A to-do list for the mayor
Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake's transition committee of 150 (yes, 150) volunteers has several pointed things to say on real-estate-related matters.
In its newly released report, it criticized Baltimore's Department of Housing and Community Development, urged action on the 30,000 vacant properties in the city and suggested that the time might have come to revoke nonprofits' property-tax exemption.
"The reality is that City government cannot continue to function as it has in the past," the committee wrote in its report.
The nonprofit tax suggestion is for "all or some" nonprofits to "be assessed at a reduced rate, to offset the cost of services provided them." The city has looked to nonprofits before in tight times. (Here's a 1996 story about "payments in lieu of taxes," in case you'd like to take a trip through memory lane.)
Other tax suggestions to consider, committee members said: a nonresident earnings tax -- often known as a "commuter tax."
The housing and community development department, which goes by Baltimore Housing nowadays, came in for sharp words. Committee members wrote that the agency "is often the last actor to commit public subsidies to a development project, resulting in significant delays."
"The department’s strategic plan must emphasize community development and neighborhoods, as the agency appears to lack a clear and coherent vision for revitalizing Baltimore's neighborhoods," the report says. "Almost symbolic of the agency's lack of vision is that it has dropped 'community development' from its name."
The committee also wants to see the 30,000 vacant properties in the city managed better -- and a close scrutiny of everything the city owns, vacant or not. Sell, in other words.
"Properties that are not needed for public use ... should be offered to the public in an open and transparent fashion," the report says.