Dear Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake,
As President of the Baltimore City Council I often have the pleasure of talking with residents and business owners from every corner of our great City.
Recently, I’ve been struck by the fact that these citizens – parents, teachers, shop owners and children – each desire a better Baltimore to live, work and play.
They believe that Baltimore should be a city that invests in the healthy development of young people by providing recreational and educational activities. Baltimore, they believe, should be a city that values the life-long benefits associated with youth summer jobs. City government, these same people have told me, needs to stop the constant threat to close fire companies, a move that would ultimately endanger their homes and communities.
On Monday, June 18, my colleagues on the City Council and I took a first step toward properly investing in many of the same critical services that citizens have begged for since before 2009, when you, as Council President, championed increased funding for the very priorities the Council is fighting for today. By cutting $6.1 million from your proposed $2.8 billion fiscal year 2013 budget, the City Council sent a clear message that NOW is the time to:
- Increase funding for programs and services that will grow the youth of Baltimore into a generation of successful adults.
- Work to make sure that our neighborhoods are protected and safe by reversing planned closures of three city fire companies.
On Thursday, June 21, 2012, the City Council is set to hold one of its most important votes of the year. And hanging in the balance is funding to support the following critical priorities:
- Keeping ALL city recreation centers open
- Increasing the number of youth summer jobs
- Increasing afterschool slots for our children to keep them productive during afterschool hours
- Keeping ALL city fire companies open
Each of these priorities, Madam Mayor, should sound familiar.
In 2009 as City Council President, you found that then-Mayor Dixon’s proposed budget needed changes. So you requested more funding for rec centers and other programs for Baltimore’s youth.
“While the City Council fully understands the difficult fiscal circumstances that the city faces, we must also recognize the importance of protecting our priorities in public safety, public schools and services for our youth,” you said, according to a 2009 press release issued by your office. Mayor Dixon “has done a good job crafting the proposed budget, but I believe that we can do better for our children and protect these critically important services,” your press release continued.
What a difference a few years makes.
In 2009 you also publicly spoke out against closing fire companies.
The City would be better served, you said, to make cuts to the budget or transfer funds from other agencies to fully fund fire companies, according to a December 12, 2009 report in the Baltimore Sun.
"There's only so much you can cut from the fire budget before you start affecting the lives of residents and firefighters," you were quoted saying in 2009, adding that you had expressed concerns about the closures since the plan was first unveiled.
Yet today, you are rejecting the Council’s plan that would prevent recreation centers and fire company closures, while investing in youth summer jobs and afterschool programming.
Your insistence on providing deceitful and misleading public statements – many of which have been debunked by the local media as exaggerated at best – about my budget proposal is troubling and harmful to the process of developing a workable solution to fund these key priorities.
I am calling on you to roll up your sleeves and engage in working with the City Council to help fund these important programs. The citizens of Baltimore deserve nothing less.
Bernard C. “Jack” Young
President, Baltimore City Council