Dear Mayor Pugh,

Congratulations on winning the election. You’re now Baltimore City’s mayor instead of my State Senator, so hopefully being here instead of Annapolis, you’ll be more committed to Baltimore’s neighborhoods. Here are a few suggestions, with regard to housing in Baltimore that you may want to consider:

  • Break Baltimore Housing and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City into two separate organizations, with separate leadership. One of the reasons why the current system doesn’t work — the leadership structure. There are some incredibly dedicated and smart people who work for Baltimore Housing, and sometimes they appear (from the outside, anyway) to be hamstrung by the way funding is allotted and used. Of course, most folks in Baltimore would love it if you fired Paul Graziano…immediately. Along with Reggie Scriber, who allegedly is more interested in himself than the tenants in public housing — you know, the people he’s supposed to be serving.  Hire people who are truly committed to Baltimore’s residents — middle-income and the poor, renters and homeowners.
  • Fund the Inclusionary Housing Trust. There’s no reason for the trust to contain (last I checked) $75,000. It should be fully funded, via developer fees, transfer taxes, etc., as other cities have done. This funding should be made available not only to large development companies, but also to smaller developers who have the proven capacity to create affordable housing in our neighborhoods beyond just downtown.
  • Create a TIF system for neighborhoods. Any multi-million dollar TIF used to redevelop a parcel downtown should be matched with a similar TIF in a neighborhood, say for the sake of argument, 10%. West Baltimore could really use some love, but you should know this already, since your former Senate district is located in West Baltimore.
  • The City’s tax sale process could be working effectively, but it’s not. Why? Because we’re selling the same properties to the same negligent property owners. Fix this, allowing current residents and potential homeowners greater access to purchasing these liens. Ask Governor Hogan to allocate money to a development fund, perhaps through Project C.O.R.E., that would allow potential homeowners to borrow money that could be used to rehab homes. Keep the investors locked out of this fund — it should be for residents only.
  • Most importantly: We need to clean up the lead paint problem. Not in five years, or ten, or never — we need to clean it up NOW. Far too many of Baltimore’s children (and their families) are being irreparably harmed by this toxin, too much of our tax money is being spent on court time, too many of these kids who were poisoned (some of them deliberately poisoned, may I add…) are now stuck forever in the justice system. Make Baltimore’s children a priority — and not just through lip service. Property owners who refuse to clean up their toxic homes need to not be doing business in our city. Period. Stop giving these slumlords a pass (including the Housing Authority), and I guarantee most of them will leave.

I believe in Baltimore’s residents, and as a resident for the past 16 years, I’ve seen three mayors come and go, with lackluster results at best, and now you’re here. Your residents are hurting. This city is hurting. Hopefully you’ll be the mayor to finally work on Baltimore instead of working towards DC or Annapolis, and hopefully you’ll be the mayor who finally acknowledges we have a lot of work to do…together. Best of luck to you.

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