Answers from Calvin Young
A lifelong city resident, Calvin Allen Young, III grew up one of four siblings in a single parent household in Hamilton. His mother, a Baltimore City correctional officer, raised her family in a God-centered environment. Calvin and all of his siblings attended Baltimore City public schools. Read more.
Do you believe that the City property tax rate is a deterrent to attracting new residents and businesses to locate in Baltimore City?
If you answered "yes" to Qt. 1, what is your strategy for reducing the tax rate?
There is a growing consensus that the City's property tax rates are a deterrent to attracting new residents and businesses. When a city's property tax is more than two times higher than surrounding jurisdictions, individuals who want to purchase homes, developers who want to build, and small businesses that want to engage in commerce will choose to do so elsewhere. Baltimore's high property tax rate has taken its toll, and nothing will change if we continue to elect career politicians who are beholden to special interests.
As Mayor, I intend to move boldly to build political will, and dispel any fears that dramatically lowering our property tax rates will damage our city. Cities like San Francisco and Boston grew their respective tax bases by dramatically cutting their property taxes. After the third fiscal year, San Francisco recovered their revenues, and more than doubled revenue as a result of increased investment and a larger tax base. There is no reason Baltimore will not experience similar success.
Under my plan, I would propose lowering the real estate property tax to match the property taxes of surrounding jurisdictions within three years. Any short-term losses can be offset in part by raising the Homestead tax credit from 4% to 10%. Ultimately, the City's tax base will grow and more resources can be put to improving government services and repairing our infrastructure. We must get our City out of the cycle of decline. But, nothing will change if we elect career politicians who too often think short-term. I am not a career politician. I am running for Mayor because I care about the long-term benefits of a revitalized Baltimore. I will make this my priority as Mayor.
Given the inequity between what residents pay in real estate taxes and corporations and nonprofits do and don't pay, what is your plan to reduce the disparities in property taxes so that everyone pays their share in keeping the city financially solvent?
Balancing between the values that corporations and nonprofits bring to our City and the needs of the City to expand its tax base will require collaboration. While I am not in favor making nonprofits pay property taxes, I recognize that there should be some attempt to reach a permanent agreement of what nonprofits and corporations, particularly large ones, should pay for so many of the services the City provides them – think sanitation, infrastructure repair and maintenance, police and fire, etc.
Coming to an agreement will requiring not only working collaboratively, but also looking at what other major cities with a similar dilemma have done. This process will not be solved quickly – but an earnest attempt should be made to find an arrangement that balances the benefits of these institutions with the costs borne on the City's residents.
Would you consider increasing taxes on vacant property, while lowering them on occupied property? Can you be specific?
Vacant properties often contribute to blight. Blighted abandoned properties increase instances of crime and lower the property values of neighboring homes. I am not convinced that increasing taxes on vacant property will be sufficient to curb blight. Instead, I would work to enact anti-neglect laws that essentially give absentee property owners two choices – improve or forfeit. Under such a law, a court can declare property a public nuisance if the owner is unwilling or unavailable to improve the property. In such a case, the court could transfer the property into receivership so that the property can be properly disposed of. I would also want to task CitiStat with creating an more innovative and user-friendly platform to identify vacant property and track our progress.
Describe your vision for our ten year financial plan?
My vision for Baltimore's ten year financial plan will focus on: 1. Lowering the City's tax rate to spur economic activity and broaden our tax base, 2. Improve our economy by focusing on giving small businesses the tools needed to grow, 3. Reforming our education system so that our schools are more equitably funded and locally controlled, 4. Bringing innovative and community-focused solutions to reducing crime, and 5. Making improvements and expanding our existing infrastructure so that people, goods, and services can more easily move throughout our City.
How would you propose compelling the City Schools Administration to do a top-to-bottom overhaul of its operating inefficiencies?
If it has not been done recently, I would direct the City School Administration to measure the capacity of each school facility against the number of students taught and programs provided by each school. I would also direct the City School Administration to provide a list of options on what to do with those facilities that are being under utilized and what the City could do to assist those schools that are over utilized. Where possible, I would focus on temporarily closing those schools that are in disrepair so as to rehabilitate them – removing all hazards – and reopening them.
Explain the role of charter schools for Baltimore. Do you think charter schools help the City retain families who do have the resources to relocate to other jurisdictions? Please explain.
While charter schools give parents and students more options, ultimately both public charter schools and traditional public schools are successful when they are led by energetic and informed teachers and administrators committed to creating healthy learning space for children. As Mayor, my focus will be on making our schools safer places to work and teach, and working to more equitably fund schools.
Describe, with specific examples, how you would expand and diversify the city's economy.
We need to encourage small businesses to grow. Access to capital is a huge impediment for small businesses. As Mayor, I would create gap financing for eligible start-ups and expanding businesses. This gap financing would be targeted in certain areas of the city where small business growth has declined or stalled – think Sandtown-Winchester, Edmonston Village, Poplar Grove, and Belair-Edison. I would also work to provide more robust funding and support for Baltimore's Development Corporation so that initiatives like the ETC can do more to help early-stage companies grow.
What is your strategy to boost neighborhood commercial business districts and small businesses? Is there specific red tape to be cut?
Small business growth will be my main focus on how we improve our economy. While at the National Economic Council under the Obama Administration, I worked on policies to assist small businesses grow. Our City's politicians have historically ignored or neglected Baltimore's small-business sector. My administration will make sure that every entrepreneur and small business in the City has the tools they need to grow. Whether it is access to capital, creation of small business incubator programs, cutting red tap, or expanding opportunities for innovative businesses, my administration will make smart investments for small businesses in order to improve our economy. We can no longer afford inaction.
What would be your plan to address the city's vacant houses and abandoned lots?
As with private properties, City owned vacant houses and abandoned lots contribute to blight. As Mayor, I will work in collaboration with community organizations to develop a comprehensive plan to reuse and reinvent our vacant spaces. The City already has a list and map of all vacant lots and houses available online. My administration will work in collaboration community organizations and individuals to develop a process to redevelop and revitalized vacant properties. We must view vacant lots as opportunities for land use transformation that will add to community development. This will not happen without the City's commitment and leadership.
What do you propose to do with city owned buildings, such as schools, offices, public works, yards, etc. that are no longer needed or in service?
Developing and implementing a strategy to restore our city-owned buildings will take time. However, nothing can be accomplished unless we have a mayor who understands that he or she must lead this process. Bringing as many people, religious institutions, organizations, activists, associations, developers, etc. into the planning is essential to this process.
Which City agencies are in the greatest need of reform and what specific reforms to do you have in mind?
The two main agencies of reform are the police department and our schools. Concerns over public safety have grown since last spring's protests and riots. Our residents do not feel safe in their communities. As Mayor I will focus on giving our police officers the tools and resources they need to improve public safety while improving police-community relations (see response to question 13).
I am a product of Baltimore City Schools. The root to being somebody in our society starts with an education. However, the barriers I had to overcome to become a mechanical engineer and receive an MBA from the Harvard Business School have grown. Our elected leaders will not change the status quo, but I will. As Mayor, I will work to make sure our schools are more equitably funded and locally controlled, and I will be a champion for the expansion of STEM programs so that each student learns algebra by 7th grade and calculus by 11th grade. In addition, working to improve our community rec centers so that students are introduced to coding, 3D printing and other innovative programs will only expand opportunities for our youth.
What would be your first priority to reduce crime in the city? Please specifically address violent and property crimes separately. What administrative reforms that you would prioritize for the police department?
We must reduce violent crime in our city so that residents feel safe. An innovative tool that I would bring to Baltimore to reduce gun violence is a state of the art gun detection system. A gun detection system would provide near instantaneous notification, and provide law enforcement with the exact location of a shooter, direction of a shot, and even detect the type of gun used. A gun detection system could reduce gun incidents by up to 49%. We also must do a better job of getting our community leaders involved in improving community safety. Police-community relations will not improve until we start hiring and training officers who live in the communities they serve. As Mayor, I will provide incentives for police officers to live in the City, and promote programs that encourage mentorship between police officers and our youth. Law enforcement must have a stronger connection to the communities they serve in order for police-community relations to improve, and for public safety to improve.
Tracking property crimes to identify hot spots for theft, burglary, etc. will go a long way to assisting law enforcement prevent these types of offenses. Encouraging neighborhood watches and community policing will can also help to reduce property crimes.
What will you do about Baltimore's aging infrastructure from old sewers to bridges and roads and water lines?
Making improvements to our infrastructure is an enormous task that will require a substantial amount of funds. As Mayor, I will work at the regional, State and Federal level to bring as many dollars as possible to address our aging infrastructure priorities.
What specific strategies will you use to increase the City's population, and specifically to attract and retain such expanding population groups as millennials and immigrants?
Population loss is tied to a lack of opportunity for businesses and individuals to thrive in our City. Reforming our tax policy, improving the conditions for small business owners, reforming our educational system and reducing crime will all attract various groups to our City.