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Baltimore's Mayoral Candidates Meet At Forum

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- Five weeks and counting until the Baltimore mayoral primary. For the first time, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake takes part in a public forum with the other challengers. This forum gave an opportunity to the mayoral contenders to pinpoint problems and offer solutions.

Political Reporter Pat Warren has more on what was discussed.

Baltimore's mayor's race finds no shortage of issues. The candidates have declared their views of problems and their solutions since the race grew legs in July. And now, for the first time, the five Democratic contenders sit down to answer questions in a public forum.

Although geared primarily to the disabled, it was no stretch to see broader needs.

"We have the highest tax burden of any subdivision of the state," said Democratic mayoral candidate Jody Landers.

Much of the discussion centered on cutting taxes, expanding services and getting priorities straight.

"Everything can't be a priority," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "And if you are suggesting that we cut the city's budget by $400 million and then want to promise that you are going to give every department more resources and more services and more this and more that, you can't have it both."

"It's not about cutting the budget," said Maryland State Sen. Catherine Pugh. "Anybody with common sense knows that you don't cut $400 million out of the budget. If you want to cut the property tax and provide the services for the people of the city, you're going to grow your budget."

"Anytime you spend millions of dollars on a racetrack and fix your streets downtown while you're having problems uptown, that shows to me that you're not prioritizing," said Frank Conaway, Democratic candidate for mayor and the current clerk for the Baltimore Circuit Court.

"Our city suffers from service delivery problems across the board," Landers said.

"The service for people has been put on a backburner," said Vickie Ann Harding, vice president of the Baltimore Black Think Tank.

Republican Vickie Ann Harding also participated in the forum. She is unopposed in that primary.

This was the Maryland Disabilities Forum and it was part of a series of four debates that will include the current mayor.

The primary election is September 13th. Early voting is September 1st through the 6th.

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