Baltimore – Eight Baltimore mayoral candidates got a chance to meet face-to-face with members of the community on Jan. 27 at Saints Philip and James Catholic Church on North Charles Street. Several candidates for City Council as well as candidates for judgeship were also on hand. The event was put on by the Charles Village Civic Association.

The event’s initial audience of about 50 people swelled to a standing-room-only crowd once the mayoral candidates arrived from another forum held earlier that evening.

Former mayor Sheila Dixon, prosecutor Elizabeth Embry, City Councilman Nick Mosby, state Sen. Catherine Pugh, City Councilman Carl Stokes, venture capitalist David Warnock, engineer Calvin Harris III and academic researcher Cindy Walsh were all allotted time to speak and take questions from the audience.

The candidates were only allowed about three minutes to answer questions, so there was not a lot of time for members of the audience to interact with the candidates or for the candidates to interact with one another. When it came to questions from the audience, however, money was a major subject.

One woman asked Dixon why the city hadn’t considered a commuter tax to help keep vitally needed tax dollars within city limits.

“We’ve been there, done that,” Dixon said. “We’ve explored the possibility of a commuter tax, but then you have to ask yourself the question, if you create a commuter tax for people coming into the city, they can also do the same leaving the city. We don’t need to create a commuter tax. We need to create a structure within Baltimore to not only attract people to not only come here but stay here.”

Councilman Stokes talked about the need for audits and an even distribution of money throughout the city – not just the areas near the Inner Harbor.

“I found out that Rec and Parks hadn’t done an audit in 30 years…I found out that no city agency was doing audits and so I went to the council and I put in a bill to audit every penny, every performance, every dollar and guess what? It was defeated,” he said.

“We need to know where the dollars are,” he added.

Warnock echoed the need for city audits when a man from the audience asked him about how he would improve the tax base in the city.

“We will write the greatest turnaround story in America by getting a handle on our financials,” Warnock said. “The fact that we haven’t had an audit of our municipal functions since William Donald Schaefer was mayor is disrespectful to our city.”

Robert Stokes, who is running to represent the 12th District in the City Council and is of no relation to Councilman Stokes, asked Mosby if he would increase the city’s education budget as mayor.

“We need to have a Mayor’s Office of Educational Reform,” Mosby said. “That’s someone at City Hall who has their thumb on the pulse of our school system. Right now, the fact of the matter is that we hide behind this cloud of ownership. Is it City Hall? Is it Annapolis? We need to be accountable to our children.”

Another attendee asked Sen. Pugh about the need to improve transportation in the city.

“I’ve looked at the new bus system and it really is inadequate. You’ve got to create transportation that works from one end of the city to the other,” Pugh said. “The other thing that we need to look at is how we run our MARC train system. It now operates about 18 hours a day. It used to operate almost 24 hours because we had so many people who are actually working in the D.C. area. And then looking at how we create bike paths and rapid bus lanes for our citizens and more circulars that will work for everyone.”