(BALTIMORE – February 17, 2023) – The debacle over the BGE Conduit deal is a brutal indictment of our Strong Mayor system of government in Baltimore. We must respond by democratizing the Board of Estimates to make it more accountable to our residents. Or, we could just abolish it.
Yesterday’s vote was rushed. There has not been adequate time for community input. There are unanswered questions about equitable infrastructure investment, the impact of the deal on electric rates for City residents, and the impact on our City workforce.
A former Council President wisely warned us of this bad outcome while leading the fight to democratize the Board of Estimates.
“If the Mayor wants a contract before the BOE to be approved, it will be approved— even when questions are unanswered and even when the public has serious concerns… The only thing that can change this dynamic is structural change.”
That Council President was… Brandon Scott.
He was right. Key decisions about City finances should never be controlled by a single elected official. Public input is essential. Disagreement and debate lead to deeper truths and better outcomes for our City.
I will introduce a bill authorizing a task force to recommend democratizing or abolishing the BOE. We will bring together non-elected Baltimoreans to explore best practices and listen to our own residents. The task force must be thoughtful and, to the extent possible, non-political.
Work has already been done on this topic. President Scott created a Council Committee that provided recommendations including a Charter Commission. That Commission has not met yet but could work collaboratively with this task force.
We will dust off those recommendations and include the past research in what we create moving forward. This is not about who sits in the Mayor’s office. It is about structural change and an acknowledgment that Baltimore deserves the best system of governance possible.
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