Nine Democratic candidates in a mayoral primary debate on Thursday at Morgan State University shared their concerns and offered solutions to some of the problems facing Baltimore.
The candidates included former Mayor Shelia Dixon, attorney Elizabeth Embry, community activists Patrick Gutierrez and Deray McKesson, City Councilmen Nick Mosby and Carl Stokes, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, businessman David Warnock and former youth commissioner Calvin Young.
The group debated the issues of economic development, education, housing and police policies.
Each candidate began by telling people why he or she should be elected the city’s mayor. Then a panel of four journalists questioned them.
Young promised if he was elected mayor, he would fire Baltimore Housing Chief Paul Graziano. The audience reacted with a lengthy round of applause.
The city’s housing department has recently come under fire in an alleged scandal with workers accused of forcing some women to trade sex for repairs, but Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said Graziano will keep his job.
Young also expressed concern that many buildings including homes and schools in the city still have lead paint issues.
“It’s 2016. We shouldn’t have lead paint problems,” he said.
Dixon said that the city needs better jobs and job training for people to be able to afford their monthly housing costs. She vowed to fight for the minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour. Pugh focused on reducing the property tax. She said it will “create job opportunities for the people of our city.”
Warnock wants to create programs in public schools where students will graduate with certifications so they can get jobs if they decide not to go to college.
The candidates also were asked how they would address finding employment for people who have been illegally arrested and never charged. Stokes said all records should be expunged for these people, and they should receive money for their hardships. Dixon argued that these should be handled “case by case.”
Mosby and Gutierrez said the Baltimore police department is responsible for the wedge between police and communities.
“The police department has to have respect for the community,” Pugh added.
“We need to get rid of the poor performers,” Gutierrez said. “We need to weed out the bad from the good in the police department and discipline those not doing their job."
“The police are trained to deal with four categories of people: informants, victims, witnesses and suspects,” Young said. “But they are not trained to deal with everyday people. The people of the community should not feel that they are being treated like suspects. Stop the violence and protect the community.”
Later the discussion shifted to education.
“The city needs to take control of the schools. The school board needs to be partially elected so that the people have a chance to be involved,” Dixon said.
A young entrepreneur and resident Brent Hudson came to hear the candidates speak about education and jobs.
“You have to teach kids young. A teacher told me that by the time you’re 12 you’ve already made up in your mind what you want to do in the future,” Hudson said. “It’s important to get the youth interested in different things. Expose them to a camera and music not just history books and sports.”
He said all of the candidates made good points about jobs in Baltimore.
“Baltimore should create more jobs that are offered in the other major cities to give the residents of Baltimore new opportunities,” Hudson said as he was leaving the event.