Carl Stokes is far from being the new kid on the Council. He was sworn in as 12th District representative in mid March, after taking his first seat in City Council from 1987-1995. After stepping down to run an unsuccessful mayoral campaign, he’s back with three top priorities- responding to 12th District residents, creating opportunities for the youth and getting rid of vacant housing.

For the combined effect of assuring safety and maintaining youth services, Stokes hopes to keep open many of the pools and 29 recreation centers that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake proposed to close in her preliminary budget.

“If you close the centers and the pools, you can’t have enough police,” he said. “I want the centers to be very engaging for young people 16 and younger. I think that’s as important as good policing by having young people engaged in opportunities.”

And, starting in East Baltimore, he plans to improve neighborhoods with the help of investors and potential homeowners. In addition to slicing property tax for homeowners in half, he intends to propose a vacant housing policy to fix up neighborhoods rundown by abandoned houses.

“The person with the nice improved home pays more than the person with the vacant home,” Stokes said. “Why should the person who leaves their house in derelict condition get away with little tax? I want the vacant house to be assessed at a penalty so they have to pay as much tax as the improved home.”

To best respond to the needs and suggestions of his constituents, the councilor also said he will do his best to return calls and emails from 12th District residents within 48 hours.

After leaving City Council 15 years ago, Stokes sat on the Baltimore City school board and was chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. He had no intentions of returning to City Hall, but once the 12th District seat opened, he was encouraged to take another stab at it.

“I said, ‘Well, why?’ But with the challenge of the $121 million deficit that may continue  into the following year, cutting of central service like fire and police and after-school programs, I’d like to get back in there and help,” he said.
Dealing with budgetary matters is another aspect of the Council that drew him back in. Stokes said he rejoins the Council at a time when the government is forced to make tough decisions about its priorities which he would like to be a part of.
“I’m really exited about being back at a time when there’s some challenges for us,” Stokes said. “It gives me and the Council and the mayor a chance to look at our priorities and how to fund things that are important for city services. I didn’t want to come back and just sit in a quiet time.”