City Hall antics overshadowed Baltimore’s need for ‘Dollar Home’ program

As Baltimore real estate prices soar and with inflation and the racial wealth gap drastically moving in the wrong direction, bold, clear and data-driven leadership is needed now more than ever. It is time for Baltimore and the Scott administration to equitably address the needs of historically Black communities.

As I watched the scene unfold at City Hall last month, and witnessed Council President Nick Mosby’s political adversaries capitalizing on the antics of the founder and president of Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), what I saw was the possibility of politics dealing yet another missed opportunity of economic advancement for Baltimore’s Black families. (”Baltimore City Council session on proposed Dollar House revival devolves into heated verbal sparring as supporters pack City Hall,” April 26.)

NACA Founder and CEO Bruce Marks has decades of experience with connecting working-class families to affordable mortgages and was invited to testify on President Nick Mosby’s Dollar Home legislative package as a subject matter expert. However, his theatrics and disrespectful posture completely dollaradowed the urgent need to prioritize the selling of the city-owned residential property to Baltimoreans for $1. Ultimately, Mr. Marks created room for Mr. Mosby’s antagonists to seize the distraction as a strategy to try to defeat the proposal. The first vote in the committee ended with a “7 for” versus a “7 against” vote.

In his first term, Council President Mosby has worked to change business as usual at City Hall. Agree with the Dollar Home plan as it was introduced or not, the sweeping legislative package is a serious effort to shift investment away from out-of-state speculators and in-state well connected organizations to Baltimore residents. The committee-of-the-whole hearings have been a refreshing attempt at crafting far-reaching legislative solutions to one of Baltimore’s stubborn and enduring problems — the decades of decay of historically Black neighborhoods caused by policy shaped in bigotry. Over the past several months, Baltimoreans have had an opportunity for a deliberative process and afforded the opportunity for many voices to influence and shape this important bill.

Leaders in Mr. Mosby’s position are often faulted for rushing legislation and strong-arming members as they whip the votes. Mr. Mosby’s approach is actually what many say they want out of government — to take its time and get things right.

Mr. Marks’ behavior creates a convenient diversion for the bill’s detractors and moneyed interests. As they scramble to shift the conversation away from the bill, the ones who will be hurt are the families who are over and outpriced in rent and living in previously redlined communities which have been denied equity, generation after generation.

The council’s motivation must always remain centered on what is right for the people of this city. In this case, at least a handful of members are instead playing politics with the goal of blocking the council president from a legislative win. The collateral damage, meanwhile, is the people of Baltimore.

We need the council members to roll up their sleeves and get to work. If they don’t think the Dollar Home plan gets it right, craft an amendment, find a solution, participate in the deliberative process, now. Baltimore real estate prices soar and with inflation and the racial wealth gap drastically moving in the wrong direction, bold, clear, and data-driven leadership is needed now more than ever. It is time for Baltimore and the Scott administration to equitably address the needs of historically Black communities.

We need the council members to roll up their sleeves and get to work. If they don’t think the Dollar Home plan gets it right, craft an amendment, find a solution, participate in the deliberative process, now.

— Michael Eugene Johnson, Baltimore

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