Describing himself as “the accountability mayor,” 12th District Councilman Carl Stokes today kicked off his campaign for the city’s top job in the shadow of Harbor Point.
The high-end waterfront property, showcased by the partly-completed Exelon Tower, was the scene of a battle led by Stokes to extract concessions from developer Michael Beatty in return for tax breaks.
Ultimately, Stokes lost the fight – the site was granted a TIF tax break worth over $100 million by the City Council – but it established his reputation as a maverick in a legislative body prone to approve everything presented to it by the Rawlings-Blake administration.
“This is city money spent to develop prime real estate,” Stokes said today, denouncing the 2013 deal as a dozen supporters nodded and cheered.
“Did the developers need that money to make this happen? No. But they will make 18% on this deal and we will get nothing,” he said.
Dollar House Program
Stokes said his main priority is to shift government spending from the waterfront to struggling neighborhoods. He pledged to invest in places like Northwood, Sandtown, Cherry Hill, Hamilton, Morrell Park and Park Heights.
“When people wake up every day and see the blight that has been allowed to remain for 10, 15, even 20 years,” Stokes said, “then see the pretty new buildings down here, they get angry. They have been forced to live in a city that accepts the abnormal as normal.”
He said he would reestablish Mayor William Donald Schaefer’s dollar house program, where families could buy vacant city-owned rowhouses for $1, and work with the state in demolishing derelict properties.
The 65-year-old businessman and educator served on the Council between 1987 and 1995 and then returned in 2010 when 12th District Councilman Bernard C. “Jack” Young was elevated to the post of City Council President in the wake of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s ascension to mayor following the resignation of Sheila Dixon.
Running for her old job, Dixon is considered to be the leading candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary to be held next April. Stokes also faces a strong vote-getter in State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (40th), who placed second in the Democratic primary for mayor in 2011.
The councilman, however, has wide name recognition, a decent campaign war chest – $106,643 as of last January – and historic backing by some local heavy hitters, including Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
In addition to Dixon, Pugh and Stokes, there are nearly a dozen other Democrats vying for the second floor of City Hall, including 7th District Councilman Nick Mosby, lawyer Elizabeth Embry and businessman David Warnock.
Finding Where the Money Goes
Today, the councilman said that government accountability would be another of his main goals as mayor.
He spearheaded legislation requiring quadrennial agency audits that was approved as a charter amendment by voters in 2012.
“I wanted audits every two years,” Stokes said. “I was voted down. We now have 13 agency audits every four years. That’s not good enough. We need to know where every penny is going.”
Citing the first agency audit released this week, which disclosed that the Department of Transportation could not account for its performance in core areas, Stokes told The Brew, “The fact that the city doesn’t keep records is fraud, waste and abuse in and of itself.”