(Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has a lot on her mind these days, what with her spat with Comptroller Joan Pratt over expensive phones and her pledge to bring thousands of new families to the city. But what is she really thinking? Here's a peek at a "memo" to her economic development chief.)
To: Kaliope Parthemos
Deputy Chief, Economic Development
Re: Comptroller Joan Pratt and 10,000 new families
Pratt is becoming really annoying. Who does she think she is to call me out on a tiny no bid contract for video phones?
Did she ever do this to Martin or that careless gold digger Sheila? If I want $1,000 phones, I should get phones, even if Skype is free. The people elected me, right? Maybe she needs a spa day to lay off the public disclosures? Let's circle back on that.
She's been such a distraction, I have not been able to focus on my signature inaugural goal to bring 10,000 new families to Baltimore in the next decade.
You may have noticed that I was vague about the type of families in my speech. As with everything I do, it was deliberate.
What is a family? In most people's minds, it still conjures up a mom and a dad and two children. But as you know, we can't afford children. They terrorize people in flash mobs in the Inner Harbor (although I can't admit this in public) and squash retail sales, along with the city's take. They require teachers and buildings and fun things to do in the summer, none of which we can afford. We just doubled the bottle tax to pay for rebuilding crumbling public schools, can't keep recreation centers open and will have to beg the state for even more money to pay for newly shifted teacher pensions.
Children are cost centers. If I could order a one-child-per-family rule for the city, I would. But I may be about a generation ahead of my time.
So what we need are new kinds of families.
I want empty nesters with adult dependent children we can count for Census purposes but don't count for everything else.
And what do you think about annexing the property-holding, expensive retirement homes in Baltimore County? Martin owes me big time for backing his push for another casino in Prince George's before we even have ours off the ground, so this might not be so far-fetched.
Have you heard of the EB-5 Visa program? It gives foreigners who invest $500,000 in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 jobs in a rural area or a place with high unemployment a fast track to a green card. We qualify for both reasons. I mean, so many houses here are abandoned and overgrown, we should count as rural, don't you think? And unemployment is way above the national average. The only problem is the supply of businesses to buy. Maybe investors could launch a nonprofit instead?
Of course, we would welcome traditional families who plan to send their children to private school, too. Maybe we could send a mailer to every family in Roland Park, Homeland and Guilford with children in private school to thank them for their service and offer them a $1,000 voucher on their property tax bill for each new non public school family they recruit? It would have to be secret, though. They wouldn't get anything if news broke about the program. I don't need a tiff with the teachers union right now.
We might also consider ordering city employees to live in the city, since more than 40 percent of them don't live here and 5 percent don't even live in the state. That would solve over half the problem. On second thought, it might work against us. Failing schools and crumbling streets are not nearly so bad when you can leave them behind at the end of the day. I don't need thousands of new agitators working for me. That annoying woman who amassed reams of evidence of grossly inflated water bills was not heeded for years. I'd like to keep reform checked at that pace.
What do you think? I'd like to at least try to attract more people and jobs here before I leave for Annapolis or Washington. But then again, it doesn't seem to matter one way or the other. Look at how much attention Martin is getting as a future presidential candidate. Let's video conference on the new phones when you have a minute!
Marta H. Mossburg is a senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute and a fellow at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Her column appears regularly in The Baltimore Sun. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.