The ten questions on the Baltimore ballot for Nov. 8 are as important for Baltimoreans to weigh-in on as the vote for City Council and Mayoral candidates. Most of the initiatives will direct what the new City Council and Mayor give their attention to in the coming years. After conferring with a variety of public policy leaders and local organizations working with the issues, here is the AFRO’s breakdown of the initiatives:
Question A: Affordable Housing Loan authorizing the mayor and City Council to borrow up to $6 million for the Affordable Housing Program. Advocates for question A indicate Baltimore City currently lacks adequate resources to support affordable/low income housing. The city Housing Commission would manage this money along with a commission that would include both a mayoral appointees and low-wealth residents. The money could be used for everything from housing counseling to renovation and rehabilitation.
Question B: Authorizing the Mayor and City Council to borrow up to $34 million to acquire land or property to construct and erect school buildings, athletics and auxiliary facilities, additions, improvements or modernization of facilities.
Currently, more than one-third of Baltimore City Schools are in serious disrepair with inadequate heating, air conditioning and other major problems with core operational systems that impact Baltimore City Public School students daily.
Question C: Authorizing the Mayor and City Council to borrow up to $54 million for the Planning Department to make loans and grants to various projects to improve cultural life of the city and to promote tourism.
Question D: Authorizing the Mayor and City Council to borrow up to $45 million for parks and recreation facilities. Supporters say this funding would help reduce the dearth of recreation facilities in some of Baltimore’s core-urban communities. Concerned citizens will need to work closely with the City Council to ensure funding goes to communities in highest need.
Question E: Amending the Baltimore City Charter to establish a continuing children and youth fund mandating $.03 cents of every $100 of assessed property value to be appropriated to this Fund annually.
This is one of the most controversial ballot questions. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. Jack Young opposed the measure. Most City Council members are in favor of Question E.
Question F: Transfers certain powers and duties from the Department of General Services to the Department of Transportation. Voters should be aware that in 2014, city voters already transferred some responsibilities of the Department of General Services to the Department of Transportation, including approval of recommended subdivision plans.
Question G: Small and Disadvantaged Business preference: Authorizes the Mayor and City Council to waive or modify certain procedures for awarding contracts and to assist local, small, or disadvantaged businesses by establishing programs that grant purchasing preferences to local, small, or disadvantaged businesses.
Question H: Expands the area within Inner Harbor Park for outdoor eating locations.
Question I: Requires the Baltimore City Auditor to perform biennial financial and performance audits. The Resolution also creates the Biennial Audits Oversight Commission to guide the City Auditor on the scope of performance audits.
This ballot initiative was promoted by several city council members, including Carl Stokes, Chair of the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee of City Council. City Council members have expressed concern that Baltimore City does not require routine audits of its agencies.
Question J: Establishes a continuing, non-lapsing Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the establishment and preservation of affordable housing in Baltimore City. The Fund will be operated by Department of Housing and Community Development and a 12-member commission. Advocates point to more than 30 states and multiple counties and cities that already have similar trust funds, combined with the large number of low-wealth residents living in Baltimore in justifying the need.