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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake On The City's Financial Future
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February 27, 2013
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is rolling out a ten-year plan to keep Baltimore financially solvent over the next ten years. The plan includes a trash pick-up fee, city pension reform, and a reduction in the property tax.
Today, Sheilah talked to Mayor Rawlings-Blake about the plan, the $585,000 consultant report it's based on, and an incident during a police academy training that ended with a University of Maryland campus police trainee shot in the head.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake told Sheilah Kast that the consultants’ work more than paid for itself.
“We saved $20 million with the report,” she said, “millions even before we got the full report.” The city had never worked with Philadelphia’s Public Financial Management, Inc., before, she said.
“It was [a request for proposal] with a competitive bid process,” she said.
Critics have noted a lack of audits of city agencies, but Mayor Rawlings-Blake said that doesn’t impact the numbers in the consultants’ report.
“It’s reliable because we had a nationally-recognized” group analyzing the numbers, she said, noting she’s been “encouraging the comptroller to audit city agencies” her whole term.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake also discussed plans to reform pensions for city wokers.
“We’re the only one left in MD that has a pension system where some of our employees don’t contribute,” she said.
Sheilah Kast asked the mayor about her comments about nearly half of city employees having a “critical or chronic illness.”
“That number,” said the mayor, “also includes family members of insured” city workers.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake hopes a focus on prevention can save the city some money.
“We’re working aggressively on wellness plans,” she said. “Obesity contributes to the expense—high blood pressure, diabetes, even some cancers. If we can drive down the rates of obesity, we can have a healthier insured population. Everything is on the table.”
One of our listeners sent a question for the Mayor, asking if the new trash fees can reduced for citizens who recycle a high proportion of their waste. “I usually take up to 2 weeks to fill a trash can,” wrote Daniel Ewald of Hampden. “I grew up in Aberdeen which implemented a ‘Pay as You Throw’ policy in 1993, which has been commended for its success. Will Baltimore follow this model or something else?”
“We’re definitely taking a look at those models,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Like we’re looking to provide incentives for wellness, we’re looking for incentives in this program as well.”
Regarding her Vacants to Value program, the Mayor cited progress.
“We’ve more than quadrupled the number of city-owned vacant properties that have gone back on the market,” she said, also noting that money from a national mortgage settlement will be invested in the program.
Sheilah Kast asked whether the mayor’s plan to reduce city staff by 10 percent meant that the city has more workers than it needs.
“No,” said the mayor, we’re looking for efficiencies.”
Toward the end of the interview, Sheilah Kast asked if the mayor has any numbers to show that she’s making progress on her goal to draw 10,000 new families to the city. The U.S. Census has not released 2012 population numbers for the city, but the agency estimates Baltimore lost over 1,400 residents between 2010 and 2011.
“We’re not keeping one-for-one tabs,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “This is about a…movement that announces an aspirational goal for the city. We want to keep the residents and we want to attract new people into Baltimore. We’re not going to be satisfied with a city that’s in decline. We want a thriving city.”