Mayor Martin O'Malley recently spoke with Richard C. Gross, editor of the Opinion
Commentary page, about what he hopes the state legislature will do for Baltimore in the coming year.
YOU SAID you are on the road to change relations between Baltimore and the state. What are you going to do to effect the change?
First and foremost, we're going to do a much better job of running local government. That means that we're going to be able to go to Annapolis this year and say to state leaders that we're making a big improvement in the quality of life in Maryland's one major city, that is the city of Baltimore.
We are going to be able to go to Annapolis with a 15 percent reduction in violent crime, one of the largest reductions this year in any big city in America.
We are going to be able to go to Annapolis showing huge increases in the performance of our students in our city school -- again, one of the largest that any urban school system can point to.
When we show Annapolis that we have the wherewithal to be disciplined with the resources they give us, to make effective use of them and to improve the quality of life in Maryland's one major city, that will encourage legislators and this governor and future governors to invest in our becoming an asset rather than a liability to the state.
You are asking the state for nearly $179 million. How much of that do you think you will get since you haven't had a close relationship with Gov. Parris N. Glendening?
One of the things in our favor is that Governor Glendening has been a national leader on the whole move toward Smart Growth -- that is, to develop in areas where we already have the infrastructure and we already have the roads and sewers.
A lot of our requests fit very squarely into his vision for a Maryland that is no longer paving over farmlands, woodlands and wetlands but instead is a Maryland that's building where the infrastructure is. No place has more infrastructures than the old city of Baltimore. So, I think that is to our benefit.
If you look at how much help other jurisdictions are getting, whether it is Prince George's County or Montgomery County, it's very realistic for the city to hope for -- if not the full $179 million that we've asked for -- it is not outrageous for us to anticipate that more than a $100 million of that request is funded this year.
What is your top priority for Baltimore?
Top priority is drug treatment. The Drug Enforcement Administration of this United States of America has unfortunately but truly labeled us the most addictive city in America when it comes to heroin addiction. Cocaine addiction is not far behind.
So, clearly we need to invest more into drug treatment so that our strategy is better enforcement, better drug treatment and more active intervention in the lives of our young people. We have to start bringing about the results that we all want, which is to make this city one of the safest big cities in America.
And your other top priorities?
The other top priority would have to be schools. Drug treatment in schools. Drug treatment affects the ability of our kids to perform in school. Drug treatment affects the environment all around our schools, in which children have to walk through on their way to school and their way back home. It affects the environment in so many homes.
The top two priorities would be drug treatment and schools, followed very, very closely by jobs. Which is this whole vision of the Digital Harbor -- where a city that's always had a history of being innovators, of being merchants, traders, people open to the world, not at all xenophobic, inventors. And I think that the new economy, the creation of jobs off of information technology, biotechnology, is the way our economy in this region is headed. And I want Baltimore City to be the center of that.
So the investments that we are asking for in the Digital Harbor to allow the growth to happen, to create more opportunities for all our people, is a pretty critical, important investment as well.