Safe and Affordable Housing

The first two steps in providing safe and affordable housing for poor and working class families are to: 1) make it a priority; and, 2) build the strongest team possible within the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) that is capable of building consensus around complex and contentious issues, setting clear goals, accessing government and private sector capital resources, creating public private partnerships, and effective project management.

No single program can produce enough safe, decent and affordable housing to meet the growing need in Baltimore City. A variety of programs is needed to leverage local, state, federal and private funds. The public and private sectors must work together towards a common goal.

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In our first six months, my administration has demonstrated leadership on the issue affordable housing. Some of our accomplishments include:

  1. Inclusionary Housing Bill. My administration led the efforts to find common ground on landmark inclusionary housing legislation, which was approved by City Council in December. Prior to the direct involvement of my administration, the bill floundered. After many meetings and lengthy negotiations, housing advocates and developers endorsed passage of a consensus bill that establishes affordable housing targets for projects receiving major city assistance, including the rezoning of land from industrial to residential. Under the bill, redevelopment projects such as the planned two million square foot redevelopment of the Westport Waterfront will include housing affordable to a range of incomes.
  2. Increased funding for Affordable Housing. We created and funded the new Inclusionary Housing Offset Fund with a $2 million appropriation in the fiscal year 2008 budget. In addition, we increased CDBG contributions to the Affordable Housing Fund (AHP) to $6 million, doubling the figure from last year. As City Council President, I led the effort to create the AHP, which was established to promote economically diverse housing in Baltimore City neighborhoods. AHP funds are used to acquire and demolish blighted properties in order to create sites for development of modern, economically diverse neighborhoods with housing opportunities affordable to households of all incomes.
  3. Support to Non-Profit Organizations. This year, we increased by 15% CDBG grants to nonprofit organizations in the coming year. $4.8 million of the CDBG funds will support the administrative and service delivery operations of 64 nonprofit organizations. The funds being awarded reflect a 15.2% increase over last year’s allocation.
  4. Moving to Work (MTW). Working with our legislative team, we succeeded in preserving the Housing Authority of Baltimore City’s designation and participation in HUD’s MTW demonstration program. A little known but critically important demonstration program, MTW allows public housing authorities to design and test ways to promote self-sufficiency among assisted families, achieve programmatic efficiency and reduce costs, and increase housing choice for low-income households. Flexibility under MTW has enabled the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to increase occupancy rates to 94% from 88% in the last year. Our goal is 97% occupancy within nine month.
  5. Preserving Affordable Units. We have targeted use of federal HOME funds to preserve and renovate older affordable housing units. In May 2007, for example, DHCD sought and received Board of Estimates approval to use HOME funds to preserve or create a total of 430 affordable rental and homeownership units at four projects throughout the city.
  6. Beyond Bricks and Mortar. Modeled after nationally acclaimed projects such as the Village at East Lake in Atlanta, my administration is committed to creating viable mixed-income communities. We are expanding the scope of existing housing redevelopments such as Barclay, Poppleton, Uplands, Park Heights and Orchard Ridge (formally Claremont Freedom) to include new and improved public schools, expanded recreational opportunities, and wraparound services for families such as early childhood education, job training, and programs for seniors. Combined, these new neighborhoods will create several thousand new housing units affordable to the poor and working class. We must create new mixed-income communities in which children of all backgrounds can envision success and happiness.

Crime Plan

Mayor Sheila Dixon is bringing people together to make our city safer. She is working to get the guns and violent criminals off our streets. She is fighting crime block by block in partnership with each neighborhood and local business. And, she's retaining our best police officers and recruiting hundreds of new ones.

Her crime plan consists of three main components.

  1. Targeted Enforcement. Through targeted enforcement, we must go after our city's most violent offenders. The most violent crimes are being committed by the same small group of people with illegal guns. Our targeted enforcement strategy focuses on four elements:
    1. Focus resources on violent crime and violent offenders.
    2. Go after guns.
    3. Effectively manage existing resources
      • Firearms Bureau - eliminating 6 month ballistic test backlog
      • Control overtime spending without compromising safety and investigations
  2. Community Engagement. Community engagement is crucial - we must have more communication between community groups and our police. When neighbors stay vigilant - and police are out of their cars walking through neighborhoods – together we can prevent crime. Adopt-a-Block programs and increased partnerships are critical to preventing violent crime. Our community engagement strategy focuses on implementing the following elements:
    1. Operation Protect
      • Law Enforcement + City Services + Community Projects
    2. Adopt-a-Block
    3. BPD Youth Services Division
    4. Operation Crime Watch (organize Citizens on Patrol (COP) and neighborhood watch)
    5. Foot Patrols
    6. Emergency Crime Meetings at City Hall
    7. Stop Sinning Campaign
  3. Building Strong Partnerships. Finally, federal and state law enforcement are working together with our city police to share information and collaborate to stop illegal guns and disperse gang activity. Building strong partnerships encompasses the following elements:
    1. Baltimore EXILE -- ups the ante for gun crimes by taking cases through Federal court system.
    2. Gang Strategy
      • Operation Safe Streets & anti-gang grants to non-government groups
      • Multi-jurisdictional gang intel briefings
      • Alternatives for those who want to get out of the game
      • Strong joint suppression and prosecution of gang violence
    3. Gun Strategy
      • Gun Task Force - target enforcement and suppress gun trafficking
      • Gun Stat - multi-agency effort to ensure accountability and develop data to inform gun seizure agenda
      • Legislation that will deter gun crime
      • Emphasis on "CSI" (ballistics, trace data, shell casing, etc.)

Accountability

I am studying the impact of returning the school system back to Mayoral control, but I strongly believe any changes to the current structure must be done in coordination with the state so the financial resources the schools depend on from the state are not put in jeopardy.

Certainly, the state should continue to contribute significant funding toward the city's school system, but I do believe the current system gives responsibility to the many, but holds the few accountable.

I am optimistic that the new Schools CEO Dr. Andres Alonso shares my vision of the importance of classroom instruction and curriculum. We share a responsibility to ensure his success, and in turn the success of our city's students.

Excellence In Health Education

The Baltimore City School System hasn't had consistent leadership in many years. Dr. Alonso brings a strong background in classroom instruction to his position as CEO – and we all have a responsibility to help him implement his vision for public schools in Baltimore. I implore us all to be invested in the success of city schools.

We do recognize that most schools that excel, do so because of many factors, including an exceptional organized parent groups and strong community partners. I will also continue to fund and add more community schools which coordinate services for the students, families and community.

The school system has had problems recruiting and retaining the best and brightest, most highly qualified teachers, especially in the content areas of science and math. We must start recruiting from our local universities and colleges, offering bonuses and incentives for students who choose to teach in Baltimore City Public Schools, even paying their tuition if they agree to work for the system for and established number of years. As Mayor, I will assist in recruiting the teachers that are best able to offer our students a quality education. Through the Mayor's newly developed office of Education under the leadership of the Deputy Mayor for Education, we will endeavor to unite teachers, students, families, foundations and provide more after school programs in schools to help enhance academic achievement for all students which is the ultimate goal in improving our system.

As Mayor, I will continue to support new Charter Schools, more innovative High Schools that offer career tracks such as hospitality, computer technology, medical arts, and performing arts, alternative schools in middle school and high school for students who can not make it in conventional school systems, and look to expand vocational programs for students interested in masonry, building trades, steel workers, and construction. All of these possibilities will enable our young people to be ready for college, the workforce and life.

About Sheila

Sheila Dixon is a working mother, a proud parent, an advocate for families and a dedicated public servant. Her story begins right here in Baltimore where she was born and raised. She is a graduate of the Baltimore City public school system and holds a bachelor's degree from Towson University and a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Mayor Dixon began her career as a kindergarten teacher at Steuart Hill Elementary School and as an adult education instructor with the Head Start program. She is an advocate for children who understands the challenges our teachers face and is committed to improving Baltimore's schools.

For 17 years, Mayor Dixon worked as an international trade specialist with the Maryland State Department of Business and Economic Development. She knows how to retain and attract businesses to Maryland and she's committed to building an economy that works for all Baltimore residents.
For over two decades, Mayor Dixon has dedicated herself to public service, working to improve the city she loves so much. In 1987, she won a seat on the Baltimore City Council representing the 4th Council District, where she served for 12 years. In 1999, she became the first African-American woman elected as City Council President.
Sheila Dixon became the 48th Mayor of Baltimore on January 17, 2007, succeeding Mayor Martin O'Malley. She is the first woman to serve as Baltimore's mayor.

As Mayor, Sheila Dixon is building a cleaner, greener, healthier and safer Baltimore. She's made Baltimore healthier by passing the smoking ban. She's making Baltimore cleaner thanks to record funding for campaigns to clean up city streets and neighborhoods. She's making Baltimore greener through beautification programs and environmentally friendly policies. And, she's working to make Baltimore safer by pursuing comprehensive strategies to curb the possession of illegal guns and address violent crime through targeted enforcement, community engagement and partnerships with state and federal agencies.
Mayor Dixon has been a strong advocate for public health issues, including HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and lead poisoning in children. Mayor Dixon is an avid athlete with a rigorous weekly fitness routine. Beyond her concern for her personal health and fitness, Mayor Dixon is an advocate for programs that improve children's health through a more nutritional diet and exercise routine.

Among her numerous awards and honors, Mayor Dixon has been named one of Baltimore's Most Influential Leaders by the Baltimore Business Journal and was recently admitted to The Daily Record's Circle of Excellence for her third selection as one of "Maryland's Top 100 Women." She serves on numerous boards, including the Institute of Human Virology, the Transplant Resource Center, the Urban Health Initiative, the Baltimore Public Markets Corporation, the Living Classrooms Foundation, and the Walters Art Gallery.
Mayor Dixon is a working mother with two children, Joshua and Jasmine, who currently live in West Baltimore. An active member and former trustee of Bethel A.M.E. Church, Mayor Dixon is grounded by her faith and continues to serve as a member of the Stewardess Board.