Inside City Hall: What was missing from Taxpayers’ Night?

taxpayers’ night

Not exactly an SRO crowd at the forum for taxpayers to address the mayor and her budget priorities.

Photo by: PKB News

Taxpayers, it turned out.

Just one person showed up last night to testify before the mayor and Board of Estimates at “Taxpayers’ Night,” a yearly ritual that has gone from insignificance to irrelevance during the administration of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Stephanie Murdock, a staffer for Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke who is also an avid skateboarder, urged the board to support the construction of more skate parks in the city.

The mayor joked to Murdock about “showing me a move in your heels,” and that was it – the hearing was over.

Taxpayers’ Night is mandated by the city charter as a forum for taxpayers to vent their concerns about the upcoming city budget. When Rawlings-Blake was a novice mayor four years ago, she devoted a 750-word speech at the hearing to defend her budget.

This year, with no rec centers or fire companies on the cutting block, no one seemed to care. An audience of about 20 was filled with city employees, many of whom live in the counties, so aren’t city taxpayers.

Saying she is a city taxpayer, Murdock lamented that more people didn’t show up. “Unfortunately, people didn’t come or chose not to come. Not to participate in participatory government is a problem, I think,” she said.


Another factor may have been that many activists have written off the forum as an exercise in futility. Under ground rules enforced by Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, the panel “listens to residents and gathers feedback,” but does not respond to those testifying.

This rule of “non-engagement” so infuriated citizen activist Kim Trueheart last year that she avoided this year’s hearing.

“The fact that elected politicians have made it a practice that they will just sit there and intentionally will not engage with the citizens, to me that’s un-American,” Trueheart said today. Rather than “wasting” her time at the hearing, she attended the school board meeting last night.

Some other activists were at an East Baltimore church last night, where a crowd of 200 heard pastors denounce Rawlings-Blake for reneging on a promise to help fund a transitional employment program for the Oliver neighborhood.

Based on Facebook and Twitter chatter, other folks likely to attend Taxpayers’ Night were either at work or unaware of the hearing, which got little advance notice from the city.

Scheduled to last two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m., the meeting was over minutes after it began.

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  • Old Goucher watchdog

    speaks volumes……why should taxpayers waste their time at a meeting that is a sham? It doesn’t change anything to speak…that’s pathetic but true. everything in this city is rubber stamped especially the 25th street station walmart development. had to say that

  • Tom Gregory

    City Hall notifies me every time they intend to raise my water bill, but received no notice of this time honored event.

  • kungpow9960

    It’s actually quite clever. If you have to hold a meeting you don’t want to attend, and the success of said meeting banks on the public showing up, then you just “forget” to publicize said meeting. If nobody knows, nobody will come. If nobody attends, there’s no need for the meeting. And it provides another opportunity to bemoan the lack of interest by the very citizens of this city who are legally bound to pay you for your woeful efforts.

    And the people who know about the meeting such as activists and interested residents, will probably not show up because they already know it’s meaningless, like so much else deemed “community engagement” by the administration.

  • ushanellore

    The fall of the American empire. Happens one city hall meeting at a time.

  • trueheart4life

    Our DIS-Engaged elected officials have persuaded the citizens to do the same … They’re hoping that we’ll be equally DIS-Engaged on election day. This is the Democratic Party’s 21st Century version of voter suppression. Way to go DNC Secretary Stephanie Rawlings-Blake … Under your leadership It’s working!

  • cwals99

    We all know the reasons for the citizens of Baltimore not participating in government but we must make sure that our next election has a candidate that will not be crony and corrupt and then make sure this candidate receives the networking necessary to win. We all know that Baltimore elections and free and fair election laws are ignored and media will only advance the candidates part of this crony system. So, start now to build the network that will give a people’s candidate name recognition and public forums for sharing platforms. I want to share Cindy Walsh for Governor of Maryland election violation claimed filed at Federal and State levels with MD ALCU included to show why Baltimore has captured elections and 20% voter turnout. Demand these election agencies enforce election laws……what happens in my campaign for governor happens at all levels of Maryland government regarding elections:

    From: Cindy Walsh – Governor of
    Maryland democratic primary race

    To: Susan Goering – Executive
    Director of Maryland ACLU

    RE: Election violations are
    systemic in the Baltimore area

    Ms. Goering,

    As a primary candidate for Governor of Maryland living in Baltimore
    City I request the aid of the Maryland ACLU and Maryland Attorney General’s
    office in addressing what is a systemic violation of election law that results
    in a crony and corrupt political process affecting all elections in Maryland,
    but especially the elections tied to Baltimore, the largest voting district in
    the state. As a candidate I receive equal protection under law as regards elections in regions all over Maryland but in Baltimore I have not received one opportunity to advance my platform or to gain face and name recognition in this primary race for governor. This is deliberate and it is why voting in
    the Baltimore is now down to 20%——there are no candidates getting the
    benefit of election law for whom voters want to vote.

    Election are the fundamental principal of a democracy and the US
    Constitution is unique in the world in stating very strongly that US citizens
    are the legislators and their rights as citizens who determine law will not be
    denied. The US is unique as well in a Constitution that offers equal protections under law to all citizens. American election laws clearly state that all 501c3/4 organizations will provide equal access to forums and/or debates open to the community. This includes the political party machines, education institutions from K-college, churches, and private non-profits. These include as well all public media outlets from public radio and TV to government public
    access media.

    I attended a public forum recently given by a private non-profit in
    Howard County that met every criteria in election law that was run efficiently
    and openly. Every candidate in the election from local Howard County offices to governor race candidates were sent an email invitation and allowed to participate with equal time and freedom to share their platform to the public. I
    have dates for similar events all over the state of Maryland. In Baltimore, I am left out of every one. Baltimore has a system where
    501c3/4 either openly violate the election laws requiring invitation to all
    candidates and open forum to discuss their platforms or there is systematic exclusion with policy meant to circumvent the letter of election law with an institution hosting a forum or debate ‘sponsored’ by a private group of individuals that then select the candidates who are invited to speak to the public. The election environment in Baltimore are the kinds of elections held in developing world nations having Constitutions not half as clear about protections of citizens’ rights and Rule of Law including law surrounding elections. When I speak to a state politician whose district includes Baltimore I am told that’s just the way we do it. Well, Rule of Law does not allow this.

    I will take one incident already past as a case for the MD ACLU and
    Maryland Attorney’s office for election violation with the knowledge that I am
    documenting many such violations to be pursued at the end of this primary
    session. Violations of election law taint election results and bring into question the candidate designated as having won an election. In the world of
    Rule of Law and Equal Protection, this election process would be NULL AND
    VOID. A government cannot allow candidates in major voting districts to be silenced and state that they have free and fair elections.

    I am going to start by identifying the Baltimore Education Coalition
    and its education forum in Baltimore that selectively invited 3 candidates for
    governor and failed to invite all candidates for governor. Not surprisingly, the candidates for governor chosen were politicians backing the education reform supported by the BEC. This is a clear violation of election law and
    since education policy in Baltimore is a major priority for parents in the city,
    the failure to allow politicians with education policy stances counter to what
    most residents of the city do not want represents a deliberate effort to
    corrupt free and fair elections and voter’s rights to know the candidates they
    will see on the primary ballot. When we see a constant reference to the top candidates in the media or as I am known in Baltimore public media—–‘the two other candidates’, you have failed to meet election law requirements that all candidates be given time on public media.

    Below we see two separate news journals and their approach to
    elections. My campaign received an opportunity for input in many news journals across the state as they sent out a general email to all candidates in primary races. In Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun which owns
    most of the news journals outside public media sent the email below and my
    campaign did not receive this solicitation…..again, the candidates chosen as
    the ‘top candidates’—-which means global corporate and global market—-were included. Now, election law does not require private media to meet election law, but media in America has always been pressured by government to provide a fair and balanced presentation of public events and especially elections. I have received no solicitation from Baltimore public media for my campaign platform or time to speak of my issues—-a clear violation of election law. The Gazette, a Washington beltway news journal has a general solicitation policy to meet the spirit of election law:

    I received nothing from any Baltimore Sun new journals:

    ‘Read candidates’ responses to questions about minimum wage, the economy,
    taxes, education, Maryland Health Exchange, marijuana and the
    environment here

    Baltimore Sun’s North Baltimore Patch’.

    I received a general email soliciting candidate info from Washington beltway Gazette:

    ‘As part of its 2014 election coverage, The
    Gazette is asking all candidates for some basic information about themselves
    and to fill out a questionnaire. We will post this information on an election
    page on our website, Responses will not be
    edited, except for possible libel. We need the following information about you
    and the answers to the questionnaire below by 5 p.m. on March 21.

    If you run
    into any problems as the deadline approaches, please let us know’.


    The last avenue of election coverage comes with government public
    access media. Montgomery County has democratic
    elections and a strong system allowing all candidates access to platforms
    sharing their views. Maryland League of
    Women Voters holds its forum in Montgomery County and there is no such forum by the Baltimore League of Women Voters. Its
    webpage links to this Montgomery County event.
    Now, as a candidate I am happy to have at least Montgomery County branch
    adhering to the election laws and one can think that cost of providing this
    election event may be stopping the Baltimore branch, but again, the one strong source of free and fair elections does not happen in Baltimore, the largest voting district in the state. Then again
    there is Montgomery County public access media that sends a general email to all candidates for office in primaries to come to their studio to record a
    platform stance to be available to the public, in Baltimore our government
    public access has nothing on the primaries:

    The League of Women Voters of Maryland and its affiliated local leagues hope you will participate in this process and use this opportunity to reach out to voters in your district. For many years, voters throughout the state have looked to the League of Women Voters for fair and accurate information about candidates and their positions, as a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse candidates.

    ‘If you have already scheduled your appointment
    for Montgomery Community Media’s Candidate Spotlight, you may disregard this e-mail. The deadline to reserve your space for Montgomery Community
    Media’s Candidates’ Spotlight is this Friday, April 11 at 12pm. To
    make your appointment, please call 301-424-1730 ext 351 or 313. I have
    attached the information for your review. We look forward to seeing you at
    Montgomery Community Media soon’!


    I have shared these election violations and deliberate policies made
    to circumvent free and fair elections for a few election cycles to all the
    players I have listed above. I have as well written formal complaints to the FEC and Maryland Election Board and Maryland Attorney General’s office for several years about this systemic problem in Baltimore elections. I am
    submitting this letter to each of these agencies tasked with the protection and
    enforcement of election law once again, this time as the person victimized by
    this failure to uphold Rule of Law surrounding elections.

    I listened to Jon Cardin at a primary event embrace the issue of free
    and fair elections in his run for Maryland Attorney General. Now, Jon is the head of Maryland Assembly elections committee….and it is no coincidence that his election district reaches into Baltimore. I asked Jon how
    systemic election violations in Baltimore and his district over decades holds
    up to having free and fair elections as a platform stance and by extension
    running for Maryland Attorney General……the office tasked with enforcing
    election law. Remember, the current Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler is not only ignoring Baltimore election violations, he participates in Baltimore forums——-like the Baltimore Education Coalition——that he knows violates election law. As I inform the Federal Election Commission
    of all of these violations of election law by politicians tasked to upholding
    these laws we will see how the Federal government is protecting election law
    whether under a republican Bush or a neo-liberal Obama. Remember, Rule of Law and Equal Protection requires laws to be enforced.

    What the citizens of Maryland need to know is that not only are your
    rights to free and fair elections being violated by the political appointments to
    government positions tasked with creating and overseeing election law…and/or candidates allowed to run for office as Public Justice tasked with enforcing law openly breaking the law.…but the American system of government has all your elected officials taking an oath of office to serve in the public interest and protect the US Constitution. No matter the
    office being local, state, or Federal. So, when a Maryland Assembly politician tells me that Election Law is a Federal Law and not his business, I am shouting that the Federal Election Commission would not be derelict in its duties if all of Maryland’s elected officials were shouting about systemic election violations in Baltimore. It is their business and it is their job.

    I thank you for your time,

    Cindy Walsh

    Candidate, Governor of Maryland primary race

  • November 24, 2015

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