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Downtown Partnership Annual Meeting
Sept. 12, 2019
Cross St. Market
Thank you, Kirby, for your kind words and for all your work in the redevelopment of Cross St. Market. What a great space this is!
Chairing the Downtown Partnership Board for the past six years has been incredibly rewarding for me. I think most of you know how deeply I care for this city and its people, how much I love being part of a place with so much grit, and grace, and potential.
I can’t imagine a higher honor than being in a position to help Baltimore reach that potential, to help it become what we know it can be. This is a special city. We celebrate her many charms. We defend her against all detractors. And we welcome all visitors with open arms so they might see what we see. So I’m glad that President Trump is here in our city tonight and has the chance to feel Baltimore’s love.
I know there’s a perception in some quarters that a focus on Downtown somehow alienates Baltimore’s other neighborhoods, that attention targeted here could deprive other communities of needed resources. But I know, too, that it’s because we care about ALL of Baltimore that we care about Downtown. You can’t have a vibrant city without a vibrant center.
A strong and growing Downtown does lift up the communities around it. Investment in Downtown is investment in Baltimore. And, by the same token, you simply can’t have a thriving Downtown if you neglect less traveled neighborhoods—if you turn a blind eye to the many and complex social issues that affect us throughout the city.
We are—all of us—connected. Our challenges are shared, but so are our opportunities. That’s what makes the Downtown Partnership so special. Our employees come from all across this city, and their extraordinary work is felt from one end to the other.
And that work runs the gamut. The Downtown Partnership is behind multimillion dollar capital projects that lure new people to our city. But we also find homes for our neighbors living on the streets. We secure tenants and financing for new office and apartment towers. We win grants to preserve historic buildings. We clean up our streets and protect the people walking them. We’re working with artists to revitalize Howard Street, and with the city to improve Baltimore Street. Not only do we raise funds to restore our Downtown parks; we then fill them with free public events.
I know we’ve had our share of challenges over the last half-dozen years. But those same years have brought unprecedented investment. People still believe in the good news of Baltimore.
And here’s the thing: We don’t shy away from our problems. Because they, too, make us who we are. How we deal with them makes us who we are. Following the unrest in 2015, we took a hard look at our efforts to make sure Downtown is inclusive—and that the rich economic and cultural opportunities here are open to everyone in our city.
We funded school field trips to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. We subsidized bike share memberships for people in need. We supported conflict resolution programs for children and teens. And maybe what I’m most proud of: We raised the Downtown Partnership starting wage to $15 an hour.
What makes Baltimore the greatest city I know are the people who work every day to make it even greater. That group certainly includes my fellow Downtown Partnership Board members. Thank you for your hard work and tough decisions—and for your love of this city, which guided all of it.
Of course, I need to single out our new Board chair, Shelonda Stokes, who I know will be a savvy and dynamic leader of this organization—because she’s incapable of being anything else. She wows everyone who meets her—and I knew as soon as her name surfaced as my replacement that I could leave this post with a clean conscience. Thank you, Shelonda.
I thank Mayor Jack Young, Council President Brandon Scott, Councilman Eric Costello, and the many, many organizations that collaborate with the Partnership. Nothing we do would be possible without you. Truly.
Finally, to Kirby and the incredible Partnership team, I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve worked with you. Not only have you made this job easy; you’ve made it deeply meaningful.
I love this city—I love its beauty, its strength, its resilience, its heart. It’s been a true pleasure to serve Downtown and to serve you. Thank you.