At a community forum led by City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young on Wednesday night, residents expressed concerns over a variety of issues, including the parks and recreation department.
The group of about 60 residents gathered in the Baltimore City Community College's Liberty Campus auditorium to ask a panel of city officials about issues including blighted houses, dirt bike laws, attracting new retail businesses to their neighborhoods and the potential closure of city recreation centers.
The mayor's initial budget plan called for 29 neighborhood recreation centers to close by June 30, among cuts to other city services to offset a $121 million gap in the city's budget. But Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake released a second budget plan that would reverse many of those cuts, keeping all the centers open throughout the summer with the help of a $50 million revenue package of new taxes and fees.
City Council members have signaled their approval for a little more than $40 million in new taxes, enough to restore cuts to fire, police, recreation centers, senior programs and bulk trash pickups. About $20 million in new taxes were approved by the council's taxation and finance committee this week and will go to the full council for a vote Monday.
More than 600 city employees were notified of impending layoffs this week, but the bulk of those — 350 — will be spared once the council passes the new taxes. About 250 city workers will still lose their jobs even with the new revenue. The majority of those cuts will come from the recreation and parks and public works departments, as well as 50 contract employees from the police department.
Recreation and parks director Gregory Bayor said the city's swimming pools are being filled for the summer.
But Michael Johnson, 54, executive director of the Paul Robeson Institute, said he is still concerned that the centers are "mismanaged — they're not held together."
Another resident expressed concern that the recreation centers had deteriorated and were not what they used to be.
Bayor agreed that the centers that the centers need improvement, that they "have to be a lot more than they are."