Op-Ed: The Nehemiah Plan for Rebuilding Baltimore One Neighborhood at A Time

Independent Baltimore City Mayoral Candidate Bob Wallace (Courtesy Photo)

By Bob Wallace

Since starting my mayoral campaign, we have walked over 500,000 steps as I have canvassed 32 zip codes and most neighborhoods across Baltimore City.  Through these walks, during a pandemic, I have heard the pleas of the people of our great city.  Consequently, our mission has been made clear and our path sure.  This “Coalition of the Ascendant” which consists of Democrats, Republicans and Independents will transform the way our city elects its leaders for years to come. I call upon all Baltimoreans who feel that we have lost our way and need to clean house to chart a new path forward to join our movement.  It is a movement that will always put people over profits, people over party, and people over politics.  We must give the government back to the people.  I for one will not rest until the transformation that we all desire is a reality.  We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, and for God’s sake, we owe it to future generations.  

After years of worsening conditions in Baltimore, what changes will the same old leadership bring this time around? The answer is none. Now is the time for Democrats, Republicans, and Independent voters alike to come together to make the leadership change we all need for our beloved city. 

Baltimore’s next mayor faces many challenges from addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing challenges of soaring crime rates, poverty, addiction, food deserts, and fixing a broken public-school system.

How the next mayor tackles these challenges will be key for the future success of our city and its residents. We can no longer stand-by and watch career politicians fail to offer any new ideas or solutions to the same old problems that are threatening the soul of our city. 

Brandon Scott has had a front row seat in City Hall for the past ten years – without bringing about any impactful change – as our city further declines in education, quality of life, and public safety standards.

After years of failed leadership in Baltimore City, I ask my fellow Baltimoreans, what do you have to lose in making a change in our city’s long failing leadership? 

Through a strategic collaboration between neighborhood residents, investors, major institutions, businesses and community thought leaders worldwide, my Nehemiah Plan will focus on energizing and advancing our economy on the neighborhood level.  We will start by segmenting the city into “Neighborhood Economic Development Zones” or NEDZs.  Each NEDZ will have a specific economic development strategy that caters to the unique needs and requirements of the people in that zone.  The seed funding of one Billion dollars, to be used as the initial funding for the economic development of these zones, will be raised through public-private partnerships.  

While the overall goal of the Nehemiah Plan is to create 100,000 new jobs by putting our people to work in rebuilding our city, its initial thrust is to create a “Commerce Hub” (CH) within each NEDZ.  Each CH will include, at a minimum, a grocery store, drug store, community technology and innovation center, and childcare facilities.  To facilitate the unification of these NEDZs we will introduce a digital form of currency called Bmorecoins to be used as local currency. The secondary thrust of the Nehemiah Plan is to use students, our neighborhood workforce, and local small, minority and woman-owned businesses to start rebuilding the 20,000 vacant houses and commercial properties within the NEDZ. The priority of investment will be based on the unemployment and poverty rates of the people living within each NEDZ.  Additionally, the Nehemiah Plan will include innovative financing models to make it easier for low-income and middle-income residents to become homeowners.  

As a successful entrepreneur and business leader, I am already reaching out to my fellow CEOs and colleagues across the country to discuss creating future jobs, opportunities and wealth for all communities in Baltimore, as well as saving vital businesses like Shofer’s Furniture in Federal Hill, The Urban Oyster and others from closing or leaving the city. Unlike Brandon Scott, I have experience creating jobs and businesses in Baltimore.   

The pandemic has highlighted the long-standing disparities affecting communities of color in Baltimore. We have seen it first-hand as the shift to virtual learning worsens the already massive digital divide in our city. Without immediate solutions, thousands of our school children will be doomed to failure without access to high-speed Internet, computers in their home or access to learning resources. Public-private partnerships in our underserved neighborhoods must fill the gaps with the help of businesses, churches, community centers and others. 

With the unforeseen unemployment rates in the past months due to COVID-19, we’ve seen the economic downturn impact Black communities most severely, highlighting the racial wealth divide in Baltimore and our tale of two cities.  With no solutions in sight, there must be swift action by new leaders in Baltimore to make momentous as well as disruptive changes and restructure systems that have stifled our communities for far too long. 

I commit myself to you to lead those changes with integrity and honesty in a way that will make you proud to be a Baltimorean.

God bless you!

Bob Wallace

Independent Candidate for Mayor of Baltimore

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