The City Council took a major step toward ensuring increased fire protection and safety during its regularly-scheduled meeting Monday evening.
My colleagues overwhelmingly approved legislation I sponsored that would require the Fire Department to hold a public hearing prior to consolidating, relocating or closing any fire suppression, emergency medical care or truck companies.
This hard-fought piece of legislation resulted from the lack of public awareness surrounding the summertime decision by the administration to close three fire companies as part of the budget cutting process.
I received phone calls, emails and queries through social media from concerned citizens, who were worried that the pending closures would negatively impact emergency response times. In the future, my legislation will provide citizens with a process for being properly notified of permanent changes concerning the Baltimore City Fire Department.
A few days earlier, on Wednesday, October 17, I traveled to Annapolis and submitted testimony to the Maryland Senate's Budget and Taxation committee outlining my strong opposition to the state's plans to build a youth jail in Baltimore City.
I believe it is our duty, not only as legislators but as human beings, to advocate for the vital financial resources and support systems necessary to prepare our young people for the economy facing them. We must and we can give them the opportunities for greatness that they deserve. I asked members of the committee to divert attention and our precious financial resources to efforts to grow our children's minds, hearts and skills instead of growing more jails.
I have said many times that we have a juvenile justice system that is failing our children, and the answer is not to throw millions of dollars down the drain building a new jail. Many experts agree that instead of spending money constructing an unneeded facility, the taxpayers' money could be better spent on improved recreation facilities and programming that has been proven to actually reduce juvenile involvement with crime.
I personally know that there is a better approach, because here in Baltimore I have created a program that invests in our youth on the front end and offers them alternatives to engaging in juvenile delinquency.
My P.L.A.Y. (Productive Lives, Active Youth) campaign has provided many of Baltimore's youth with a wide range of opportunities to strengthen their self-confidence, develop leadership skills, learn from positive role models, and be rewarded for their academic achievements. P.L.A.Y. has encouraged them to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. And during the past two years I have created a number of public-private partnerships with the Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Baltimore Orioles, D.C. United and local universities that have invested in young people. Just imagine the amount of positive programming and its impact on Baltimore's youth that a $70 million investment could achieve!
On behalf of the Baltimore City Council, I urged members of the committee to strongly encourage the State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to go back to the drawing board.
On February 27, 2012, the Baltimore City Council adopted resolution #12-0026R, which called on our state leaders to address the public safety concerns of Baltimore's youth in a more effective and fiscally responsible way by redirecting funds earmarked for a new youth jail toward funding recreation centers instead.
If you believe that lawmakers should focus more of the state's resources on prevention rather than jailing our youth, please reach out to your state representative and ask them to defund the planned Baltimore City youth jail and direct that money toward positive programming.