Baltimore News

2020 Baltimore mayoral debate video & transcript

Video above: Watch the only 2020 televised debate with the top three candidates for Baltimore mayor.

Topics include: the response to the coronavirus, violence in the city, trash issues as they pertain to violence in the city, the impact of the coronavirus on the city’s economy, police reform, dirt bikes, the impact of the coronavirus on education and whether students should return to schools, and ethics and corruption in city government.

The top candidates for Baltimore mayor addressed the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in the only televised mayor’s debate featuring the top three candidates.

The pandemic has pushed the issue of Baltimore’s economy to the front burner. So, WBAL-TV asked the candidates: What is the first thing you would do if elected to address the fallout?

All three candidates in the WBAL-TV debate put the fate of small business as the top of their agendas. The pandemic has closed some small business and clobbered wages in others.

“Right now, the city should be, and the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development should be, training workers who have lost their jobs to COVID and retraining them for jobs that are going to be available today,” Democratic candidate Brandon Scott said.

“We know and I know, as a business owner and entrepreneur, that’s what important in business is cash. Cash is king,” Independent candidate Bob Wallace said. “We need to find pathways to get cash into the pockets of our small businesses via the state level or even at the federal level that addresses the small businesses.”

“We need to make sure we are getting capital access to our small businesses. We need to make sure we are helping them to make that transition wherever possible from brick-and-mortar to a hybrid of brick-and-mortar and online,” Republican candidate Shannon Wright said.

Wallace promised a new Baltimore conservation corps to put unemployed people to work.

“That will provide jobs to squeegee kids and people in our city to do what? To pair them up with (the Department of Public Works), to help them, to use them to pick up the trash, to cut the grass and to clean up our city, and what we will do in the process, we will put them to work where they will learn a skill and (earn) a living until we can work our way through this difficult time caused by the pandemic,” Wallace said.

Wright promised free WiFi throughout the city.

“We, in my administration, will cut that red tape and all the bull and be able to prioritize businesses and all their needs first,” Wright said.

Scott proposed an overhaul of the city’s procurement process to favor small businesses.

“We have to break up contracts so that special services for big-time city contracts can be taken away and make sure they go to a small, medium-size Black-owned business here in the city to make sure they have a one-up and they are getting support in a way that they should,” Scott said.

At a legislative briefing Tuesday, state revenue officials said income tax revenues in the food and entertainment sectors are down 17.4% year to date. Baltimore’s economy is especially dependent on those industries, and the numbers represent an indication of the harsh impact.

Watch Jayne Miller’s report

STOPPING THE SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS

Q: If the spread of the coronavirus becomes critical in Baltimore, do you have a plan to keep residents safe from the spread of the virus?

Brandon Scott (D)
“What we will do under my administration is follow public health advice from our health commissioner and our wonderful health partners here in Baltimore City. We are in a great space where we have the people who are leading this effort in the world here in Baltimore. Everything that I’ve done during COVID-19, and will continue to do, will be driven by public health advice. That means, what we will do is focus on how we can get the information out to our people, especially in the areas in the city that we know are the hardest and most hit and most at risk. That means making sure that we’re preparing to expand testing, partnering with our hospitals, partnering with our community partners to make sure that we can get testing and contact tracing done. That means making sure that we continue to support our citizens when they need money for rent, and businesses when they need money to make payroll, so that our citizens and our businesses are protected, but also so that we’re preparing to make sure that we can get a vaccine out to our citizens quickly when it comes. We know that each and every day COVID-19 is going to impact everything we do. We have to implement better protection for our workers on the front line — from our trash workers, our police officers, our firefighters, our EMS, our nurses — but we also have to do the tough work of making sure each and every day that we are getting the information into the hands of people, but also acting to make sure that we are doing everything that we have to do and that includes, if we have to do it again, shutting the city down.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“In my administration, we will learn from the failed leadership of this current administration on how to do the exact opposite, which is make sure folks have information, they have access to testing, they have access to equipment to keep themself safe, that we put the resources in place to make sure our small and midsize Black and brown businesses are protected so that we can move forward healthy and safe as a city together.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“What this pandemic has done, it has exacerbated inequalities in the health care system that we have in our city and in our society. As your mayor, my job will be to close that gap, to make sure that all of our citizens have the proper health resources, the proper attention and the proper focus so that they can stay healthy.”

ADDRESSING VIOLENCE

Q: Why are you the candidate who’s best equipped to fix violence in Baltimore?

Brandon Scott (D)
“We all know what Baltimoreans need. They need a mayor that understands this issue inside and out. And this is Baltimore. In Baltimore City, only the mayor impacts what the police department does. Only the mayor directs them. And what Baltimore needs is a mayor that’s been there long before anyone was crying about violence in Baltimore City, long before 2015. I was out on the streets of Baltimore, leading the 300 Men March movement, directly interceding in violence. We know long before this race started, I was demanding that the mayor of Baltimore have a complete and comprehensive crime plan to make sure that we’re doing everything that we need to do to attack it in Baltimore City, a city where the City Council has no authority over the police. We know what needs to happen. We need to have a violent repeat offender targeting strategy to deal with the small group of people who commit the majority of violence on our streets, something that the administration now isn’t doing. We need to have a focus target on gun traffickers and straw purchases because 71% of the weapons that come into the city of Baltimore come from outside. And we also need to invest in opportunity for people, including those returning home to the streets of Baltimore City. We need a mayor that’s been here in the fight. We need a mayor that understands. We need a mayor that has had that gun in their face, and someone who has the support of police and community alike to make Baltimore the safest city it can be by curing gun violence from top to bottom.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“We have to get crime under control. I know that I am the best to do that because, again, I have learned from and watched the failed leadership policies. When you are in charge of a committee that’s charged with looking at public safety for the city and you show that you cannot complete that task, it shows me that we need to go in a different direction. When I spend time talking to officers, they express that things started to change in the city when we got away from things we know work, like community policing. There are some things we need to do the current leadership has shown they don’t have the ability to do it, and in my administration, we will work with all of our partners — both state and federal — to make sure that we’re looking at the laws, we’re looking at the rules, and we’re letting people know we’re going to do two things: We’re going to get to the root of the problem that the poor leadership has led to hope and despair being in the city, and we’re going to make sure that we make it really crystal clear that criminal behavior will not be tolerated. We’re not going to talk cute soundbytes like take away money from the police when we know we can’t reallocate it to do what needs to be done. We’re not going to talk about taking away resources from the police when at a time when crime is saying that we need to make sure we’re operating on all full capacity. This current administration has showed us what not to do and in my administration, we will make sure to put the pieces together so that the city benefits from safe streets.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“Mr. Scott, enough words and enough talk. Words have no power, talk has no power unless you can follow that up with action. Sir, you’ve had 10 years in this role to fight crime in Baltimore City. Now, I recognize that it wasn’t just under your control, but my goodness, you’ve been at a front-row seat in this fight and there has been not change. All you do is talk about what needs to be done. All these words and talk, enough is enough. Here’s the real deal folks, if we don’t solve the issue of economic empowerment in our city, if we don’t find a way to create well-paying jobs for the people in east Baltimore and west Baltimore and south Baltimore so that they can earn a living to take care of their families, the issues of crime and housing and poverty will not go away. So that’s the root cause that we have to get to, and I’m the best qualified to create jobs — 100,000 jobs in my first term. Now, to the issue of the immediate crisis of violence, we know that in Baltimore that violence is a sticky issue. What that means is it occurs within a small group of people in a small number of places. So my plan is to focus the resources that we have on those hot individuals and the hot spots where the action is occurring. If you want to stop violence, you have to attack violence. So what I will do as your mayor is focus on the hot people and the hot spots and we’ll give them an opportunity to do the right thing. My message is, ‘I’m coming to help you, sir or madam, but if you don’t want my help, then I’m coming to stop you.'”

Brandon Scott (D) response
“I’ve only been on the council for nine years, but more importantly, this is what I want to say to the citizens of Baltimore, who has been demanding these things? We have to understand who’s accountable. The city of Baltimore is like a business, the mayor is the CEO, and that person directs the agencies. It has been me that’s been saying loud and clear on this station and every other station that mayor after mayor has not had a strategy to deal with violence in Baltimore. In fact, I passed a law to make sure that the next mayor, which will be me, will have to implement a strategy for violence in Baltimore. It’s about focusing on the immediate and the long-term at the same time, simultaneously, and only the mayor can do that in Baltimore.”

CLEANING UP GRIME TO ADDRESS CRIME

Q: What would you do to clean up grime in order to reduce crime in Baltimore?

Brandon Scott (D)
“We understand the connection between crime and grime. This is part of why I said years ago that DPW plays just a significant role in reducing violence as the police department. So that’s why we need the interagency action, but also we have to modernize our department, we have a Department of Public Works that can’t even pick up recycling, doesn’t have GPS in its vehicles, and those are the types of investments that we need to make. But also, doing the things that I’ve been doing for the last month, seven weeks, leading cleanups, supporting communities to make sure that they are empowered, doing things like the Philly LandCare model where they actually empower neighborhoods to take care of lots and create small businesses and allow for young men and young women to come off the corner to be a part of helping your neighborhood be cleaner, greener and better, and also making sure that they are going to school and things like that. We have to also reimagine waste in Baltimore City from top to bottom, and that’s why we’re going to move toward zero waste. We know that we have to focus in on this just like crime, and that’s why I always say, every agency — Health, Rec and Parks, Schools, DPW, DOT — will know when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I’m going to want to know is what they’ve done to deal with violent crime in Baltimore City. When I got to sleep at night, it’s the last thing I’m going to think about. And as the mayor, if they can’t get up to snuff and make neighborhoods clean, they’ll find another place to work because we will not continue to operate this way when I’m mayor.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“We’ve heard a lot of talk about ‘when I become mayor,’ and ‘when this’ and ‘when that’ and ‘what I’ve been talking about,’ but again, talk is difficult to hear when you’re stepping over mountains of trash still on the street. A good leader understands that it’s not about what you say, it’s what you do, not what you try, what you think, what you might, kind of, should, would’ve, but what you actually accomplish. And in my administration, we will accomplish the task of keeping the streets clean for a couple of reasons. One, it helps with crime. Two, it also helps with health issues, specifically asthma and other issues that are rampant in this city. We’re going to do things differently in my administration. You’re not going to hear a lot of, ‘Well, if I was’ and ‘If I am’ and ‘Maybe I will.’ We’re going to do. Leaders do. They don’t talk about it. They are about it.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“Mr. Scott, you mentioned the idea of the incinerator, and that is an example of the kind of leadership that you will provide as mayor. Because in that situation, you have flip-flopped so many times on what to do with that incinerator and that is not the kind of leadership, sir, that we need in Baltimore at this time, especially when it comes to issues of operational excellence. That would take the experience of someone who has done it before as I have as an engineer and as an executive of a company. So what we need to do to pick up trash and recycle and get our city clean is to have leaders who understand operation excellence, who understand total quality concepts and how we get things done. And there are various technologies that we can use to help facilitate finding and capturing the people who are dumping illegally and then holding them accountable. But it’s going to take a leader who understands the intersection of technology and processes and execution and management, and, sir, you have no background in that area. You are not prepared to handle those kinds of issues. So let’s be real about this. So let’s focus on operational excellence starting with the mayor and then at the department heads but then applying a total quality concept as to how we can solve our problems. I would also implement a number of public-private partnerships to help to deal with this issue.”

Brandon Scott (D) response
“My position on the incinerator hasn’t changed. I’m a legislator, you can look at what I voted, and it hasn’t changed. But the reality is that in Baltimore, we have one mayor at a time, and when I am mayor, we know we will move toward zero waste because we will hire the best people who understand that. As someone who worked in administration and worked in partnership with CitiStat, I know how to get city agencies moving. That’s why you hear from folks, past mayors who’ve said I am the right candidate because I know city government inside and out, and what’s wrong and how to rebuild it. As a leader of the National League of Cities Council, I’ve seen how it’s done around the country — tested and proven to do it.”

CORONAVIRUS’ IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY

Q: The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to Baltimore’s economy. If elected, what are the immediate steps you would take to deal with this fallout?

Brandon Scott (D)
“We know that COVID-19 has hurt our business community, in particular, our small businesses in Baltimore, really our Black- and brown- and women-owned businesses. And this is what we have to do: first and foremost, we have things on the books that the current mayor is not (putting) into place. We have local preference, we have to look at implementing that now to ensure that our local small- and medium-sized businesses are getting contracts with the city in a better way. We’re going to have to look at redoing the entire procurement system over from top to bottom, which is outdated, which works against minority- and Black-owned businesses in the city from getting contracts. We have to break up contracts so that a special services for big-time city contracts can be taken away and make sure that they go to a small, medium size, Black-owned business here in the city to make sure that they have a one-up and they are getting supported in a way that they should. Making sure that the city pays people on time, something that they have not been able to do. But we also have to do the tough work of expanding and understanding something that I said at the beginning, right now the city should be, and the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development should be, training workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID and retraining them to do jobs that are going to be available today. We have to make sure that we are doing these things immediately. We have to continue to support our businesses through our federal money and grant dollars, through city money, tapping into funds that we have to support them as well. These are the things that we can do from a policy point of view and an action point of view.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“So in making sure that our businesses are surviving, we’ve got to do a couple things really quickly. We’ve got to make sure, and I hate to say this, I agree with a lot of the points that Mr. Wallace made, but I will take it further. We need to make sure that we are our getting capital access for our small businesses. We need to make sure that we are helping them to make that transition wherever possible from brick-and-mortar to a hybrid of brick-and-mortar and online. One of the ways you do that is by offering and having and implementing free WiFi throughout the city. Now, unfortunately, Mr. Scott and the current leadership in Baltimore have thwarted the efforts to be able to do that and that is very sad to me at a time when our businesses all need stable WiFi, and our students who are all forced to distance learn at the moment. So one of the first things we’re going to do is free WiFi. Now, I know that the city has the ability to do this because they have test models they’ve been running for the past two years, and since they can’t figure out how to make money from it, they haven’t advanced that cause. We, in my administration, will cut that red tape and all the bull and be able to prioritize businesses and their needs first. We will also make sure that they have the resources, again, for capital, to be able to employ, to be able to expand and grow. In my administration, our small businesses, specifically our Black and brown businesses, will thrive, not just survive during COVID, they will thrive because we will give them the tools and the resources to turn lemons into lemonade and be stronger than they ever were.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“The key thing in the fallout here is to stabilize the environment, to stabilize the economy. So let’s start with the small businesses. We know and I know as a business owner and entrepreneur that what’s important in business is cash. Cash is king. So what do we need to do, No. 1, the city needs to revise and review all of its policies in zoning and codes to make them less onerous to the business community. Secondly, we need to find pathways to get cash into the pockets of our small businesses via the state level or even at the federal level. That addresses the small businesses, but now there’s the issue of unemployment because what’s happening is there are a number of people who are now unemployed and it’s only getting worse. So what will I do as mayor is this, we will look at the balance sheet of Baltimore City and find ways to monetize our assets, our $4.5 billion assets, on our books to create an employment fund, the Baltimore Conservation Corps, that will provide jobs for the squeegee kids, for people in our city to do what? To pair them up with DPW to use them to pick up the trash, to cut the grass and to clean our city up. And what we will do in the process, we will put people to work where they can learn a skill and (earn) a living and work our way to this difficult time caused by the pandemic. That’s what a businessperson does, that’s what a leader does.”

ADDRESSING POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY AND REFORM

Q: How do you balance the need for police accountability, but also the need to protect the public?

Brandon Scott (D)
“This is about reimagining public safety from top to bottom, and what I think folks have to understand is this: when you have a police department that has went $30 million, $40 million over its budget, and you’re reallocating or cutting $25 million of unallocated funds that doesn’t impact any service — there were no services lost or cut — and actually what happened was more people were put into patrol, then you have people who understand that you have to be fiscally responsible. But also, when you’re talking about reimagining police, we are talking about Baltimore City, a place where we lose more people to overdose than to homicide, that just happens to have Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical System, why is it that every time that someone’s having a behavior or substance abuse issue, we send the police? That shouldn’t happen. We should allow our police officers to focus on the things that we want them to focus on — on violent repeat offenders and guns. That’s what we’re talking about, reimagining public safety from top to bottom. It’s not this partisan talking point about defunding or not. It’s about making sure that first and foremost our agencies are run efficiently with a police department that, thanks in part due to that work, that only was $2 million over its budget this year — the first time that it’s ever happened in my lifetime — and it’s also about looking toward the longer strategy and vision while we can do both at the same time. As someone who thought to have the consent decree here, who has fought every day to make sure our police department operates the way we need it to do, I will continue to do that, but I will also push our city to do bigger and better things.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“True leaders understand that it’s not just what you say when you want to get somebody’s vote, but what you actually mean and what you’re going to do. So the campaign on defunding the police is absolutely irresponsible and it’s saddening to see that. The thought process and the soundbyte was, ‘Defund the police.’ Then it was, ‘Well, let’s reallocate money from the police, take away some of their budget and put it where it need so we can do a little bit of prevent not cure.’ And that would’ve worked well except for the fact that either our current City Council president was blowing smoke when he said it because he knew he couldn’t do it, because the charter does not give him the authority to, or he was just hoping that you all, the voters, would not pay attention enough and say, ‘That sounds good.’ We need a mayor that understands not only what sounds good to the voters but what’s actually legal and can be done. Between a consent decree and rising crime, to defund the police at a time when you don’t have the authority to reallocate a penny is just irresponsible. That’s not good leadership, and this city right now with COVID, we were already going in the wrong direction, and with COVID, we’re kind of heading there faster. In my administration, no soundbytes, no smoke and mirrors, real policies that put you, the citizens of this city, first.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“President Scott just does not get it. You know, when he sends out these dog whistles to the community, what it does is it frees up forces in our community to do the things that we’re seeing now, like the dirt bike kids, and this rampant out-of-control violence and out-of-control behavior that we’re seeing in our city. So look, we have to figure out a way where the police and the community can work together. My idea to start mending that fence is creating a truth and reconciliation commission between the police and the neighborhoods, the idea being, ‘We need to talk to one another.’ Because there is a better way to provide public safety. One of my most important jobs as mayor is to protect the safety of our people. So I’m looking at how can we look at the $550 million budget that we’re going to be paying for public safety, and how can we repurpose some of those funds? How can we provide wraparound services to work with the police on issues that they’re not trained to do? Right now, every issue that comes up in the community, we call the police. If it’s a stray dog or a stray cat, or family dysfunction, or mental illness, whatever it is, the police are called, and they’ve not been trained to handle those issues. So as we look at ways that we can repurpose the money to provide wraparound services for the officers, then we can get into a place where we have better results on our public safety. But Mr. Scott needs to be very careful how he messages this because the dog whistle idea is causing havoc in our community.”

Brandon Scott (D) response
“As you heard, they agree with what I’m saying. It’s about reimagining, that’s the reality. We have to do that responsibly over time that’s why I asked the current mayor to jointly appoint a task force with me to do just that. He declined, but we will do that as mayor. What we are talking about we already through and had through our consent decree — community workers who go out and help us build and rebuild relationships with the police and our communities. That’s one portion of it. But we’re talking about reimagining public safety from top to bottom and that includes investing in education, that includes in substance abuse, that includes in making sure we’re dealing with behavioral health in Baltimore a different way, and that’s why I’ve been leading on this issue, talking about curing violence in Baltimore for years.”

CURBING DIRT BIKES

Q: The number of dirt bike incidents is once again on the rise. What is your plan to combat this illegal activity?

Brandon Scott (D)
“Dirt bike culture in Baltimore has been here for many years, and we know what we have to do. First and foremost, what we have to do is provide opportunities for these young men and young women to ride in a safe manner. We have great organizations in Baltimore, like B360, that actually take these men and women off the streets and allow them to ride safely but also look at this through a themed way of operating. The city has talked about that for years, but mayor after mayor after mayor has refused to do that, and in fact, when we were leading the 300 Men March, we did just that in east Baltimore, provided a safe place for folks to ride, show the community that can deal without issue, we have to do that as well. But we also have to hold people accountable — gas stations that are allowing them to gas up, people who are clearly doing it violently and running into people’s cars have to be held accountable. There’s ways with our fire marshal and other agencies to track those folks down so they’re not doing it in a way that endangers more people by chasing them. But (in) Baltimore, dirt bike culture is a part of the city and we have to attack this issue from top to bottom, not just from an enforcement standpoint but also from an empowerment standpoint and providing an opportunity for young women and young men who are doing this sport to do it in a safe manner.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“It’s interesting, on my way in this morning when I was looking out the window, you could see the burnt rubber tracks and all the pretty little shapes that were burnt in as some of the dirt bike riders were exploring and terrorizing folks in the city over the weekend. And it saddens me that, again, from Council President Scott that we hear more psychobabble dribble about reimagining. Now, let’s be real clear about the definition of the word. It doesn’t mean to imagine and change it. It means to imagine again. So that means when you’re imagining the first time and it’s not working, so you want to reimagine it, instead of actually remaking it and redoing it and making it so things actually work. That behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in my administration. We will do the things that we need to do to bring opportunity so that you replace the despair and dysfunction under the current leadership with hope, so that the city turns in a new direction. But that has to come from leadership. You have to do the things that are required. You have to bring opportunities back in for our youth and our adults. You have to make sure that you’re also making very clear that the bad behavior will not be tolerated. You will give folks a second chance, and then you will let them know enough is enough. And, Mr. Scott, to you, enough is enough. Leadership doesn’t ask, doesn’t say, ‘Please, may I,’ leadership does. Baltimore needs a leader that will do, and in my administration, it’s not asking, it’s not, ‘Can we?’ It’s, let’s get it done.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“Once again, words, words, words and lack of leadership. Here’s the reality, folks. There are certain behaviors in the city that I will not tolerate as mayor. So there’s dirt bike riding, terrorizing people, squeegee kids, this will not be tolerated. Now this is not about criminalizing people. This is about making a statement that certain behavior will not be tolerated. And the approach I use is the ATM approach — ask, tell, make. So whether you’re squeegee kids or dirt bike kids, here’s the deal, you cannot behave like this. Now, we’re going to help you find better options to help you do what you need to do so if you’re a squeegee kid, how to make a better living, how to help take care of your family, and we have a squeegee program that we’re putting together that will use apps to help these young people. Or whether it’s dirt bike kids riding up and down the streets. So I’m going to help you find a way to do a better job; however, when I ask you and I tell you to stop and you don’t, then I’m going to hold you accountable. I’m going to hold you accountable because if I come to help you and you turn down my help, then I’m coming to stop you. So, the mayor has to put that in place. Our city’s out of control. People feel like they can do whatever they want to do. We could not run a city like this. So, Mr. Scott, as a leader, this will not be acceptable to me. So we have to recognize, folks, put our foot down and say, ‘No, this is not the Baltimore that we’re going to have.’ And as mayor, I’m willing to stand up and say that, take the heat to get the city back under control.”

Brandon Scott (D) response
“What the city needs is an actual leader in the mayor’s office. I think the folks have to understand, once again, that only the mayor can direct agencies. Legislators can pass laws and that’s what we do. But more importantly, what the city needs is a leader that understands the issues from top to bottom, who understands how we need to deal with our squeegee young men and young women by making sure that we’re using our Office of African American Male Engagement, going out there, identifying what’s going on with them and their families and making sure we’re getting them in school and making sure we’re providing opportunities for them and making sure that we are holding them accountable when they do things wrong, but more importantly, that we have the empathy and the strong hand to make the city a safer and better place, leaders that have been here the whole time.”

ON EDUCATION AND THE CORONAVIRUS

Q: The mayor doesn’t run the schools, but the mayor does appoint the members of the Board of School Commissioners. Do you approve of the way the city school system has been handling the coronavirus pandemic?

Brandon Scott (D)
“The school system has been handling it very well. They’ve actually did what you call polling and working with the teacher’s union, working with parents and students and doing that work. You know, I led the City Council and the city of actually giving the school system $3 million more for more WiFi hotspots and for laptops, but we know that it’s not enough. We have to continuously do that, and what I will do as the candidate in this race endorsed by the teacher’s union, as a graduate of Baltimore City Public Schools within the last 20 years, bring everyone together consistently with our health commissioner, the teacher’s union, the schools CEO to make sure that we are all on the same page, make sure that we are hearing from our students directly, make sure that we are hearing from our parents directly because it’s about keeping our students safe, it’s about keeping our staff people safe, not just our teachers, but our janitorial staff, our coaches, our paraeducators, all of them have to be safe, and we’re doing this amidst a time of COVID-19 but also amidst a time when we know when the General Assembly comes back into session that hopefully they will override the governor’s veto of the Kirwan Commission funding, the most important legislation facing the state of Maryland in my lifetime. We have been doing OK. We can continue to get better each and every day. We have to make sure that we’re following public health advice, providing opportunities for students that need to, some students will be doing that with Rec and Parks, small spots for people to learn in place, but also thinking about our special ed students and our day-school students that probably need to be in a place where they’re educated by a professional educator. We have to do all of that work together.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“First and foremost, we have to make sure that we’re operating in a way that is safe. COVID is a pandemic, it’s killing people. I’ve lost several people in my own family and I’ve seen others suffer as well. So we have to make sure that whatever we do with regard to schools and the timeframe with which we reopen, we do it in a manner that is safe for children and for our teachers and the administrators. Now, I would also say that this would be a time to be able to use this opportunity to rebuild and rethink, not reimagine, rethink how we want our schools to function. We know that half the failing schools in our state are here in Baltimore City. This is the time to bring all those stakeholders to the table and make a plan so that when we do reopen our schools, they are actually functional, that they are operating in a manner when children walk in, they feel engaged and ready to learn, and teachers, when they walk in, are ready to teach. It’s about the mindset, the physical building creating the mindset that we need so that our education system becomes effective. And I will also say that this would also be that time to revisit the idea of citywide WiFi, and it saddens me that folks talk about we’re going to get hotspots when they know that we don’t even have stable internet in the city. Folks talking about getting tablets or laptops when, again, they know we don’t have stable internet in the city. We have to stop talking at cross purposes when it sounds good and actually do the things that are needed. When I spoke with the teacher’s association and the unions and the superintendent, they said what they needed was WiFI, No. 1, and to know that the process of reopening was going to be safe. That’s what we need, and in my administration, that’s what we’ll do.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“The method I’ve always used as an executive and entrepreneur to solve problems is to bring everyone, every stakeholder who’s involved in the situation, to the table and have a conversation about how we’re going to fix it. I understand that the perspectives that come to the table — whether it’s parents, students, teachers, administrators, government officials — they all come to the table with different perspectives. So I understand that that’s how things need to be done and how we execute on policy and strategy, I’ve done it for 40 years. In the case of the school system and the COVID response, we recognize that the primary objective is the safety of our babies, the safety of our children. So we need the health officials to give us the technical guidance that we need to know when the environment is safe, when we could bring in our children. I’ve met with the teacher’s union, I’ve met with teachers, I’ve met with parents. I understand the concerns of all parties. So what my objective would be as mayor is to bring all those folks together and figure out what is the common objective, the common mission, the common purpose that we can agree upon and move forward. But the No. 1 objective is the safety of our babies.”

SHOULD STUDENTS BE IN THE CLASSROOM NOW?

Brandon Scott (D)
“By and large, it’s not safe, we know. But in Baltimore City, we actually have to be honest with ourselves — and this is why Rec and Parks and the school system and other organizations have partnered to created these virtual learning pods to make sure that young people can actually do that. This is why the school system announced a bringing back of a small amount of students in schools, when you think about our special ed and day-school students as I just talked about, students that have learning issues that they have to learn from a professional teacher because their parent is not going to be qualified, we have young people whose parents are going to be at work. I think it has to be a mixture, but by and large, we should remain in the state that we’re in.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“I think that that’s a decision that’s best made by the health care folks that can tell us how to do these things safely. I do believe that we need to get children back in the buildings as soon as it is safe to do so. There are different styles of learning: some are able to do hands-on, some book learners. It depends on the learning style of the student, and not all students can get that positive learning experience at a distance. So we need to be able to bring students back in as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“As a father of five children and eight grandchildren, I recognize and understand the issues around children and their safety. So my answer is, until the parents and until the teachers are convinced and comfortable that the schools are safe for them, then kids should not go back to school, and we have to listen to the teachers and listen to the parents so they can provide their input on the safety of their children. So until the parents and the teachers are comfortable, I say no.”

ON ETHICS AND CORRUPTION

Q: What specific lessons did you learn from the fall of previous mayors? And who will you surround yourself to monitor the distorting lure of power and politics?

Brandon Scott (D)
“I want the citizens of Baltimore to hear me very clearly: I do not care about the status quo. In fact, we know that the status quo, in my primary, supported not one, not two, not three, but four candidates before me because they know I can’t be bought. I was the first elected official in Baltimore City to share over five years of my income taxes. This is not about money for me, it never has been. It’s about serving the citizens of Baltimore, making the city — that I have lived in my entire life, where I’ve never left, where I’ve voted in every election since 2006 in my city — a better place. This is a person that I led a City Council that closed the ‘Healthy Holly’ loophole, that gave the inspector general more power, that moved the Board of Ethics underneath the inspector general so that she could continue to root out corruption. We, as a City Council, changed the law about who had to file ethics filings in Baltimore City to make sure that we are having a more open and transparent government. As council president, I led a City Council that changed rules in Baltimore City that was going to weaken my power as the mayor of Baltimore because it’s about what’s best of the city, not what’s best for Brandon Scott. It’s about how Baltimore can be better, not how I can be better. I don’t drink, I don’t eat meat; fancy restaurants, skyboxes, none of that stuff matters to me. What matters to me is those young women and young men that I see on the streets, that I see at the schools that I coach that they will live in a city that they can look up to me and know in their heart that that person is the same person that grew up standing on the corner of Park Heights and Cold Spring, the same person that went to school here, the same person that led 300 Men March, I will always be led by my moral compass and the pride that my family instilled in me to never, never do anything to shame their name or what they did to put me in this place.”

Shannon Wright (R)
“One thing, as a voter watching this right now, what I would not do is vote for a leader that comes from those failed administrations, those corrupt and criminal administrations that we were just discussing. So if you want change in Baltimore and you want a new direction in Baltimore, you certainly would not elect someone that comes from the same soup, some of which is in prison now. That’s No. 1. No. 2, I was raised to understand that you don’t do anything during the day that’s going to cause you to lose sleep at night. Now, interestingly enough, I had the opportunity to speak with some business folks recently (who said), ‘We’re a little bit concerned that your ethical fiber and moral compass might prohibit you from being able to make the deals that are necessary in Baltimore City. And I would say to all of you this: if my ethics and the fact that I live by a moral code — that I raise my children and my grandchildren to live by — is problematic, then you might want to look at your opinion yourself in the mirror and understand why this climate and culture of corruption has been allowed to continue in this city. Now, if you want to make sure that you are getting rid of that crime and corruption, you have to elect leaders, one, that are not infected, No. 1. And, No. 2, that are not in this for superficial factors, but are really in this to make a difference and a change. You will see by my actions and by my deeds, now throughout my campaign and as your next mayor, I’m not going to do anything that’s going to harm you because my goal is to give you all the first, last and always a priority in the city. You need to have a voice in City Hall, you need to have a seat at the table, and that hasn’t happened. Now, part of why that hasn’t happened is it’s very hard for the mayors that have been in place and the current electeds to continue their corruption with you watching and listening. So we kind of keep you separated from that. In my administration, a voice in City Hall, a seat at the table. I can’t do things with you watching, and that’s how it needs to be. You hold me accountable just as I hold you accountable.”

Bob Wallace (I)
“This is an issue where a leader cannot flip-flop because that would determine the confidence the people have in their leader. Look, I am a man who is unbossed and unbought. I don’t owe anybody any money, I don’t need any side deals, I am unbought and unbossed. So what will I do? We’ll start with the mayor, the head in terms of transparency and being accountable. Secondly, it’s the team that the mayor puts together, bringing on responsible men and women to do the job of the city. What I’m also going to do is to put together objectives for every city agency and every initiative that the people can hold me accountable to. We’re going to put those objectives — and the key results of how we measure those objectives — we’re going to put them on a dashboard that every citizen in the city can pull up that dashboard at any given time to see how we are performing. Thirdly, we’re going to have an environment where people can feel free to communicate with me as the mayor. For me to do that, I will be instituting, on a quarterly basis, the State of the City address, where I’m going to give the people of Baltimore an update, on a quarterly basis, of how we’re performing as a city because I want you to hold me accountable. But then as I pivot from internal to external, then I’m going to focus on the neighborhoods. I’m going to focus on the neighborhoods and building through my Niemeyer plan, locally based economic development strategies based upon neighborhoods that will allow us to bring $1 billion of new investment that I’m going to bring to the city, 100,000 new jobs and we’re going to focus on providing mainstream food stores for our neighborhood, drug stores, community technology centers that the neighborhoods and people need to build their families and to take care of themselves. So as I pivot as a leader, from internally of what’s important and City Hall, to the neighborhoods that will make a difference and that will help us to build trust.”

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