Article12 Morgan Mayoral Debate_Fotor

Mayoral candidates DeRay Mckesson, left, Nick Mosby, Sheila Dixon, Carl Stokes, Catherine E. Pugh, David Warnock, Elizabeth Embry, Patrick Gutierrez and Calvin Allen Young III on the stage at Morgan State University. (Photo by Akira Kyles)

Baltimore – With less than 50 days until the primary elections in Baltimore, nine of the 29 mayoral candidates participated in a debate March 10 at the Murphy Fine Arts Center on the campus of Morgan State University (MSU) in Baltimore. The debate—the first of the contest—was sponsored by The AFRO, WEAA-AM radio, The City Paper, and The MSU Spokesman newspaper.

For about two-and-a-half hours, DeRay Mckesson, City Councilman Nick Mosby, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, Councilman Carl Stokes, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, David Warnock, Elizabeth Embry, Patrick Gutierrez, and Calvin Allen Young III, fielded questions from a panel of journalists.

Those journalists included, Sean Yoes of the AFRO and WEAA’s “First Edition”; Marc Steiner of  WEAA’s “The Marc Steiner Show;” Karen Houppert of The City Paper; and Charles D. Ellison of TheRoot.com and WEAA’s “The Ellison Report.” Marsha Jews of WEAA’s “Keep It Moving with Marsha Jews;” served as the forum moderator.

The candidates were quizzed mainly on four topics: housing, police policy, education, and economic development.

Affordable Housing Policy: The first question of the debate was on housing. It sought each candidate’s strategy on how to address and assist the 40 percent of Baltimore’s citizens that cannot afford housing.

DIXON: “Number one: We have to institute our inclusionary housing law,” said Dixon, referring to a 2007 law requiring developers to set aside in each of their newly constructed projects, up to 10-20 % of the new units for low income people. She added, “Number two: I am going to triple our training money for the city. Third: I am going to raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour.”

Pugh:  “In terms of immediate relief, I think reducing property tax,” said Pugh. “We have one the highest property tax rates in the state.” Pugh received resounding applause from the audience after her response.

Police Policy: The debate then moved onto police policy, asking about what the candidates would do about the divide between Baltimore citizens and the police department.

Mckesson: Spoke about reforming the police department to benefit communities by creating an alternate hearing board, mandating that police be drug tested, and making sure that oversight authorities are adequately empowered with tools such as subpoena power.

“We need to make sure communities are protected,” said Mckesson. “The reason that the trust is broken is because people do not have faith that there’s integrity and accountability in the police department.”

Young: Also spoke about improving the police department and its interaction with residents but his answer focused on implementing certain technologies such as GPS trackers in police weapons that could track the location of a gun, how many bullets such gun had fired, and the direction such bullets had been fired.  Young also spoke about a technology they would call for back-up in situations where such was needed by an officer.

“What we decided to do as a city, when we had the opportunity to bring this type of technology here, we say it cost too much,” said Young. “That’s crazy. It only cost $300,000.”

The audience seemed to like Young’s plan, signaling approval with applause and whistling.  

Warnock: Among his comments on policing, Warnock called for marijuana to be decriminalized and for a “change” within the culture of the police department.

“When a young person joins our police force, they need to have a shot at the top job,” Warnock said. “We need to change the culture of the police so that people feel like it’s an honorable career, as it is.”

Education Policy: The debate moved on to education with a question about control of the school board.

Stokes: “The current school board doesn’t represent the children it serves; 85 percent of the children are poor and Black. There’s not one member of the school board who is Black,” said Stokes. “We should bring forward a partially elected school board.”

As the education topic focused on sex education the candidates went temporarily silent before their responses.

Gutierrez: “We will build a comprehensive sex education curriculum and we will roll it out to every school through the city starting at middle school level,” said Gutierrez. “We use the money that we find from our audits because we do not have a resource problem in the city, we have a resource management problem.”

Asked if sex education was taught at Green Street Academy, a Baltimore charter school founded by Warnock, he said, “I don’t believe so.”

Economic Development Policy: As the debate reached its final topic of economic development, the audience was already cheering for the responses before the first question was even asked.

The first question regarded Baltimore’s economic relationship with Under Amour. In January, the athletic apparel brand unveiled plans to build a multibillion-dollar, 50-acre waterfront headquarters campus in South Baltimore’s Port Covington.

Mosby: “Baltimore is a working class city without the work,” said Mosby. “Under Armour needs to establish manufacturing plant in Baltimore. I think this is a very unique opportunity for the city of Baltimore.”

Embry: Indicated that any consideration of the project has to ensure the deal best benefits the city and the citizens.

“Is it worth it for the city? Does it create jobs for local people?” asked Embry.