Q&A with Federal Hill Resident and Mayoral Candidate David Warnock

| December 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

It is a crowded field for Mayor of Baltimore City as more than 20 candidates have entered the race, which kicks off with the primaries on April 26th. One of those candidates, David Warnock, is a South Baltimore resident living in Federal Hill.

SouthBMore.com chatted with Warnock to learn more about his background, his mayoral plans, and why he loves living in South Baltimore.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why Baltimore is important to you.

151114_WarnockShoot_019I came to Baltimore 33 years ago in a pick-up truck full of student loans and a job offer at T. Rowe Price. I am a product of Baltimore’s promise, that’s a promise of growth and opportunity.  T. Rowe Price gave me the push to start my own investment firm, Camden Partners. Every dime I’ve made has been made in this city.

I’ve been on the ground in Baltimore for 15 years at the Center for Urban Families providing job training and skills to people in Baltimore. I co-founded a charter school to make sure Baltimore’s kids receive a top-notch education and real tangible skills to be successful in jobs. I’ve also created companies that have employed thousands of people. You know, I’m invested in a city that has invested so much in me.

Baltimore is a cool, innovative, edgy, historic city. I know, that with the citizens of Baltimore, we can write the greatest turnaround story in America.

Why do you think you can make a difference as the Mayor of Baltimore?

Baltimore has a culture of low expectations and we are at a crucial time in our city. It’s a time when Baltimore requires leadership that is fearless, honest and beholden to no one but the citizens of our city. I will build an administration that fundamentally respects the people of Baltimore.

We haven’t had thorough audits of our municipal functions in Baltimore since William Donald Schaeffer was mayor, that kind of lack of transparency and accountability will not happen on my watch. Baltimoreans pay their hard earned tax dollars to the city. It’s disrespectful to the residents of Baltimore to have their tax dollars unaccounted for.

I’m a businessman. I understand how to read a balance sheet and the importance of fiscal responsibility. As mayor, I will draw upon my contacts in the business, technology, arts, education, social justice sectors and create real change in Baltimore that’s not just focused on downtown, but growing all of Baltimore’s neighborhoods. If the legacy of Freddie Gray is nothing else, it is that we are all in this together. We move forward together, or we don’t more forward at all.

Due to the events of the past year and increasing violent crimes rates, there will be an intense national and regional spotlight on this election and position moving forward. Why do you feel you are up to the job and able to handle the intense scrutiny?

Good jobs and real opportunity for every child and adult in Baltimore is what gets us out of this mess, and I’m the only candidate who’s created jobs and walked that walk. But I haven’t only walked the walk at Camden Partners where I’ve built businesses and created jobs. I’ve walked the walk on Monroe Street at the Center for Urban Families, on Hilton Street at Green Street Academy, on Castle Street as a mentor. I have what it takes to turn this city around. But Baltimore has a culture of low expectations. And we have some real challenges. We’re at over 300 murders in the city this year.

The HBO drama “The Wire” helped to amplify the negative perception of our city. But this is Small-timore! We’re close enough to talk, close enough to listen and close enough to be heard. And maybe we haven’t been doing enough listening. We’ve got a rich history. We’re a city of many firsts. We have one of the country’s oldest free public libraries, the Enoch Pratt Free Library; the first Catholic Basilica, a thriving arts and tech start-up scene. I’ve been at the forefront of social change in our city. We can move the ball forward. There are brilliant, motivated people all around our city and we need to get them working and give them opportunity. I’m a mayor who listens to all of Baltimore. We want to give as much voice and opportunity to our neighborhoods.

What are your plans for lowering crime and making Baltimore a safer place?

Let’s be honest, the crime rate in our city is about a lack of two things – economic opportunity and respect. We can’t prosecute our way to prosperity. There’s a huge workforce in Baltimore that is talented and motivated and are hungry to create economic opportunity for their families. In many ways, the April unrest was about giving voice to the need for economic opportunity and respect.

We need that respect throughout our city. We need respect for each other; we need a police force that respects the people they are paid to serve. We need a police force that is from Baltimore and for Baltimore. Officers that are better trained and live in our city. Frankly, we need more cops out walking the beat, and our police force should target violent repeat offenders who continuously disrespect our communities.

But at the end of the day, if we don’t create the economic opportunity in our neighborhoods, we’ll be right where we started. We will have another uprising if we don’t focus on jobs and opportunity for all.

What are your plans for improving public education in Baltimore City?

Education is a tool-kit to a job of your choice. Our kids are talents and motivated. It’s about access to opportunity.

At the charter school I co-founded, Green Street Academy on Hilton Parkway, we capture kids imaginations with a 25-foot greenhouse, free range chickens and a tilapia farm to teach them math, science, engineering and entrepreneurship. Our ninth graders are taking the auto computer-aid and drafting certification, so that when they graduate they are armed with skills to get them a job. They graduate from high school with technology, health care and energy certifications. These are hard skills that can get them a job, so they can support their families. These opportunities can be provided to students across the city of Baltimore.

20151114_Warnock-Market_01-webI also support a partially elected school board in Baltimore. We have to work to reconnect parents and citizens to Baltimore City Public Schools. There have been a series of steps to disconnect parents from having an active role in the school system. The average person doesn’t know how the superintendent is named, or how the school board is named. We need to put control back into the hands of the citizens of Baltimore, and make sure people feel connected to the public schools.

Why will businesses want to make their home in Baltimore City and grow here during a David Warnock administration?

For decades, I’ve helped build businesses right here in Baltimore, including my own small business, Camden Partners. Baltimore already has a capable workforce ready for employment, and a business community that wants our city to succeed as much as you and I do. Business owners need to know they’ll have a partner in the mayor’s office.

For starters, we’ll have real audits of our municipal departments, so that businesses, just like residents, will know how their tax dollars are spent. It’s about respect for the businesses that have invested in our city.

But we’ll also build an administration that focuses on being customer-serving to our residents and to our businesses. Whether it’s trash or police or the permits office, my administration will be here to serve the citizens of Baltimore.

What should be done about Baltimore’s property tax rates, which are more than double every other jurisdiction in Maryland and almost three times as much as Washington, D.C.?

The residents of Baltimore deserve city government that is transparent and accountable. Once we have a deep, sweeping audit across all of our municipal functions we can get a true picture of the financial situation of Baltimore and make real decisions on how to close that gap. I’m not afraid of making tough decisions. But I don’t know how we can even talk about cutting the property tax rate before we know where our dollars go.

What do you like about living in South Baltimore?

I love South Baltimore because it’s where I started out.  When I moved to Baltimore 33 years ago, my first house was on Grindall Street. Today, I live a block and a half from there. Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods, each one bringing character to our great city. South Baltimore is a part of the charm, which makes Baltimore great.

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.