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March 25, 2010

Mayor's proposed budget generating anger

Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake's proposed budget has done something quite unique - it's got Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia A. Jessamy and Fraternal Order of Police Robert F. Cherry to agree on something, with each issuing, to varying degree, a rebuke of a budget Rawlings-Blake's people have been scrambling to warn is only a worst-case scenario. 

Union leaders accused the mayor of "posturing" and attempting to frighten residents into accepting new taxes by presenting the doomsday scenario. Cherry said this wasn't what "real leaders" do.

"It's unfair to play games with city employees who are nervous about being laid off," said Cherry. "It's even more disingenuous to play these games with the citizens and taxpayers of Baltimore City who demand real answers from the leaders of the city during these tough times."

Jessamy went a step further, calling Rawlings-Blake's proposal "unconstitutional." She said the city can cut her budget but not instruct her specifically how to do it.  About $1.5 million would be cut from the Baltimore state's attorney's office, including about $800,000 in funding for 14 community outreach positions in the city's District Court. She claimed SRB was the first mayor to try such a manuever and said they were "usurping" her authority.

Bealefeld, as we noted here last week, got out in front of the proposed cuts, saying they were "unconscionable." 

Read full text of Cherry and Jessamy's statement below:

The Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police is opposed to the preliminary FY2011 budget proposal as submitted by the Administration that would include the layoffs of our younger police officers and the grounding of the Aviation Unit and reassignment of a number of other specialized units if additional revenue is not generated.

In tough economic times such as these, real leaders step up and present to the public their priorities and objectives and at the top of that list should be the safety and well being of our children and citizens across Baltimore.

These cuts go too far and they will not only hurt the men and women of the Police Department who go out each day and night to keep our streets safe, but the cuts will have a direct impact on City children who are the victims of the drug dealing and gun carrying thugs who continue to plague our City.

Baltimore City still has a long way to go in reducing crime and grime and the Mayor's preliminary budget proposal is way out of line with the expectations of the citizens she serves. Stop playing games with the lives of our police officers and our citizens and start making the decisions to raise the revenue needed that keeps cops on the street and our children safe from getting robbed and shot in their own neighborhoods.

Detective Robert F. Cherry, Jr.
President, Baltimore City FOP Lodge #3

Statement issued by State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy following the release of the Preliminary Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

City Budget Cuts Affecting City State’s Attorney “Constitutionally Impermissible”

Today I received information regarding the preliminary fiscal year 2011 city budget that includes the elimination of 9 Community Coordinator positions and 5 support staff that comprise our Community Outreach efforts in the Office of the State’s Attorney.  These essential employees, the equivalent of 9 paralegals and 5 support staff, spend much of their workday in the courtrooms of the District Court assisting prosecutors who handle the criminal court dockets for over 169,000 misdemeanor cases annually.

Their duties include the daily preparation of court dockets, pre-trial assistance to witnesses and victims such as helping to verify theft losses, coordination of victims and witnesses at trial, oversight of drug court and diversion programs for non-violent offenders and other administrative responsibilities.  Coordinators help to provide valuable public safety materials, facilitate community services including the preparation of victim impact statements, crisis intervention, and education and assistance to crime victims and neighborhoods affected by crime.

The district court criminal dockets will be severely impacted if we lose these valued employees.  Prosecutors rely heavily on these paralegals to help prepare and support the legal burden of proof needed to secure convictions and the preparation of legal documents and summonses. Judges in the District Court benefit from the coordinator’s presence. Victims are contacted and provided information on essential services to help reduce victimization.  Communities are given the opportunity to be a part of the criminal justice process and are kept informed on issues of importance and concern to them.

As State’s Attorney, I manage my budget without incurring deficits or requests for supplemental funding. While I am committed to working with the city in these grim fiscal times, I will not allow these positions to be eliminated.  No other Administration has acted independently to eliminate specific positions within the Office of the State’s Attorney circumventing the discretion and management independence assigned to the Office of the State’s Attorney by the Maryland Constitution.

The Office of the State’s Attorney is a constitutionally mandated office (Article V § 9 of the Maryland Constitution) and “except by authorization of the General Assembly, no public official may interfere with the State’s Attorney’s exercise of discretion” Murphy v Yates, 276 MD at 494-95. These cuts are constitutionally impermissible according to an earlier Attorney General opinion [Opinion No.95-025 (July 11, 1995)

Over the past 18 months, my office has reduced our budget many times to assist with the city budget shortfall.  Our current operations are reduced by 27 prosecutor and support staff positions.  I have reduced expenses by over $2.3 million annually through salary savings, furloughs and vacancies.  In addition, on any given day, 9 prosecutors and 5 support staff are furloughed.

In addition to the proposed elimination of the Community Outreach office, the budget notes that an additional 8 prosecutor and 6 support staff positions will remain vacant.

I am committed to work within the city budget that is allocated for the prosecution of criminals. Decisions on what cuts will be made in the State’s Attorney’s budget will be reserved for the elected State’s Attorney.

Patricia C. Jessamy

March 25, 2010
Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:08 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: City Hall, Courts and the justice system, Top brass
        

Comments

The mayor's scare tactics work!!! I'm not even a city resident and I'm scared for the people of Baltimore. Cutting 900 jobs at a time when people need every dollar to get buy. Those 600 people won't be paying into the tax revenue system. HELLO!!!! This problem will get worse very year. What about work furloughs and cutting positions that are vacant only. Top managers 25 furlough days. Everyone else 9 days. That wouldn't fix the problem, but it's a start. At this rate in less than 5 years. The criminals will own the city of Baltimore. It will go from the city that reads, to the city that bleeds!!!!

Please excuse the errors. Hope they don't over shadow the message. Each year there will be a shortage of revenue across the country. This is not just a Baltimore city problem but a nationwide issue.

TELL THE MAYOR IF SHE WANTS TO CUT AND SAVE MONEY TELL HER TO CONSIDER DOWNSIZING HER STAFF AT CITY HALL

The mayor did reduce her office's budget by 10 percent, but that was more symbolic than anything - hardly made a dent in the $120+ million shortfall. -Justin

I welcome her to cut all those BS "outreach" programs and charity government jobs, just don't increase taxes. Government jobs don't create prosperity, they detract from it. If you think the opposite, you are a total moron in the area of economics.

Undermining the State’s Attorney's office was an arrogant move. And eliminating positions in public safety goes beyond arrogance. It shows a callous disregard for the people. But I don't really think that arrogance is coming from Mayor Rawlings-Blake as much as it is coming from ill chosen advisers. Only the bourgeois think themselves worthy of such usurpation's.

I hope she is able to shake herself free from that influence.


The City is , has been & will continue to be in very bad shape. Not a lot of help out there either. Reducing essential people won't help matters either. Some serious thought must take place to find a way out of this mess which was generated by the CIty officials themselves.
Time to pay the piper.!

This is par for the course for politicians. "We either are going to cut police and fire or raise taxes, you decide". It's never "We either are going to cut homeless services and rec centers or raise taxes" because we all know what we the poeple would decide if that was the choice. Let's let the public decide for once. I vote cut homeless services and not raise taxes.

Like my taxes and fees aren't already too high living in Murdermore, the city that bleeds!

What about the department of public works where most go home after about 5 hours of their 8 hour shifts? I was told "you know how it is." They get their daily assignments and when done they go home. If they worked just a little harder, and for the full day they are paid for, we could have the same level of services with 50% of the employees.

If she lays off police, I am walking from my underwater home for sure!

I will not stay in Baltimore and lose financially, and possibly lose my life or property!

She surely mustn't want a full term mayoral gig if she does something as stupid as fire police when Baltimore City is just getting a handle on the crime thing...

She bungled the snow, now this? Let her do it, I am sure I won't be the only one to leave!

Nobody is mentioning the big white elephant in the room - service on the City's debt and the bond rating. The City has yet to complete it's FY 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Timely completion of this report is used as a measure of competency by the agencies that rate the credit worthiness of a municipality. It normally is completed by 12/31 to qualify for the Award of Excellence in Financial Reporting awarded by the Government Financial Officers Association. The City's inability to complete timely financial reporting will affect its bond rating and a decrease in the bond rating will increase the City's cost of debt.

How about Raise the Taxes for ppl traveling to work here PA,DE,VA, DC .... The problem is the money is not staying in Maryland ....

Baltimore City residents already pay extremely high property taxes to support the large percentage of people in this city who don't have jobs. If this mayor tries to raise property taxes again we're going to end up with a further decline in real estate prices since fewer people will want to buy a house in the city.

What Baltimore City needs is a commuter tax on people who come in from the suburbs to work downtown.

I think the posturing is taking place on both sides. The police department has plenty of people on light duty and more people than necessary on command staff. And why does standing around at an Orioles game require time-and-a-half or double time? It should be a regular shift duty. The police department has plenty of featherbedding it can shed. Not so sure about the Fire Department though--those cuts could really hurt. As far as the State's Attorney's office goes, how could it get any worse? I don't think cuts will matter a bit there.

I can't wait to finish trimming and painting my house so I can section 8 it and get out of the People's Republic of Baltimore.

There is no way I'm paying another penny in taxes to live in this hole.

How many clerical/administrative positions would be eliminated? Surely there is an ample supply of "dead wood" that could be cleared ou, as well as pay cuts that could be instituted. As simple an item as letterhead stationery with current office/departmental heads costs $$ each time a new face arrives. Can't their names simply be typed in instead of being pre-printed only to be tossed if said individuals move on? I wonder how much it cost to replace all paper with Sheila Dixon's name on it?

she is playing games , since we know that this will not happen and I like the idea of taxing all the damn people that work here but don't live here

The old bait and switch!!! Now we can all see what she intends to do. Many will leave the city because of increased taxes. Many more will be unable to. The elderly who are on fixed incomes. Who are already stretched to the limit. At that point they will loose their homes for non-payment of property taxes. To add to the ever growing number of vacant properties in the city. In a few years the keys to the city will be given to the many gangs of the city that bleeds!!!!

In a city where a person can be killed at anytime during a 24 hour period, SRB wants to reduce the police department by 200 officers. She should simply give the keys to the city to every drug dealer, gang member and all the other criminals and allow them to take over the city. Is she going to provide every resident with a fire extinguisher so that we can respond to fires faster than the fire department?
As for the vacant houses owned by the city are they going to continue to turn them over to developers and speculators who are going to sit on them for years hoping to make millions once they rehab them or is she going to make it easier for those of us who live in this city to buy and rehab them? This city will go to hell in a hand basket with a reduction of police and fire employees. She should get rid of Graziano and his top executives and save money that way.

I agree with the commissioner...cuts to BPD are unconscionable. But SRB has gotten us talking, and demonstrated the severity of the city's budget crisis.

However, tax increases on the citizens is equally unconsionable. We already pay twice the property tax of the next highest county in the state.


My feeling is start charging for trash removal (but keep recycling free). Increase parking fees. Install more speed cameras. Stop giving property tax breaks to big builders like HS Properties. Institute a reduced property tax rate for non-profits, universities, and hospitals. And clearly, unload the 30,000 vacant properties to developers and individuals who can afford to bring the tax liens current. This is all stuff Mayors Dixon and O'Malley should have taken care of but didn't because they benefited from city coffers filled by a phony realestate-bubble economy.


SRB has awakened the citizens of Baltimore, and gotten us talking. And I think that's a good thing.

I would have more respect for our public servants if they donated a month salary to this mess admitting that this did not happen yesterday,they sat back over the years and made these ridiculous decisions, poor performances, criminals getting free rides to commit crimes, this place sucks! Now you're whining, you can go in any government office and deal with non-working, unproductive people that think they are entitled to everything, no incentative to be productive. REAL CHANGE HAS TO BE MADE!! VOTE THEM OUT!! IT IS CLEAN UP TIME!!

Step one - scale back those PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) programs that built Harbor East. Paterakas and Co aren't going to expand any more (factories or buildings). Start charging a head tax on all non-profits in the city. They benefit from public safety equally as businesses and residents. Start taxing unions on personal and real property. Unions are no longer a necessity. There are enough employment laws in place to cover concerns. The only unions needed are for teachers to protect against psycho parents and police/fire to protect against over-zealous public officials.

So she thinks eliminating forty-some rec centers is a good solution? It's a proven fact that most juvenile crime occurs in the after-school hours, which is exactly the time that rec centers are open to serve hundreds of city youth. So now they will be put out on the street? Unsupervised? With fewer police? Give us a break!

It looks like even more people will be moving from Baltimore , removing even more property tax revenue ... Wow sounds like the new mayor is in partnership with the Ex Mayor ... You Gals GO ( Literally )

How bout getting all the illegals out of the city and off of the welfare rolls. How about closing all those relocation centers that give all these illegals our tax dollars....how about doing something for the legal citizens of this city.

God help you all!!

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.



Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.
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