Answers from Nick Mosby
Nick Mosby is a proud native of Baltimore, Maryland. He was raised by his mother in a small three-bedroom house in North East Baltimore with his sister, grandmother, and aunts. Surrounded by strong, hardworking women, he learned early the importance of a good work ethic. His mother worked at the Social Security Administration for over 30 years. She made sure Nick received a good public school education. After graduating from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Nick went on to study Electrical Engineering at Tuskegee University, a historically Black college in Alabama. 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?
As I outlined in my 15 Point Plan for Baltimore, I will reduce the property tax for owner occupied properties by 15.3% and for nonowner occupied properties by 6.57%. I will do this, in part, by separating the solid waste disposal fee from the property tax fee so that we are competing on even footing with surrounding counties. The rest of the savings will come from applying property tax revenue increases, which are already projected from new state assessments in home value, and targeted cuts in bloated government operations. Every dollar of my tax cut is accounted for in the plan.
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?
The problem is not development incentives so much as it is development incentives that do not create real benefits for the communities they ostensibly serve. Baltimore must tie tax deals for development to quality jobs for City residents that do not disappear once construction ends, and to developments that bring much needed commercial options to underserved communities. To that end, Baltimore must reorganize its Enterprise Zones away from the already in demand and comparatively well developed areas around the Harbor, and return them to their original purpose- thoughtful development in under-sourced neighborhoods. Moreover, we must target tax incentives towards small business pass through entities that keep wealth in the communities they serve and are points of entry to economic security for homegrown entrepreneurs. I have laid out a plan that does all of this in more, in detail, on my website.
Would you consider increasing taxes on vacant property, while lowering them on occupied property? Can you be specific?
I not only consider it, but have been calling for it since I released my 15 point plan over 2 months ago. The District of Columbia has a tax structure that penalizes owners of vacant properties, and carries even greater penalties for owners of dilapidated properties, so that they cannot sit on properties while neighborhoods suffer then benefit from the community’s hard work by capitalizing on increased property values when the neighborhood rebounds. We will make it financially impractical to be an absentee landlord in the City of Baltimore.
Describe your vision for our ten year financial plan?
It has become almost cliché to say though, but we must continue to emphasize it until the problem no longer exists- we do not know what the City’s ten-year financial plan should look like until we conduct both financial AND performance audits of the City’s largest departments. Not only will that tell us how money is being spent, but also what outcomes each dollar is having for the City’s quality of life. My 15 Point Plan also calls for offices of Contract and Project Management, so that certified project management professionals can deliver large capital projects on time and on budget, but for a revitalized CitiStat operating in a new Office of Data and Analysis, so that we can constantly track and publicly report performance metrics paired with the investments that create them. Only after improvements like these will we know how to properly structure our ten-year financial plan.
I do anticipate finding considerable savings as these reforms are implemented. I believe it is imperative that we invest more heavily in the City’s school system, that the police department’s budget be reorganized around a community policing strategy, and that we invest in updated outdated and inefficient systems like the municipal telephone exchange immediately. As a vision for the City across the board, it is imperative that we begin reallocating our funding priorities to proactive, preventive investments that deliver better initial qualities of life for our residents- workforce development, education, quality housing, a strong transportation system- and less investments in reactive downstream investments that are responses to a failing quality of life- a massive police budget, for instance.
How would you propose compelling the City Schools Administration to do a top-to-bottom overhaul of its operating inefficiencies?
We must create an Office of Education Reform in City Hall so that oversight and accountability for the school system becomes a fulltime job in the mayor’s office, allowing the mayor to become more informed and more impactful on the City’s school systems. The governor has traditionally deferred to the mayor, so debates over home rule are a matter of semantics, and an unnecessary distraction that also risks state funding. I will also increase City funding of the school systems, but tab it for the City’s spending priorities. Moreover, I would work with the school system to enroll it in the performance measures and monthly data reporting that the Mayor’s Office of Data and Analysis will be responsible for in all City departments.
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.
I support a strong public school system in the City of Baltimore. Public charter schools, with unionized teachers, can be part of the City’s overall education options, but they are not a solution to our struggles with education in and of themselves.
Describe, with specific examples, how you would expand and diversify the city's economy.
We have to expand and diversify the City’s workforce, and create more access to family supporting jobs. I have proposed doing this with no cost expungements, free vocational training at BCCC for targeted job sectors, free GED teaching and testing and classes in computer literacy, City facilitated apprenticeship programs with regional employers with wraparound support services and employer subsidies during the apprentice’s training, and returning the local income tax on former offenders to businesses willing to hire them.
A more diverse economy is an economy with vibrant small businesses. To that end, I have proposed waiving the local income tax on the first $50,000 made by pass-through entities that meet qualifications preventing abuse by shell LLCs, and creating a small business loan fund that helps develop homegrown entrepreneurs in the City’s targeted development districts. I will also invest in a 1 gigabit fiber optic network bringing high speed internet to every resident and institution in the City, opening the door to a thriving tech community, while lowering the commercial and industrial property tax rate to $2.10, so that we offer a competitive business environment for companies not large enough to call for special incentives.
What is your strategy to boost neighborhood commercial business districts and small businesses? Is there specific red tape to be cut?
Baltimore’s Enterprise Zones must be reassigned to undersourced communities. We must also remember that creating transportation corridors with walkable and bikable complete street designs does not just improve the City’s transportation grid- it also breathes life into neighborhood main streets that bring goods and services to neighborhoods where they are too often absent. Housing too must be tied to economic development, as every dollar spent on revitalizing blighted residential districts should be tied to an investment in creating commercial spaces that serve these new residential developments, within walking distance of them. Mixed use properties in particular should be encouraged, as it is in their very nature to not only serve but to create commercial business districts and to house small businesses.
What would be your plan to address the city's vacant houses and abandoned lots?
We must create a robust receivership taskforce that applies the City’s progressive receivership law to all problem properties in Baltimore, swiftly removing them from absentee owners and placing them in the new hands of responsible investors, who are required to begin construction within 1 year of purchase. A receivership taskforce is cheaper than painting and boarding the City’s vacant properties, offers those properties an opportunity to become productive again, and does not reward irresponsible owners by allowing them to retain ownership of them.
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?
These spaces, particularly schools, should be considered for the low cost creation of recreation centers whenever possible. In other instances, redevelopment as a private space may be both financially beneficial to the City, and help combat the existence of a vacant space in neighborhoods.
Which City agencies are in the greatest need of reform and what specific reforms to do you have in mind?
The Department Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Public Works are in particular need of reform. My proposals for government reform are effective because they impact efficiency for all departments and agencies though. The Office of Contract Management and Project Management will oversee any significant capital project. All agencies will be subject to the performance metrics and monthly data reporting overseen by a revived CitiStat operating within an Office of Data and Analysis. Every large department will benefit from regular financial and performance audits. City government is in dire need of reform, and we must be bold in our scope.
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?
My 15 Point Plan calls for body cameras on police officers within 100 days of taking office as being a first priority. Violent crime requires a targeted focus on violent repeat offenders, which can be accomplished with investments in the warrant apprehension taskforce and data driven targeting of individuals, not communities. Property crime is combatted not just with police presence, but with better City services like a stronger education system, more effective workforce development, and easier to access recreation centers and community programming. Property crimes are often crimes that arise from the conditions of poverty, and by combatting poverty, we begin to alleviate the crimes that result from it.
We must reform the police department by ending automatic gag orders for police misconduct cases, creating a stronger civilian review board, implementing a true community policing strategy that gets officers walking the beat and interacting with residents, and creating a program that allows officers to coordinate the delivery of City services to address quality of life complaints that they receive from residents. These are key priorities, but I have released an extensive plan for police reform that you can reference on my website.
What will you do about Baltimore's aging infrastructure from old sewers to bridges and roads and water lines?
The answer is that we have to invest in it- period. It is important that the City retain ownership of these services though, rather than contracting them out to private industry, as they represent quality of life fixtures that City residents should retain control of.
We can get better return on our investment and save the City money, which will allow for more investment, by instituting the Offices of Contract and Project Management spoken to earlier. We must also engage in a culture change, reforming the bidding process so that we have trued estimates with cost indexing factored in, rather than simply supplying the contract to law ball bidding that cannot possible deliver projects on time or at cost.
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?
The improvements spoken to earlier- a better education system, lower property taxes, access to family supporting employment, and government reform that improves city services- are all parts of the equation. It is important to talk about transportation as well though. In order to keep pace with other cities that are rapidly modernizing their public transportation options, Baltimore must do the same, with the recognition that doing so is also a boost to the economy, the environment, and to residential development along the transit grid.
My administration will rewrite the City's transportation plan, which has not been updated in 12 years. There is no silver bullet for effective transportation infrastructure, but by focusing the plan on a truly multimodal vision for the City, we can create a critical mass of transportation options that ensure all residents have their needs met.
My 15 Point Plan calls for updating the City's Traffic Management Center and Intelligent Transportation Systems to improve traffic flow. That means dynamic traffic lights that react to congestion levels in the moment, or preventing bus "clumping" where one bus runs late and another runs early, creating longer wait times in between the buses, to name just a few improvements these systems produce.
I support piloting bus rapid transit, because it delivers quicker transit times by utilizing features like dedicated lanes, intersection priority, and off-board fare collection. It is also more affordable than railways. Placing the pilots along East-West transit corridors will help connect less well served neighborhoods.
My plan calls for targeted transit expansion like shuttles to employment hubs, but includes a vision for bringing Bikeshare to all Baltimore residents, and creating a connected network of dedicated bike lanes. Strong transportation also means transportation friendly development throughout our neighborhoods though. I support rolling back parking minimums and incentivizing walkable designs in our neighborhood revitalization efforts, to catalyze transportation friendly development. We must also partner with our new businesses to generate responsible funding for expanded Charm City Circulator routes.