The Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), in partnership with WBAL NewsRadio 1090 AM/101.5 FM, hosted a virtual City Council President Debate on May 14, 2020. Participating in the debate were leading candidates Delegate Nick Mosby, Councilmember Leon Pinkett, Councilmember Shannon Sneed, Dan Sparaco and former Councilmember Carl Stokes.
The debate was moderated by GBC President and CEO Donald C. Fry and WBAL NewsRadio newscaster Robert Lang.
The candidates were asked questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, education, crime and safety, the relationship between the City Council President and the Mayor, small business initiatives and the Board of Estimates.
On issues related to taking office as Council President during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Councilmember Leon Pinkett said, “The first step I would be taking as the Council President is making sure we have the economic development tools in place to really support our community.”
Councilmember Shannon Sneed acknowledged the pandemic, but said, “Even with talking with so many residents, crime and education are still the top priorities.”
Former Councilmember Carl Stokes made note of the small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic. He said, “Working with our Greater Baltimore community and our business community, we got to find a way to feed these guys and gals the dollars to stay open, to remain open.”
Dan Sparaco said Baltimore’s number one obstacle is “our own fear and inaction in the face of the problems that we know exist, and must finally attack.”
Delegate Nick Mosby said, “What we cannot afford is to operate in an ineffective, inefficient manner.”
On the perception of crime:
Former Councilmember Carl Stokes said we need to change the reality when addressing the crime perception. “Many parts of our city are unconscionably unsafe,” he said. “We have a broken police department. We’ll start there.”
Dan Sparaco agreed that the city does have a crime problem and a homicide problem, but noted it can be fixed. “There are a host of strategies that we can employ to very quickly get down the homicide rate, we’re simply just not using them for lack of expertise and lack of will.”
Councilmember Leon Pinkett added, “It’s true Baltimore has a crime problem. We create jobs in this town. We just don’t create them for Baltimoreans … or black men. Until we fix the lack of opportunity we will always face crime in this town.”
Councilmember Shannon Sneed said, “We do have great things happening in Baltimore City and we have to tell our story. We have to talk about the good things. It’s not just all about crime, crime, crime. Invest in our schools.”
Delegate Nick Mosby said he has a two-pronged approach for dealing with the problem. “The first prong is definitely dealing with the reality that we have to become smart on crime in the city. We also have to look at it from a big data perspective… and utilizing CitiStat,” he said.
On small business:
On the topic of small business, Dan Sparaco said, “Small business is what makes our city work. It’s what keeps our city going.”
Delegate Nick Mosby said, “It starts at home. Ensuring that we are keeping the money in Baltimore City. Providing technical support to our small businesses.”
Councilmember Leon Pinkett said, “We have a direct role in making sure local businesses are thriving.”
Former Councilmember Carl Stokes noted recent restaurant closings, including City Cafe, and said, “We have to make sure they can stay open and remain open.”
Councilmember Shannon Sneed said, “The number one thing that the city can do is pay the small businesses that we owe money to. Pay them right away. Figure out the system to get it done.”
Discussing education, Delegate Nick Mosby said that the “City has to be more accountable,” and added that it has failed in properly preparing its children.
Councilmember Shannon Sneed noted that she supports the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and “making sure we have the best and brightest teachers.”
On city school students’ lack of access to devices and service, Former Councilmember Carl Stokes said, “We’ve got to stop acting like things are normal in Baltimore City.” He added that ensuring that access for students is a must.
Dan Sparaco commented, “Small business owners and job creators need to be leading the conversation” on the issue of education. “No businessperson would run a school system — something so important — the way we run our school system.”
Councilmember Leon Pinkett noted the lack of resources and environmental issues present in schools saying, “We’ve got to make a commitment to our young people, we’ve got to make sure that resources are in place. If not, we are sending them to a world that they are ill-prepared to have success in.”
On working with the Mayor and the Board of Estimates:
Councilmember Leon Pinkett noted that the lack of a relationship with the mayor is a real detriment. “Works against our ability to solicit resources that are much needed throughout the city. We’ve got to come together … with a clear pathway and vision to lead our city forward.”
Councilmember Shannon Sneed said, “We have to do a lot of restructuring in City government.”
Dan Sparaco added that “high functioning cities don’t have a Board of Estimates” and mentioned the need to resolve the “Pay to Play” problem.
Former Councilmember Carl Stokes said, “I’m looking forward to working with the next mayor, whoever that mayor is. This is the most critical election we’ve had in two generations.”
Delegate Nick Mosby noted, “I think there are a lot of things that need to take place as it relates to driving efficiency, but also changing procedures and operations associated with the Board of Estimates.”
In his closing statement, Delegate Nick Mosby said, “This is a critical election. Right now is a pivotal time for the City of Baltimore. Continuity and stability is critically important. I will hit the ground running.”
Dan Sparaco said, “I am the only person here who wants to abolish this job. We don’t need a Council President. We need to empower the council and empower regular people. That’s why I’m running.”
Former Councilmember Carl Stokes said he wants “to be the watch guy” and plans to audit everything.
Councilmember Shannon Sneed said she has a “proven track record of supporting policies that support Baltimoreans. We need a City Council President that has been fighting for us from Day One.”
Councilmember Leon Pinkett said, “This will be a critical election. Our city needs leadership. We need leadership that works. …We have made poor decisions regarding the character of those we place in office.”
As the event wrapped up, moderator Lang said, “It’s been a pleasure working with this debate.”
In his closing statements, moderator Fry added, “Thanks to the candidates for participating in today’s debate and for your public service and courage to put yourself before the voters of Baltimore City.”
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