Hundreds of people filled the main sanctuary at the historic Union Baptist Church in West Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood last night to hear mayoral candidates talk about their plans to reform Baltimore’s criminal justice system at the second #VoteBmore mayoral primary forum, co-hosted by OSI, Associated Black Charities, and City Paper. Watch the full forum below.
Rev. Dr. Alvin Hathaway, the pastor at Union Baptist, started things off, welcoming the candidates and attendees to the beautiful church and admonishing that there would be “no Trump-type language” at the event.
OSI director Diana Morris explained the reason for focusing on criminal justice, noting that “discriminatory policies and practices… exist in housing, education, and other areas, but perhaps nowhere are they more deeply entrenched and damaging than in the criminal justice system.”
Moderators Lester Spence, a Hopkins political science professor, and City Paper editor-in-chief Karen Houppert opened the conversation by asking about the police budget, which has increased from approximately $145 million in 1990 to almost $500 million today. Most of the candidates endorsed cutting the police budget, but as the Sun reported in its story on last night’s forum, Democrat Elizabeth Embry, chief of the state Attorney General’s criminal division, said that was the easy way out.
“It’s very easy right now to say, ‘I’ll cut the Police Department,'” she said. “But we’re in a moment when people are not receiving 911 service for break-ins and they want community policing.”
On the topic of school police, most candidates agreed that police should be in schools, but they disagreed over what their role should be. “There are people who are trying to get into schools to harm our kids, and we need to make sure there is protection,” said Democrat DeRay McKesson. “I am not convinced that school resource officers need to be involved in the discipline process.”
On the subject of the requested $535 million TIF for Port Covington, Democrat Carl Stokes pointed out that public investments in the Inner Harbor and Harbor East did not “trickle back” to people in neighborhoods the say developers said they would.
“Folks say that we should give billions of dollars to private developers to build their private playlands for profit because there’s a potential of jobs,” he said. “You know, if we took hundreds of millions of dollars and rebuilt right here, there will be tens of thousands of jobs in our own community.”
Fox 45 reporter Karen Campbell also reported live from the forum, interviewing several candidates after it ended around 9:20.
Photo courtesy of @benjancewicz