City Police, for their courage and patience during that trying time. She also praised Commissioner Kevin Davis for his leadership and commitment to reform.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the tough year the City endured during the unrest last Spring. The Mayor praised the City’s first responders, the Fire Department and City Police, for their courage and patience during that trying time. She also praised Commissioner Kevin Davis and his leadership efforts and commitment to reform.
“Commissioner Davis has brought new ideas and a spirit of collaboration with our local, state and federal partners,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “From the beginning, he took a proactive approach to break patterns of violence with the multi-jurisdictional War Room, as well as the embedding of federal investigators through B-Fed as a way to mitigate crime.”
In an effort to make our communities safer, the Mayor and Commissioner Davis announced last week a joint effort with Johns Hopkins University to apply data and research to policing. Additionally, Operation Cesefire is now in both East and West Baltimore, and starting next month, the Safe Streets program will be expanded to Sandtown-Winchester.
The Mayor also reaffirmed her commitment to implementing police reform. Last May, the Mayor took the unprecedented step of asking the Department of Justice to open a civil rights pattern and practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. This investigation will help the City to have a fair, just, and responsive police department. To further rebuild community trust, this spring the City will begin city-wide implementation of body-worn cameras for police officers.
"Given our size, we know that police departments throughout the country are watching us," said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. "That is why it was so important for us to make sure that we had the best camera technology and procedures. We have to get this right."
The Mayor noted that crime and grime go hand in hand, which is why she joined cabinet and community members for Crime and Grime walks to address chronic problems. Starting tomorrow, the City will launch a citywide rollout of the Municipal Trash Can program.
“I am always looking for ways to engage the community. I know these cans means cleaner alleys, fewer rats, and greater satisfaction with overall cleanliness, and I am excited to bring this to every home in the city,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake celebrated the success of her internationally recognized Vacants to Value blight elimination plan. Through Vacants to Value, the Mayor quadrupled demolition funding to $100 million over 10 years. Governor Hogan has also recognized the program’s progress by committing $75 million dollars over four years to support our initiative.
“Up and down the East Coast, high prices are pushing people out of the cities they love. This is a fact not lost on me, which is why building and preserving affordable housing is critical,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “On this year’s general election ballot, $6 million in new affordable housing funds will be included for the first time ever.”
The Mayor also celebrated her commitment to eliminating food deserts in the City and improving access to fresh, healthy food.
“To attract supermarkets to our underserved areas, I created a new tax credit,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “This is a critical tool to attract high quality food retailers, and I want to thank both the General Assembly and all of you on the Council for supporting my initiative.”
On her final occasion to appear before the City, Mayor Rawlings-Blake thanked the 12,000 employees for the honor to serve as their leader. She also praised the City for its unique character, including being recognized by 2015 Zagat as second overall for top dining towns nationwide.The full text of Mayor Rawlings-Blake's 2016 State of the City Address can be found here.