Casting a ballot for the next president may be what draws a record number of Marylanders to the polls tomorrow, but Baltimore voters will also decide on borrowing $125 million for projects that officials call an investment in the city's future.
Expected long lines at polling stations could be exacerbated as city voters review page after page of ballot questions - 15 in all for loan authorizations.
The largest is $43 million for school construction. Other projects include the Maryland Zoo, the Walters Art Museum, the Lyric Opera House, an expansion of Patterson Park and renovation projects at the downtown courthouses and several firehouses.
Mayor Sheila Dixon said last week that the initiatives "will make the city greener and our development more sustainable."
City firefighters union President Bob Sledgeski will be closely monitoring the results. Of the close to 50 fire stations in the city, Sledgeski estimated that eight are in good shape, and that most need major renovations. Many would receive money if a $12.5 million public building loan passes.
"The public has always been very supportive of firefighters. It would give us a little bit of the money that we need," Sledgeski said.
City officials are also asking voters to pass Question A, a charter amendment that would transfer some responsibilities from the Department of Public Works to the Department of General Services, consolidating workers in one building.
Here is a look at the other proposals, all of which cover fiscal years 2010 and 2011:
Question B: : Schools, $43 million. The money would supplement state funding for windows, doors, roofs, boilers, heating, ventilation and air conditioning at schools. Leith Walk and Waverly elementary schools are to receive major renovations.
Question C: : Enoch Pratt Free Library, $3 million. Money would go for improvements at libraries in the Canton, Waverly and Hampden neighborhoods.
Question D: : Community development, $30.5 million. Money would be used for the acquisition and demolition of vacant properties near the American Brewery, where commercial and office space is planned. The Uplands community is also scheduled for development, with the creation of mixed-income housing.
Question E: : Economic development, $15.3 million. Funding would go to the Westside Redevelopment Initiative, which looks to turn the west side of downtown into a mixed-use neighborhood. Several other projects are also included.
Question F: : Recreation and Parks, $16 million. Money would be used to build a new recreation center in Cherry Hill, expand Patterson Park and renovate the Druid Hill Park pool bathhouse, among other projects.
Question G: : Public buildings, $12.5 million. Money would go to replace air conditioning at the Charles Benton Office Building, refurbish elevators in the Mitchell Courthouse and renovate fire stations.
Question H: : Lyric Opera House, $1 million. Funding would enlarge the Lyric's stage-house, upgrade backstage technical systems and the orchestra pit, and improve the auditorium.
Question I: : Baltimore Museum of Art, $750,000 for renovations.
Question J: : Port Discovery Museum, $600,000 for renovations.
Question K: : Everyman Theatre, $500,000. Money would renovate a new location at the historic Town Theatre, replacing Everyman's current Charles Street location.
Question L: : National Aquarium in Baltimore, $500,000. Money would upgrade electrical systems and increase energy efficiency in the Pier 3 and Pier 4 buildings.
Question M: : Maryland Science Center, $400,000. Money would add a green roof and 6,600 square feet of educational space.
Question N: : Walters Art Museum, $350,000. Money would renovate the Walters' extended campus, support a community education center and exhibition space for the permanent collection.
Question O: : Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, $300,000. Money would help build two new exhibits: prairie dogs and hellbenders, a type of salamander.
Question P: : Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, $300,000. Money would fund a roof replacement and facade repairs.