Quality of Life

From housing, to accessible public transportation, to tackling environmental injustice, Baltimoreans — particularly Black Baltimoreans — deserve a  better quality of life. Baltimore’s working class and middle income families have for many years subsidized development that benefited affluent people who moved to the Inner Harbor area, while the needs of other neighborhoods were ignored and the promised economic benefits for the rest of the city have not materialized. 

The cancelation of the Red Line by Governor Hogan cut off Black and brown communities from economic opportunities, and policy choices around air pollution like the Wheelabrator have led to Black and brown communities suffering from disproportionately high rates of asthma. Quality of life issues are deeply intertwined, and as governor John will make Baltimore a better place to live for all Baltimoreans. 

Housing

Vacant buildings, unhoused people, and unfair evictions have all become common issues faced by predominantly Black and brown Baltimoreans. We need to address the housing crisis in Baltimore – and we need to do so equitably. That includes making sure wealthy Baltimore residents are paying their fair share of taxes, which can be used to revitalize neighborhoods. We also need a serious solution to vacant homes that become fire hazards. And we must provide resources that help Baltimoreans achieve long-term housing stability. 

As governor, John will:

  • Support the move to reinstate the city program that tags unstable vacant buildings, which ended in 2012 and has led to the deaths of several firefighters.
  • Combine the fire department’s and city housing department’s vacant property lists so firefighters and paramedics can look up if a property is labeled as dangerous.
  • House homeless people who frequently shelter in vacant properties, so that firefighters do not need to enter unsafe, unstable buildings for rescues.
  • Invest in eviction diversion, pass a “just cause” eviction law, permanently fund the right to counsel in eviction hearings, and raise eviction filing fees to keep people from being needlessly evicted, especially by predatory landlords. 
  • Institute a state bank, which will help those living in historically redlined areas get access to capital to buy and/or renovate a home.
  • Use our Housing Trust Fund to the fullest extent to finance turning blighted properties into affordable housing.
  • Tax the owners of vacant properties so it is unprofitable for landlords to hoard housing, and so vacant property owners have incentives to keep up with maintenance so properties do not degrade into fire hazards. 
  • Work with organizations like Fight Blight Bmore so that our housing plans for Baltimore include stakeholders with extensive experience in addressing vacant city properties.
  • Redevelop half of Baltimore’s roughly 15,000 vacant properties by 2030, through a system of state bank-backed mortgages and state funding of redevelopment, called the Hawkins-McMechen Plan, as well as work with local land trusts.

Transportation

Baltimore needs better public transportation, and we need transportation systems that prioritize people not cars. 

As originally planned in 1965, Baltimore’s transit system was supposed to have 6 metro lines, but only two were built because of opposition from predominantly white suburban residents. We need to build a full Red Line rail system – which was planned and approved before the Hogan administration canceled it. Unfortunately, Governor Hogan has prioritized highway expansion over public transportation investments. It’s time to put an end to decades of racist transportation systems in Baltimore.

As governor, John will: 

  • Build the ALL-RAIL Red Line and ensure transit-oriented mixed-use development around each of the stops planned in partnership with neighborhoods.
  • Support a regional transit authority for the Baltimore region, so the area has more autonomy over its transportation decisions, without losing the financial benefits that come from the state running their transit.
  • Reverse the Hogan administration’s transportation decisions that have raised fares on buses and rail lines while cutting tolls on suburban highways and bridges.
  • Dramatically increase the frequency and reliability of bus service, unlike the BaltimoreLink bus line “improvements”” by Governor Hogan that eliminated routes and worsened commutes for people. A commute that takes 20 minutes by car in Baltimore can take 90 minutes by bus.
  • Make improvements to the MARC system, including more frequent all-day service in both directions, which will open up opportunities for Baltimoreans to commute to jobs in the surrounding areas by giving people a better ability to commute.
  • Improve the MARC stations in Baltimore City and integrate them better into the rail and bus systems to make it easier to travel around the city and the state.
  • Equitably distribute charging stations as we transition to clean electric vehicles and increase our charging infrastructure so everyone can benefit from the switch to emission-free electric vehicles regardless of zip code, which has been a problem in other cities across the country.
  • Fix MTA Mobility, which is unreliable and often strands disabled riders, in part by replacing the current contractor system with union drivers that are paid competitively to fix staffing shortages.
  • Invest in approaches to community design that center people, rather than cars, including: transit friendly street design, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian safety to create more walkable communities. 

Environmental Justice

Baltimoreans deserve to have safe air to breathe and water to drink. Unfortunately, the reality is that many don’t, thanks to long standing environmental injustices. 

Baltimore residents are exposed to treatment plants that have released sewage into rivers and pollution into the air. South Baltimore has been found to be home to some of the most polluted air in the city and has the highest hospitalization rates for asthma in the city. 

The Wheelabrator incinerator in Baltimore burns trash from all over Maryland, causing high amounts of pollution. It is the 10th-largest trash incinerator in the country and accounts for 36% of all air emissions from Baltimore City industry. The worst part is that the Wheelabrator is in South Baltimore which is where Black and brown communities tend to reside. 

As governor, John will:

  • Invest in education and workforce development to ensure Maryland’s youth are equipped to understand climate change, advance bold climate solutions, and succeed in the clean energy economy.
  • Ensure good clean energy jobs are accessible to Marylanders of color, low-income Marylanders, and others who have been historically underrepresented in good jobs.
  • Remove incentives for the Wheelabrator by removing trash incineration from our Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • Steer Baltimore (and the state) towards zero-waste strategies like food composting and a ban on single-use plastics to reduce the amount of trash created – eliminating the need for incineration as a disposal method. 
  • Close the Curtis Bay Medical Waste facility, which is Baltimore’s 13th largest polluter and the country’s largest medical waste incinerator and which we do not need to keep open to meet the needs of disposing of the city’s medical waste. 
  • Create more green spaces like urban farms to help address food insecurity and parks with trees to reduce urban heat islands.
  • Implement the largely ignored recommendations from the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, and build on 2021 reform legislation that made the commission more representative and responsive to impacted communities. 
  • Ensure government agencies take a proactive approach to environmental justice when drafting rules and policies, instead of a reactive one that waits until problems arise to make changes. 
  • Make Baltimore’s public buses, including its school bus fleet, 100% electric. 
  • Make Baltimore’s schools, state office buildings, and public higher education buildings net zero by 2030.
  • Prioritize communities that have been harmed by environmental injustice for investment as Maryland transitions to a net zero future: charging stations, incentives for homes and businesses to electrify everything, incentives to install solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling, etc.
  • Establish a community solar program to expand access to affordable renewable energy, building off the state’s pilot program to create a long-term community solar program in the city.
  • Make sure stakeholders from front line and fence line communities historically affected by pollution and environmental injustice have a role in decision-making.