Baltimore residents should have access to jobs with wages that support their families.
I am not naive to the fiscal constraints of the city budget nor do I believe that the path to prosperity can be shortened through tax breaks and traditional developer tax incentives. I believe that the pathway to community prosperity starts when we reduce the barriers that make it difficult for individuals to find and maintain jobs and open up businesses. And that prosperity acceleration occurs when we commit to an economic development plan that partners with our city, its residents, and is invested in the long-term success of Baltimore.
Together we can:
- Advocate to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15/hour.
- Dramatically expand youth employment with a particular focus on hiring from neighborhoods with the highest rates of young people disconnected from school and work and building on the YouthWorks program that employed 8,000 young people last summer.
- Establish transitional work (subsidized work) opportunities in the city’s anchor institutions, public agencies, projects receiving public subsidy and public infrastructure improvements as an initial opportunity to build skills and establish a work history for adults living in poverty and citizens returning from incarceration. (Models: Use of TANF wage subsidies in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Georgia Works, New York City Sandy clean-up)
- Build the capacity of the Baltimore City Office of Wage Enforcement to enforce the city’s ban-the-box law and track local hiring through payroll reporting.
- Coordinate with Baltimore’s existing business accelerators and innovation hubs and establish new new innovation hubs in areas where they don’t exist — such as West Baltimore — to support all of the city’s small business and emerging entrepreneurs.
- Explore a local fund to support the creation of worker owned co-operatives.
- Streamline regulations, licensing, and permitting processes to make it easier for businesses to start and grow in Baltimore.
- Work with employers who are invested in the city’s future to directly hire more city residents in full time jobs that pay a living wage and offer benefits.
- Work with partners in the state legislature to pass the Paid Family and Medical Leave program.
- Strengthen local hiring policies and practices to maximize the employment potential of the development projects and businesses who receive city contracts, subsidies and supports:
- Increase base threshold for local hires from 51% of new jobs to 51% percent of all work hours on site
- Include clear targets for hiring residents living on public assistance, living in a household making less than half the area median income, single parents, military veterans, formerly incarcerated and system involved individuals, the chronically unemployed, or homeless. Hiring targets would increase each year until disadvantaged residents comprised a majority of local hires. (Models: San Francisco, St. Louis and New Orleans.)
- Expand training opportunities for city residents so they are able to fill these jobs (in conjunction with the Baltimore Fund for Occupational Skills Training mentioned above).
- Build relationships with contractors/ developers to connect skilled residents to available employment opportunities.
Baltimoreans build (and keep) wealth
Together we can:
- Create matched savings accounts and/or college savings accounts for every child. The City would partner with banks and non-profits to make an initial deposit into each account, then provide incentives for parents to contribute to the account over time (for example, the City of San Francisco contributes an initial $50 for each kindergartener). Recent research shows that children with savings designated for school — even if it is less than $100 — are 2.5 times more likely to enroll in and graduate from college than children with no account.
- Revise state policy to address high-interest check cashing establishments and other predatory practices — such as structured settlements, late fees, fines and other penalties — that take advantage of city residents.
- Work with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), the Municipal Employees Credit Union (to which all residents have access) and others to provide affordable, risk-free alternatives to payday lenders (Model: Rio Grande Valley Community Loan Center).
- Advocate for state legislation to end the practice of civil asset forfeiture in Maryland and, in the interim, instruct Baltimore police to stop seizing cash or other assets of civilians until they have been convicted of a crime and there is clear and convincing evidence that the assets are related to this criminal activity.
- Require all forfeited property to go to the general fund, not the police department (instead, this property should go to a general fund). (Model: New Mexico law).
- Review Baltimore City’s own fines and fees to adjust or eliminate those that disproportionately impact low income residents.
- Prohibit Baltimore police from using ticket or arrest quotas to evaluate the performance of police officers or imposing fines/fees on residents as a means of revenue generation.
- Advocate for legislation to prohibit the issuing of fines or arrest warrants for civilians who fail to appear in court for a traffic citation (Model: Ferguson Policy)
- Permit judges discretion to waive Maryland state imposed fines and fees for low-income people or initiate payment plans.
- Advocate for legislation to end the practice of raising revenue from defendants and people who are incarcerated, on parole or probation, including the $50 fee for applying for a public defender, $40/month parole supervision fee, and $100 drug testing fee (Model: Virginia).
- Advocate for legislation to reform the child support system to focus on encouraging parent involvement, providing mediation, structuring payments to be within the means of the parent, ensuring payments actually reach families, and providing employment and legal assistance to build parents’ capacity to support their children.
- Establish a network of Financial Empowerment Centers with community partners and in public agencies to provide residents with one-on-one financial counseling and financial services to help residents reduce debt, build savings, and plan for their future.
- As a part of these Financial Empowerment Centers and/or through public agency offices and other community partners, support city residents in seeking the full benefits for which they are eligible and that augment a family’s net income including the State and Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Economic development benefits all residents
Develop new tools to expand the scope and reach of the city’s economic and community development strategies across all neighborhoods:
- Work with existing Community Development Financing Institutions (CDFIs) to lend money to small businesses, homeowners and others who lack good private banking options and to serve as an alternative funding source for infrastructure and housing projects. (Models: Bank of North Dakota, START Community Bank in New Haven.)
- Support the development of Community Land Trusts to improve and expand access to affordable housing options and other public spaces.
More effectively use existing community and economic development tools by:
- Rigorously evaluating requests for TIFs (tax increment financing) and PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) against an efficiency and equity framework that asks:
- Are subsidies required or necessary to the advancement of the proposed development (could it proceed anyway)?
- What are the full range of costs in addition to foregone tax revenues — and including in particular loss of state funding for schools from increased property values — that the city will incur?
- Who will benefit? In what ways?
- Are there clawback provisions, e.g. if job creation guarantees are not met?
- Ensuring inclusion of clear, accountable, workforce utilization and development plans to meet strengthened local hiring goals; and
- Working with developers, community associations and groups to execute clear, accountable, Community Benefits Agreements, such as the one just completed for the University of Maryland BioPark that included a $4 million investment in a neighborhood recreation center along with a $17.5 million TIF deal for the private developer managing the expansion of the BioPark. Ensure that funds from such agreements are not diverted to other purposes.
Recognizing that the city’s anchor institutions — its universities, hospitals, churches and cultural institutions — are major landholders, employers and developers in their own right, work with these institutions to manage and support their growth in ways that measurably and directly benefit their surrounding communities through increased employment, local purchasing and co-investment in infrastructure and other public amenities and services.
Explore how impact investors can work with the city to rebuild its economic and social infrastructure.
Authorized by Citizens for DeRay McKesson — Nakeia Drummond, Treasurer