Answers from David Warnock

David grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the 1970s, just as factories were shutting down and people were starting to move away. Knowing that education was the only hope for a brighter future, David attended the University of Delaware, working his way through college as a bartender, and then went on to receive his Master’s from the University of Wisconsin. Read more.

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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?

Our city is at a crossroads. This election will be the difference between us writing the greatest turnaround story in America, or slipping backwards into permanent decline. Our city's high tax rate is often mentioned as the reason more businesses and families don't invest in Baltimore. And it's true: Our city's tax rate is high, and typical politicians are racing to see who can make the biggest cut. But I believe that before we make promises about the tax rate, we have to understand where we're spending our money. This lack of accountability is not respectful to the people who invest their hard-earned tax dollars in Baltimore, and promising cuts before we fully understand the issue is even more disrespectful.

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?

I believe that before we make promises about the tax rate, we have to understand where we're spending our money. This lack of accountability is not respectful to the people who invest their hard-earned tax dollars in Baltimore, and promising cuts before we fully understand the issue is even more disrespectful.

Would you consider increasing taxes on vacant property, while lowering them on occupied property? Can you be specific?

I believe that before we make promises about the tax rate, we have to understand where we're spending our money. This lack of accountability is not respectful to the people who invest their hard-earned tax dollars in Baltimore, and promising cuts before we fully understand the issue is even more disrespectful.


Describe your vision for our ten year financial plan?

If there's one thing that the city's ten year financial plan tells us, it's that we can expect hundreds of millions in deficits unless we get our money in order. Our city pensions are on the way to going broke. Baltimore has not had regular, public audits since 1983, when William Donald Schaefer was mayor. The ten year financial plan is a step in the right direction, but we need annual, public, independent audits to know whether the recommendations go far enough. We won't know that until we get our money in order.


How would you propose compelling the City Schools Administration to do a top-to-bottom overhaul of its operating inefficiencies?

It's going to take all of us to get our schools back on track. When I become mayor, I will immediately mandate a public audit of the Baltimore City Public School System. With strong leadership in the mayor's office, who takes responsibility for the outcomes of our students, we can compel the school system to make the changes necessary to improve. I'll also develop a basic, public set of performance measures that the taxpayers of Baltimore can use to hold its school system accountable, and evaluate the performance and success of every department based on those measures.

Lastly, I will support a partially elected Board of School Commissioners, so that parents and community members have a say in what happens in their local school. Our current system lacks transparency, lacks accountability, and has failed the children of Baltimore. I believe parents, not politicians, should decide our children's future.

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.

Yes, a quality education creates opportunity. Baltimore's public school system serves more than 80,000 children every year, and every student deserves a customized approach. When teachers, parents and the community collaborate in the best interest of every child, whole communities begin to thrive. This is why charter schools are an important part of our system – they are a way to make our public schools into community schools that improve educational outcomes and truly transform communities.

Economic Development

Describe, with specific examples, how you would expand and diversify the city's economy.

Growing jobs and opportunity will be the next mayor's most critical challenge. That means a city hall that finally puts the needs of the customers – Baltimore citizens and businesses – first, so we can grow jobs, build businesses and get Baltimore residents the training and education they need to succeed in the workforce.

Baltimore's economy is dominated by the healthcare and education sectors, including Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland, which together employ more than 40,000 in Baltimore. One of the first things I'd do as mayor is work with both institutions, and other large employers in Baltimore, to encourage their suppliers to locate manufacturing and regional offices in Baltimore City. Whether it's medical equipment manufacturing, or professional services, we need to use our anchor institutions to draw more diverse businesses into our city.

Another example, I see Baltimore's housing problem as an opportunity that would create as many as 10,000 jobs in deconstruction and remediation, creating a workforce training program that would get Baltimore residents trained for jobs that rebuild and revitalize our most ignored communities.

Lastly, Baltimore will need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade its infrastructure over the next decade. Sewers, water, roads and bridges – we have to use these dollars as an economic stimulus and work to make sure those jobs employ more Baltimore residents at family-sustaining wages. I've built dozens of businesses and created thousands of jobs, and I know what it takes to grow jobs in Baltimore.

What is your strategy to boost neighborhood commercial business districts and small businesses? Is there specific red tape to be cut?

We need to build our communities with growth in mind. That means creating neighborhood business districts filled not only with new businesses, but with community centers and schools, so that our neighbors have places to work and shop, and so families can get the resources they need. That also means making it easier for small businesses to locate and grow here, including investing in the infrastructure they need and streamline processes like minor privilege fees.

Vacant Properties

What would be your plan to address the city's vacant houses and abandoned lots?

Today, programs intended to rehab vacant houses are weak and ineffective. For too long, Housing hasn't had the best interests of the city's residents in mind.

To strengthen neighborhoods, we have to commit to tearing down or redeveloping vacant properties, and we have to provide real incentives to build and maintain affordable housing for low and middle-income families. I will work to not only ensure we remove the blight from every neighborhood in our city, but that we also protect and look out for the residents who live there now.

The first step is auditing Baltimore Housing and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, to understand where the dollars are going. An audit does more than find fraud and abuse – how an agency spends its dollars shows how it prioritizes its work. With that information in hand, we can create a strategic plan that focuses on how to focus redevelopment efforts with growth in mind. That means incentivizing development in areas with market demand, demolishing houses where necessary, and creating a community land bank – a strategy used across the country and successfully in Detroit – that can streamline that work, protect areas for community use, and create jobs in deconstruction remediation for Baltimore residents.

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?

To grow Baltimore, we need every tool in our neighborhood revitalization toolbox. That means working with each community to determine their needs, and working with partners in the faith community and business sector to redevelop Baltimore with creating sustainable communities in mind – including using city owned buildings such as schools, offices, public works and yards. For example, in my administration, if you get a TIF, or a tax break, you also get a rec center, or a community school. As Baltimore grows, more and more of these vacant city-owned properties will be utilized by their communities. There will be no more financial contracts, without social contracts in my administration.


Which City agencies are in the greatest need of reform and what specific reforms to do you have in mind?

We have to clean up all of City Hall. We have to root out corruption and special interests. We have to perform annual audits, demand an increased focus on customer service within city agencies, create a truly open, transparent government, and make agency leaders publicly accountable for their performance. For example, we have to improve student outcomes and control spending at Baltimore City Public Schools, clean up Housing Authority of Baltimore City to make sure workers are treating tenants with respect, ensure agencies like the Department of Transportation are investing in our city's infrastructure, and make important reforms in law enforcement to get our police department working for the people again.


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 have to be tough on crime, but we also have to be smart on crime. In 2015, we learned that we cannot prosecute our way to prosperity. Of course people who commit violent crimes will have no place in in our growing, prosperous city. We have to repair police-community relations by getting police officers out of their cars, provide more training for our officers, and keep the police department accountable by utilizing body cameras, creating a civilian review board with teeth, and making common-sense reforms to the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights.

But in the long term, we're going to cut both our violent crime and our property crime rate by providing alternatives, like job training, recreation and education. We need to grow jobs and opportunity in Baltimore, so our young people don't choose a life of crime.


What will you do about Baltimore's aging infrastructure from old sewers to bridges and roads and water lines?

We have to continue to modernize and invest in our infrastructure. One in seven bridges don't meet safety standards, and we have water and sewer infrastructure from the 1870s.

We need to audit our city government, and plan to set a list of priorities, beginning with our failing roads and bridges, and making sure that we are planning to install transportation, sewer and water infrastructure will support Baltimore's growth 10, 50, 100 years into the future.

Fundamentally, an investment in our infrastructure is an investment in our economy and in business growth. I support using public-private partnerships that expedite investment in our current storm water and sewer systems. To create jobs and opportunity for Baltimore residents, we have to use redevelopment dollars to build infrastructure and encourage business, so we can create sustainable communities.

Population growth

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 has deeply hurt our city: Baltimore City has lost more than a third of its population since 1980, leaving many neighborhoods at a crossroads. But no neighborhood in Baltimore should be cut off from economic stability, or cordoned off by police tape. I believe that to turn Baltimore around, we need new leadership that puts neighborhoods first – not just downtown development favored by typical politicians. We need to grow jobs and opportunity, work to reduce crime, make every public school a community school, and make Baltimore the kind of place where the life expectancy of our children is no longer dictated by their zip code. We have to create a Baltimore where all people thrive.