WYPR Mayoral Interviews: Mary Miller
After a long career at T. Rowe Price, Mary Miller was appointed by President Obama to top jobs at the Treasury Department. She was the first woman to serve as Under Secretary for the Office of Domestic Finance. For the last few years, she has been a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University 21st Century Cities Initiative.
According to the latest WYPR, Baltimore Sun and University of Baltimore poll, Miller is tied with former Mayor Sheila Dixon for the lead.This is her first run for political office.
Miller has received attention for the more than $1 million of her own money that she's pumped into her campaign. Speaking with Midday's Tom Hall in May, Miller said she's been "very fortunate" in her career and life, and if elected, she will not draw a salary or a pension from the city. She cited her background in financial management as one reason Baltimoreans should vote for her.
"I think it’s really important to elect someone who’s going to tackle crime, who’s going to tackle the education shortcomings in Baltimore, who’s going to look at economic development as a very powerful tool to change the trajectory for every single person who lives here."
Excerpts from the interview
Martin Knott Jr., a local businessman, is the treasurer of a PAC called Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership. Like all Super PACs, it is not connected with any one candidate but the PACs donors, including Knott, support the Miller campaign. In an email to potential donors obtained by The Sun, Knott described plans for the PAC to target white voters with videos and direct mail pieces intented to erode support among white voters for Brandon Scott and Thiru Virgnarjah. The Miller campaign disavowed Knott and his remarks in a statement but what do you know about this PAC, and what's your response?
We had absolutely no involvement or prior knowledge of this and it was incredibly disappointing. We have been clear that we don’t have any relationship with this PAC. The statements in that email do not reflect who I am, nor do they speak for me or anyone who is working on my campaign, so we have totally disavowed the statements. They’re not my values or the values of those who work with me. From the beginning of this campaign, we have been about everyone in Baltimore, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender--we want to reach every corner of this city.
We have been talking about nothing but inclusion, dismantling structural racism, and creating opportunities for everyone in Baltimore. So we’re very disappointed by this. We had no involvement, but nonetheless I apologize to every supporter and every Baltimorean because I think it’s very unfortunate and it is not what we are about.
What do you say to people who say as a white woman in a majority black city, you're not best suited to bring people together to confront racial inequities?
Those are the very things that drove me to getting into this race in the first place. I’ve lived in this city for 34 years. I have been involved in the community for decades and we are not making sufficient progress to change the outcomes for people living in this city. We have 1 in 4 residents living below the poverty line. The coronavirus will make things worse in Baltimore. All of the challenges we had before this healthcare pandemic are going to be even more pronounced going forward.
I think it’s really important to elect someone who’s going to tackle crime, who’s going to tackle the education shortcomings in Baltimore, who’s going to look at economic development as a very powerful tool to change the trajectory for every single person who lives here, so I think you need someone who can really drive economic recovery, but to do it in a very inclusive way.
Our city has a very shameful history of redlining and allowing parts of the city to be shut out of potential. It’s time to overinvest in those areas, in those people, and to give everyone the same opportunities we all should have in Baltimore. That’s what’s pushed me to get into this race because I’ve not seen that kind of progress from our elected leaders and now more than ever, we can’t afford to just do the same old things.
What is your plan for bringing businesses back into the city?
I would like to create a deputy mayor for economic development whose only job is to drive strong economic development in the city. I think that we need to do a lot more with workforce training in Baltimore starting in high school to prepare and train students who may not be going on to college for good jobs in the city.
We need to do a better job of connecting employers who need to hire people with a strong workforce. I want to work with people who have struggled to find employment in Baltimore. We can look at people coming out of prison, who have difficulties reconnecting with community and jobs, we can do more there. I know what the Center for Urban Families andTurnaround Tuesdayare doing in Baltimore and I applaud all of that, but we need to do that at a bigger scale.
The city has a small business resource center. I think it’s underfunded and it is not up to the task of really facing small businesses and giving them all the services and support they need. I would work with the private sector to create a much larger small business resource center to put in one place all the services including access to capital that small businesses need to grow in Baltimore.
Listener question: How will you put the interests of Baltimore's small business community on par, if not above, the interests of large development and capital forces?
I believe that small businesses are the largest source of job creation. I think we need to be very friendly to small businesses in Baltimore and give them the capacity to grow.
Large businesses are often cost containment vehicles. They are not growing jobs at the same pace as a small business. I've documented the fact that large banks are not providing the same amount of loans to small businesses that they did in the past. So I think what we need to do is engage with large entities like banks and say "help us build the supply chain in Baltimore, provide capital to help these small businesses grow because if they’re growing here that will benefit you.'"
We need to look at the whole ecosystem of large and small and figure out where our strengths are and where we should be putting our resources. I think we should be focused on small businesses that are fast growing, that can add employees at a good pace.
What do you think is key to changing the culture of the Baltimore Police Department?
I think the most important thing we can do to change the culture of policing and restore trust in policing in Baltimore is to work on completing the consent decree which is the blueprint, the roadmap for changing the way we police in Baltimore. We need to put more resources into de-escalating violence in communities. I would support the Safe Streets program. I would make sure we have neighborhoods who are developing community policing plans and working with the officers who are assigned to work in their neighborhoods.
Listener question: What are your short and long-term solutions to address homelessness?
The best solution for a homeless person is to find them a home. There are many issues here, some of them are mental health issues, some of them are substance addiction issues, but we do need to increase the availability of affordable housing that pushes individuals and families into homelessness.
Come back to the amount of vacant housing we have in this city and how we could think about repurposing that to help people find shelter. I’ve seen some really good examples of innovative and creative solutions to build tiny houses, small houses, to give people affordable housing, but we don’t do it at scale. We need to make this a mission and we need to figure out how to do this [at] scale so that we can provide homes for people.
The city often closes buildings, maybe it’s a school or a property they’re no longer using, without a plan. Why can’t some of these properties be repurposed to provide low-cost housing for people that need shelter?
Listener question: How would you eliminate food deserts?
In the short term I think we should consider mobile units that will bring healthy food into neighborhoods that do not have access to good grocery stores and healthy food to reduce the public health disparities that disproportionately affect African Americans and people living below the poverty line in Baltimore.
In the long term I want to re-commercialize those neighborhoods. We need to do this in an equitable way to make sure we’re overinvesting in places that have been neglected for far too long.
The transcript of this interview was condensed for the web. Listen to the entire conversation below.
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