ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday that he was heartened by news that the number of murders in Baltimore is on the decline and approaching the goal that he set when he campaigned for mayor a decade ago.
O'Malley, who was Baltimore mayor from 1999 to 2007, made his comments during an end-of-year round-table discussion with reporters.
He recalled that when he first ran for mayor, he said he wanted to bring the number of murders to 175 — at a time when there were more than 300. The number of murders in the city dropped below 300 when he was mayor, but never got close to the 175 goal.
"So to be at 195 on December 28th, and to see that 175 mark on the horizon, to think of all the moms and all the dads that aren't going to be standing by graves of their kids, I don't think there's anything about which I will ever be more grateful in public service, and I'm not going to quibble with God over the timing," said O'Malley, a Democrat.
The recent homicide decline began in 2007, the year that Frederick H. Bealefeld III took over as police chief, and the next year saw a 17 percent drop to 234 slayings. Baltimore is now on track to see the lowest homicide rate in more than 20 years. City leaders credit a sustained focus on repeat violent offenders and increased community engagement for the continued drop, which reflects a nationwide decline.
In other matters, the governor reiterated what he has been saying for months about the potential for tax increases in the coming General Assembly session.
"A modern economy requires modern investments in order to create jobs, and that's not a Democratic or Republican idea," he said. "That's a truth that we've proven out as a people time and time again."
O'Malley was short on concrete details, but he offered some general thoughts about his plans.
For example, he talked about a looming increase in the state's "flush tax," an annual $30 fee on sewer bills to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. O'Malley discussed the possibility of making the tax progressive, based on consumption. Currently, he said, a senior citizen in Baltimore pays the same as a single person living in a McMansion.
"So whatever we do, we need to do it in a more progressive way that recognizes consumption and allows for some relief to those that use less," O'Malley said.
The governor also said he will be pushing for legislation to advance offshore wind energy in Maryland, but he avoided details. Legislation stalled in the last regular session out of concerns about additional costs for consumers.
O'Malley talked about plans to use the state's capital budget to enhance job creation in the state by investing in infrastructure.
"Somehow, we have to find a way to make the modern investments that a modern economy requires to create jobs," O'Malley said. "What you'll see in this upcoming budget is a capital budget that is strong and puts those public oars in the water to drive greater private hiring and private employment, especially in the construction trades."