It is time to pay attention to one of Baltimore’s greatest assets, our neighborhoods, the outer harbor. The Stokes Administration will protect our stable communities, strengthen those in transition, and restructure those under stress. We will make Baltimore a place of choice to live and work, strengthening our neighborhoods as well as our tax base.
This plan is comprehensive, creative, practical, and economically sound. It is based on the concept of investing in an asset, our neighborhoods, and reaping the dividends— increasing the tax base, making our neighborhoods safe, and putting our citizens back to work.
This is a multi-faceted approach that includes the following interrelated elements—competent, cooperative city leadership; neighborhood-driven community building; housing; education; jobs; crime prevention; and transportation. And above all, it demands accountability, a trait missing in Baltimore leadership for some time. An improved City-stat program and the use of audits, financial and performance, are two obvious ways to keep city government accountable.
The Stokes Administration will require competent, effective city leadership. We will restructure weak agencies beginning with the Department of Housing and Community Development. We will settle for nothing less than efficient responsiveness to citizens. We will demand inter-agency coordination and cooperation with department leaders working across agencies in planning and implementing services. Their consideration will be, not what is politically expedient, but what is best for Baltimore and its citizens. City employees will serve the citizens of Baltimore.
Transforming neighborhoods will require systemic change and building consensus within communities. The Stokes Administration will work with community stakeholders, providing resources, expertise, and other technical support to address the needs they have identified. Working from neighborhood strengths, we will begin with neighborhoods where there is solid infrastructure and strong community support—neighborhoods “on the cusp.” We will identify five to six such neighborhoods every 12-18 months in which we will address problems that need to be resolved—such as sanitation, education, housing, and health, while providing support to build on the community’s strengths. Then we will focus on adjacent neighborhoods, stabilizing and strengthening communities based on their needs and thus increasing the number of thriving communities.
Vacant housing throughout our city, whether scattered or in blocks, bring our neighborhoods to their knees. In order to address this, we will redevelop structurally sound buildings; tear down others for open space and new development to include affordable and market rate housing.
Partnerships among the public, private, non-profit, and faith sectors are essential to the success of the Stokes plan. Working together we can leverage resources and realize each neighborhood’s redevelopment potential. We can develop the capitalization funds that communities need to benefit from opportunities. And we will use the successful experiences of other cities as a guide, adapting their best practices to Baltimore’s unique character.
Although the issues of crime prevention, jobs and education are the focus of separate position papers, especially given the current circumstances in Baltimore, they are integral to the success of any plans for neighborhood redevelopment. This plan cannot be complete without attention to public transportation. Today public transportation is not coherent creating a sense of being “walled in” to a neighborhood and “walled out” of employment, business, and recreational opportunities. Under the Stokes Administration, public transportation will connect people to jobs, businesses, and leisure activities.
Without accountability, the foundation of the Stokes Administration, no plan for improvement or growth in the city will be successful. We will measure outcomes in each community—outcomes that have been defined by the community and that are based on community-established goals. Such results-based evaluation will reestablish credibility lost by past failed initiatives.
The Stokes Administration will put neighborhoods first with a comprehensive, realistic, integrated plan to rebuild our neighborhoods based on the strengths of our communities—proximity to employment; affordability of homes; cultural and recreational resources; beautiful neighborhoods; and strong community leadership.