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March 18, 2009

Tough budget choices by Mayor Dixon

Here's one big difference between state and local government. When the state makes cuts, they often affect a small group of people deeply but are abstract for most others. If, say, the state furloughs government workers, it hurts them a lot, but the 5.1 million other Marylanders can go on with their lives with little interruption. If tuition goes up, it hurts people with kids in college, but everybody else can ignore it if they want.

But the cuts Mayor Sheila Dixon proposed in her budget today will affect just about everybody in Baltimore. Water rates would go up. Trash collection in the city would go down to once a week (compensated for, somewhat, but increased recycling pickup). Libraries would be open fewer hours. Swimming pools would close. Recreation centers would cut hours or close altogether. People tend to focus more on national or state politics, but local government is unmatched in terms of offering direct services that people use every day, and mayors don't have anyone else to pass the buck to.

It will be interesting to see what kind of pushback, if any, Dixon gets on her proposal. In previous years, the City Council has more or less rubber stamped her budgets. But I wouldn't be surprised to see a much stronger reaction this time, if not from the council then from people who find services they've long relied on suddenly gone.

Posted by Andy Green at 11:41 AM | | Comments (13)


Every night I watch the local news.
Every night the cameras are planted on Harbor Place.
Every night I can count on one hand the amount of people walking around the inner harbor.
The once vibrant city of Baltimore is now a ghost town.

Cut the programs, I don't care anymore. I did at one time. Today, I'm cold and bitter and at a loss for any explanation to how these politicians can continue to get away with their criminal behavior.

Sheila, if not put behind bars will surely have her job forever.

The sad part of Maryland politics is that there is no mechanism by which elected officials can be recalled or impeached. Certainly a flaw in the Constitution. But the only hope for Baltimore is that Sheila does end up in Jessup for 12 years and that someone with vision (not Stephanie Rawlings-Blake) and integrity will emerge. Unfortunately Baltimore is a dying town and it is just a matter of time until the final obituary is written for the city.

Once she makes these cuts I guess her security team will get ANOTHER RAISE?!?!?!?!?!?!?

I think she is doing the best she can do to try and keep the city functioning. I think if she raises taxes in the city, it will be a kiss of death.
I don't care how cheap the housing is, if taxes, on top of redlined auto and home insurance, BGE rate hikes wash away any savings you "think" you gain, I will have to move back to D.C. I simply won't be able to afford to stay here in Baltimore, much as I want to. I have to eat, and I like a drink and a pair of jeans or a movie once in a while.


When you are a position of leadership people look to you for strong and even unfavorable choices, when you make those choices everyone is not going to be happy, however things have to get done, and business has to continue We are put in that "era" of responsibility, unless someone come up with a better plan than were our city is headed, please kept in mind durning this economic recesssion we all need to come together with a little tighting of the belt to kept our city moving in a position direction.

You are kidding, right?

The economic recession has nothing to do with Baltimore City's woes.

Where is the money North Avenue lost?
This lost money could have paid for every program Mayor Dixon's budget plan lacks today.

I'm still waiting for Governor Martin O'Malley to find out what happened to this money.

How about this:
Anyone making 6 figures in city government takes a 6 percent paycut.
Eliminate two vacation days/1 sick day per employee across the board.
10 percent reduction of staff at city hall.
10 percent reduction of staff at city council.
City Council members take a 5 percent pay cut across the board.
Considering how dangerous this city is
the rec centers, pools and libraries should be open 7 days a week.
The kids need a safe haven to go to.]
Also, let's not forget this pit of a city,
which I am a resident, does have the highest property tax in the state.

As a resident of Baltimore, and a state employee, I am very upset by this budget, especially after the Mayor recently accepted her pay raise. The city should take a page from state government and impose furloughs. I was pleased to see that vacant positions will be eliminated.

I am shocked that she would suggest increasing the water tax. Why is it that my water bill in the city is over $100 every three months, but typical Baltimore County water bills are only $8 - $10 per quarter? Doesn't the city own the water supply? Where is the parity?

Finally, reducing trash pick-up to one day per week is probably the worst part of the budget proposal. The city has a huge rat problem, and this will only exacerbate the problem. This is a short sighted way to save money. It will soon result in higher expenditures to combat rats, and will result in increased environmental complaints from neighbors, which will have to be investigated by city workers. I hope the Mayor and City Council fully discuss and consider all options before rubber stamping this through, as typically happens.

It is a shame that the city is so poorly managed. We still don't know where the 10's of Millions went in school spending during the O'M years.

Dixon increased taxes (by not cutting what was promised and increasing assessments) and increased spending by 11%. It is my belief that city hall has no idea of how to manage a budget.

During the boom years city hall had a prime oportunity to lower taxes to attract more middle class back to the city, which would have resulted in a larger tax base, less services needed and better communities. They like many others thought the party would never end.

They key to all of this is to get the middle class back to the city, fill the vacant housing and support communities that are trying to make a difference. Unfortunately, city hall doesn't care about the middle classes, the local politics support this. One city council member even refers to the middle class as "the cash machine."

Well said my friend, well said.

I would love to move back to the city.
My kids are grown and my home is too big now.

However, I'd move to a third world country before I'd ever buy a condo in the city of Baltimore.

And that saddens me to no end.

Baltimore is a third world country Carole!

I respectfully disagree. Poor people who live in third world countries appreciate the simple things in life, i.e., food to eat. The city of Baltimore has managed to lower itself to a fourth world country.
Just this morning another body was pulled from the inner harbor. The second to be found in 10 days.
Third world countries do not have nice places, like our inner harbor, where bodies can be found floating like trash, only to be reported by a Harborplace employees.
This creeps me out.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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