So much to do, so little time

February 04, 2007

Recommended reading for mayoral candidates: the Dixon Transition Team Report. It's a primer on what works at City Hall, what doesn't and what lies ahead. At 92 pages, it's not going to be a quick read, so settle in, take notes and don't skip the fine print. It may help get you elected.

From the Baltimore Development Corp. to the Department of Transportation, 21 city agencies were scrutinized by transition teams that assessed pluses and minuses, recommended changes or new initiatives and set forth timelines for completion.

The report honestly identifies the loss of senior staff in the Department of Housing and Community Development, the lack of a strong development team and the overall diminution of an agency once heralded for innovation. And the Recreation and Parks Department's uninspired approach to generating revenue. And that the city's recycling program is weak, inefficient and in need of an overhaul.

It reports that the city's work force development agency has veered away from its core mission, the Transportation Department is too literal in its duties and the permitting process must be expedited.

The team recommends greater openness by agencies, more involvement with community groups, and speedier resolution of constituent complaints - all of which should be at the heart of public service.

The report portends the right trajectory for development, improving the Charles Street-North Avenue corridor and refurbishing central Baltimore, which is basically the section north of Mount Vernon and south of 33rd Street. That would extend the downtown progress to the city's shabby midsection.

The proposal to expand opportunities for minority businesses and the space devoted to their work with City Hall suggests not enough is being done and minority business development should be a primary interest of Mayor Sheila Dixon. Expect to see her hand in resolving the long-stalled development of the superblock on the west side, a keen interest of two of Ms. Dixon's key transition team players; the report advises removing this contentious issue from the city's Law Department. Other ideas include reassessing commercial properties to bring in their fair share of tax revenue and expanding Medicaid funding for a proven treatment for juvenile offenders that involves intensive family therapy.

Where the report disappoints is in its tired reliance on establishing new committees for this, another coordinator for that. But its call to phase out the "Believe" campaign receives our unqualified support.

The mayor has her work cut out for her.

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