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Mayoral candidates respond to jail funding issue

Posted: 7:24 PM, Feb 18, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-19 16:21:28Z
As many as 200,000 votes in the race for mayor could be decided by Thursday, as labor unions begin throwing their support behind candidates in the race for Baltimore mayor, as well as many for City Council.
 
With heavy scrutiny Thursday directed toward Gov. Larry Hogan for a plan that would stall funding for construction at two black colleges in the Baltimore, some mayoral candidates are saying they too have questions for the governor.
 
However, late Thursday, Hogan issued a statement saying he was pulling back on some of his plans. In a letter sent to chairs of budget committees, the governor said he was "requesting the withdraw" of $18,270,000 provided in fiscal year 2017 Capital budget for the design of a new jail complex in Baltimore.
 
"My priority is the demolition of the Baltimore CIty Detention Center - Men's Detention Center and my administration remains committed to $16,581,000" in fiscal year 2017 to demolish the facility, Hogan wrote to lawmakers.
 
Hogan said he was "eager to hear from members of the General Assembly on which ... higher education projects should be prioritized for funding" in fiscal year 2017.
 
That list included projects at Shady Grove, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, Southern Maryland Regional Higher Education Center, University of Maryland Baltimore County and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
 
With just over 60 days until the April primary, Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Democrat running for mayor of Baltimore, is trailing frontrunner and former mayor Sheila Dixon in polling. But Pugh scored the endorsement of the SEIU Maryland and DC State Council, an umbrella of six local labor unions representing 10,000 healthcare workers in the region.
 
Pugh weighed in on a proposal by Hogan to fast-track $480 million dollars for a new city jail that could also stall state funding for higher education projects at two city black colleges, among other institutions.
 
"Education is first, it's top priority," Pugh said in Annapolis.
 
The criticism levied at Hogan in response to the plan elicited members of the Legislative Black Caucus to question his priorities for Baltimore minorities during a morning press conference.
 
"Since taking office, the governor has spent more time in Baltimore City than any other Jurisdiction, and has  invested more state dollars in regions of the state that are predominantly African American than anyplace else," Douglass Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan said in a statement.
 
Mayoral candidate Nick Mosby, who is stepping down from his seat on the City Council to run, said perhaps the money could be better spent elsewhere.
 
Mosby also unveiled his economic and transportation plan Thursday, calling it the most comprehensive look available concerning those issues.
 
Mosby said he hoped to talk with Hogan about "establishing a task force" to look into the issue.
 
"Spending $480 mllion in the same location just doesn't seem like the right approach, without full evaluation" of the governors plans, Mosby said. 
 
Elsewhere on the campaign trail Thursday, David Warnock, a Democrat, praised Hogan for closing the old city jail last year after it was dogged by a corruption scandal and years of litigation. But he condemned his latest proposal.
 
"The idea that we would continue to sacrifice education for the idea of locking people up is unconscionable," Warnock said at "meet and greet" event in east Baltimore.
 
The Metropolitan Baltimore Council AFL-CIO unions was expected to endorse a mayoral candidate, as well those in various council races Thursday evening.
 
The union represents 150,000 workers.