'The state of our city is stronger'

Text of 2011 State of the City address, as prepared for delivery

February 07, 2011|By Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Mr. President, Members of the City Council, friends and colleagues in government, faithful clergy, people of Baltimore, thank you for the opportunity to report to you on the state of our City and to share our vision to move Baltimore forward.

Mr. President, I want to congratulate you on your first year as the leader of this important body. We have worked together, confronted many challenges and crises and made progress on the key issues that matter most to Baltimore's families.

To all Members of the Council, thank you for your leadership representing the people of your individual districts as well as your sincere desire to do what is best for the City as a whole.

As can be expected, we have had spirited debate amongst each other from time-to-time, but we have always done so with proper civility, and none of us has ever questioned each other's deep love and commitment for this great city we serve together.

Before we go any further with a discussion about the future, we must honor those in the recent past who gave themselves to public service as police officers.

The deaths of four police officers over such a brief span of time took a tough toll on our City. We celebrated their lives of service with family and friends and honored them with funerals fitting for their life's good deeds. Officer James Fowler, Officer Thomas Portz, Officer Brian Stevenson , Officer William Torbit, Jr. Today, please join me for a moment of silence to honor these great men.

Their lives inspire us to be better humans, to do more for friends and neighbors, to never be satisfied with the status quo and to demand progress toward a better life in the City.

A great spirit of compromise, respect, and civility enabled 2010 to be a year of change and progress for Baltimore even during tumultuous and difficult times.

Together, we closed the worst budget deficit in our City's modern history. A deficit equal to a 36 cent increase in the property tax rate. We did so while fully funding our obligation to City schools and maintaining every single police officer and firefighter-all without raising property taxes by one single penny. We cut salary expenses in the Mayor's Office by 13%, reduced city vehicles and consolidated city agencies to cut costs and save money. Together, with our dedicated City workforce and citizens, we confronted the fiscal challenge with honesty and shared sacrifice. These tough choices included pain, but they were necessary to keep Baltimore moving forward.

Together, we worked to restore trust and faith in City Government by implementing the most significant improvements to our City's ethics code in many years, by restructuring the ethics board to make it more independent, by closing loopholes and by increasing ethics training for Cabinet members and staff. These tough improvements were not always popular with political insiders, but they were necessary to help restore confidence in city government.

Together, we confronted a pension plan that was underfunded, out-of-control, and on the verge of total collapse. We did so by making the changes necessary to secure a dignified retirement for Baltimore police and firefighters that the City could afford. With this plan in place, their pension system will become healthier sooner, and funded faster while saving City taxpayers $800 million over the next ten years.

This year, despite a $121 million dollar deficit, we made the largest contribution ever, over $101 million dollars, to the police and fire pension system. And now, for the first time in decades, we can look every police officer and firefighter in the eye and tell them the truth: yes, your retirement is more secure and it will be there when you need it.

Today, by making these tough choices, the state of our city is stronger.

Better Schools:

2010 will go down as the most transformative year in the history of the Baltimore City Public Schools since Brown v. Board of Education. A grueling nine-month collaborative effort between the school administration and the Baltimore Teachers Union resulted in one of the most progressive and reform-minded teachers' contracts ever ratified in the nation.

Even the Washington Post took notice, lamenting that it was unfortunate the film 'Waiting for Superman' was released before Baltimore's contract was approved.

As a mother of a public school student, I was proud to join our school CEO Dr. Andres Alonso and the Baltimore Teacher's Union's Leadership, Marietta English and Lorretta Johnson. Joining us today to represent BTU is Kenya Campbell, chair of the New Teachers Steering Committee. Thank you Kenya for all your hard work getting the contract approved.

In the face of a troubling initial rejection, it was a great honor for me to fully support this national model.

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