Home > The 1996 Reforms and TANF > Pushing Baltimore Forward

Pushing Baltimore Forward

During my time as the mayor of Baltimore, I have undertaken numerous projects that have transformed Baltimore from an industrial center into a modern city progressing towards the 21st century.  In 1992, we also finished construction on the Camden Yards Baseball Field that is the home of the Baltimore Orioles. I also brought the Ravens Football Franchise to Baltimore in 1996. In addition, we have also completed construction on the M&T Bank Stadium that will house the Baltimore Ravens. Having two major sports franchises and two state of the art facilities in the heart of Baltimore should generate greater wealth for the city (Schmoke 1998, 111). In addition, I have also made sure that the successful development of the Inner Harbor reached out to positively affect the surrounding neighborhoods by introducing new restaurants, businesses, museums shops, and hotels.

Economic and urban redevelopment are essential to rebuilding Baltimore, however it is not possible to rely on development exclusively and, it is clear that the past policies achieved limited success due to their over reliance on redevelopment as a solution to poverty.We need to get at the roots of poverty if we are to help the poorest of Baltimore’s poor.  I believe that the roots causes of poverty stem from deficiencies in education and housing, poor public health policies, and increasing crime. These are not problems that can be solved by building a few fancy hotels or stadiums.  We need to turn this “tale of two cities” (Schmoke 1998, 112) into one story.

The first problem I mentioned is the lack of quality educational programs available not only for children but also for adults. We are long past the point where an individual with a limited education could go out, get a factory job, and provide for their family. Jobs of the new service economy require a higher degree of education that most lower class Baltimoreans lack and face great difficulty acquiring. Simply put, Baltimoreans cannot advance in today’s world without education. That is why in 1994 I launched a new literacy program in Baltimore. The program includes two groups, the Baltimore Literacy Corporation, a government run group, and Baltimore Reads, a local non-profit (Schmoke 1998, 112). The two organizations combined forces to provide quality educational opportunities for both adults and children.

A second problem facing Baltimore is the fact that the poorest Baltimoreans have long been restricted to subpar housing that was not conducive to family living. We therefore decided to have several of these complexes torn down to make way for new row and town houses that would be available to all citizens of Baltimore. We want to also appeal to middle class residents in and outside Baltimore which would not only bring people back into the city but also diversity neighborhoods (Schmoke 1998, 112).

A third problem is the rampant cases of drug addiction and HIV/AIDS in Baltimore. It is estimated that 59,000 Baltimore residents suffer from a severe, deadly drug addiction (Schmoke, 1998, 113). This figure is staggering when one considers that the population of Baltimore city is approximately 675,000 people (Schmoke 1998, 111).Furthermore, research shows that approximately “85% of new HIV…infections are attributed to drug addicts using dirty needles” (Schmoke 1998, 113) in Baltimore. To combat this problem, I started a needle exchange program to halt the growth of HIV cases. The program was at first controversial and still is but it has been successful in reducing the rate of new HIV cases and providing drug addicts with access to drug rehabilitation programs.

What I would like to show is that Baltimore needs innovation more than anything. Much praise has been laded onto two welfare acts passed by President Clinton, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in 1997. These programs are meant to help families get off welfare by finding work. These two programs however have been far from perfect. There is a federal requirement that at least 14,000 welfare recipients must find work by 1999 however Baltimore is projected to produce only 2,800 jobs in that time frame (Schmoke 1997, 78). My administration thus started a “Bridges to Work” program (Schmoke 1997, 79) that would give bus passes to welfare recipients so that they could access the suburbs where job growth is far greater.

Simply put, Baltimore needs more than economic development and federal acts. We need to reach out to the people to determine their needs and solve the real problems that lead to poverty. Such a process however also requires a great deal of innovation from city leadership and the people. I know my programs are not perfect but I believe that we are on the right track and that Baltimore will become a great city in the near future.

The Mayor, 1998

Schmoke, Kurt L. “Ingredients for a Successful City. “Vital Speeches of the Day. 1998, 110-113.

Schmoke, Kurt L. “Welfare Reform: A Work in Progress.” Vital Speeches of the Day. 1997, 78-80.

Levine, Marc V. “A Third World City in the First World: Social Exclusion, Racial Inequality, and Sustainable Development in Baltimore.” The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and the Management of Change. Eds. Mario Polese and Richard Stren.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. 123-155.

Photo: Blackpast.org

http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/schmoke-kurt-l-1949

Photo: Pharmacy Exchange.http://www.exchangesupplies.org/needle_exchange_supplies/never_share_syringe/practice_notes/pharmacy_exchange.html

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  1. Community Activist
    April 30, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Finally someone here is making sense! Relying purely on economic development will get us no where if Baltimore residents aren’t ready to seize the opportunities coming into the city. Programs like Baltimore Reads are actually getting involved with Baltimore residents and preparing them for careers instead of just jobs. Baltimore Reads has students ranging in age from 16-65, which includes former offenders, recovering addicts, homeless persons, seniors, single parents, etc. I applaud Baltimore Reads for trying to wipe out illiteracy in the city and I urge you, Mayor Schmoke, to pursue more programs like this. We need to get at the heart of poverty, which means rolling up our sleeves for the work ahead.

  2. The Federal Government
    April 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    PRWOA returned many powers back to the states and encouraged welfare recipients to seek employment. The Mayor’s “Bridges to Work” program is a great way to show how the local government is tailoring programs to the needs of their constituents.

  3. Academic
    April 30, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    This is a great example of a city taking a proactive approach to poverty policy. Mayor Schmoke realizes that Baltimore residents cannot escape poverty through government handouts, but instead need structural changes and incentives to become economically self sufficient. It is true that some residents may have difficulty in finding a job, but this does not mean that TANF will be ineffective. In the long-term, I believe, TANF will be instrumental in reducing the poverty rate in both Baltimore and in the United States.

  4. Mother on Welfare
    May 1, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Of course I appreciate what the government and the mayor are doing to improve the city, but it’s frustrating to think about how much money is being spent on things like the two sports stadiums when such a large portion of the city’s population is living in poverty. Yes, there is potential that the profits from these projects will eventually “trickle down” to people like me, but I still think it’s unlikely. It seems like the city is much more prone to support projects that will generate quick revenue for the upper levels of Baltimore’s society. I can only hope that one day these benefits will reach my family.

    • Community Activist
      May 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      I agree because my one concern with the Mayor’s proposals are the construction of two sports stadiums. He says that two major sports franchises will generate revenue for the city, but many other cities have tried this and failed. It’s very risky to place such a huge investment on something so unpredictable. I mean, every sports team has bad seasons, but what if our teams do extremely poorly and can’t even draw in local crowds? These buildings are too large and specific to serve another purpose and having these stadiums actually seems like a luxury, not a model for a city trying to build itself back up.

  5. The Mayor
    May 1, 2012 at 4:19 am

    To the mother on welfare, I would like to personally tell you that I am not only interested in the upper levels of society. I consider urban redevelopment to be important but it is not my only goal. I want to address the social problems that are not directly acknowledged by policies like TANF. I believe my literacy, public health, and housing programs provide excellent services to Baltimoreans in need of assistance.

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