In first State of the City address, mayor warns of 'tough choices' ahead

Rawlings-Blake pledges to keep public safety, education as priorities

  • Joined by her mother, Dr. Nina C. Rawlings, left, her husband, Kent Blake, in background, and her daughter, Sophia, Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake is sworn in as the 49th mayor of Baltimore today at City Hall by Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway.
Joined by her mother, Dr. Nina C. Rawlings, left, her husband,… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
February 22, 2010|By Julie Scharper | | Baltimore Sun reporter

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake vowed to prioritize education and public safety while making "tough choices" to rectify a $120 million budget deficit, in her first State of the City address.

Comparing the fiscal crisis to the great fire of 1904 and the 1968 riots, Rawlings-Blake said the city faced a "true test" that will be a "matter of survival but also renewal."

"Mark these words, remember them and factor them into our actions and decisions in the coming days," said Rawlings-Blake. "This $120 million deficit is brutal and will hit all of our citizens hard."

Rawlings-Blake became mayor 19 days ago after Sheila Dixon resigned as part of a plea deal on charges of embezzlement and perjury. The former city council president pledged to improve transparency and ethical standards to "restore trust" in city government.

She thanked the city workers and residents who "survived and conquered" the historic snow storms that began falling on her first full day of the office. The large snow recovery effort has consumed most of her first two weeks as mayor and cost the city more than $6 million.

The mayor warned that painful cuts loomed for the $2.2 billion city budget, implicitly criticizing her predecessor's spending choices.

"By making everything a priority, nothing is a priority," she said. "Our limited resources have been spread too thin, in too many areas."

Rawlings-Blake pledged to cut 10 percent from the budget of the mayor's office and to cut the office's vehicle fleet by one-third. The Mayor's Office of International Affairs will be abolished and general funds will no longer be used for the Mayor's Office of Cable and Communication, she said.

She stressed the importance of public safety, and, while not promising to maintain the same level of funding, said that "if we work together" the city could keep the same number of patrol officers and reduce the number of rolling closures of fire companies.

The city would encourage programs such as Teach for America and Experience Corps to enhance instruction and would pay its required contribution to public schools, as it has done in the past, Rawlings-Blake said.

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