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Baltimore City ‘blitz’ will fill potholes, remove graffiti and crack down on illegal dumping

DPW tackles a pile of debris behind a home in Westport
Emily Hofstaedter, WYPR
DPW tackles a pile of debris behind a home in Westport

Baltimore City does not have a reputation for smooth, beautiful roads and clean streets.

“Mayor Scott I saw a tweet and it said, ‘you know you’re in Baltimore if you drive down the street and you hit a pothole and your air conditioner turns off and your windows roll down and the station turns on your radio,” said Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby during a Thursday press conference on Cedley Street in Westport.

It’s funny, but not OK that this has been normalized, Mosby said.

Some of that should improve with the newest project from Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration: the “Build Better BMore” initiative, a 90-day “blitz” that will focus on filling 9,000 potholes, removing 900 graffiti markings, paving nine miles of city roads, and cleaning up known illegal dumping sites.

“Attacking these key areas as a unit will not only help to improve the aesthetic and safety of public spaces throughout our community but will help to promote equitable neighborhoods,” Scott said.

The city has known spots that it will already target for cleaning and servicing but will rely on resident 311 calls to satisfy the rest of its goals. As part of the initiative, leaders said they would be releasing reports to “hold themselves accountable” to be sure the work was being met.

“This is about intensifying the delivery of efficient and effective city services for the residents of the city of Baltimore,” City Administrator Faith Leach told WYPR in an interview before the press conference.

The blitz will be paid for by funding from the city’s general fund.

“We want to intensify our use of data analysis to identify and increase use where feasible with technology like our motion cameras and license plate reader technologies,” Scott said.

That technology can be used to identify people doing illegal dumping, he said.

Most of the city’s complaints about illegal dumping, approximately 9,000 a year, come from the city’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

“It tells us our residents want environmental justice,” he said.

Officials said they do plan to prosecute for illegal dumping.

The last major push to fill potholes was conducted by Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young in the lead-up to the 2020 election, according toThe Baltimore Sun.

Mayor Scott is up for re-election in 2024 but has not yet filed paperwork to run again.

Council President Nick Mosby is running for re-election and faces opposition from Councilmember Zeke Cohen of District 1, and both were part of Thursday’s initiative.

The clean-up is meant to be a multi-agency effort. The mayor’s administration and Department of Public Works have repeatedly been criticized over the lack of regular recycling, which has been bi-weekly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the administration has repeatedly pointed to staffing as the reason that they cannot resume more regular services. When asked if additional workers had been hired for this initiative, Leach replied that they are “continually hiring.”

DPW Director Jason Mitchell announced his resignation earlier this year amidst controversy over an E. coli bacteria outbreak and recycling. He has extended his stay with DPW through June.

Mayor Scott made it clear that until then, Mitchell would be put to work as he gestured to the pile of debris accumulated behind Cedley Street.

“He managed not to paint this week, he’s going to pick up some trash before he leaves here,” he said.

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.