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Primary Candidate Profile: Joe Koehler, for Council District 1

In 1-2 sentences, explain why you are running for District 1 and what motivated you to seek this position.

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In 1-2 sentences, describe how your background and/or previous experience has prepared you to serve as Councilman?

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 What are your top 3 priorities or key goals if elected as Councilman?

First, I want to have a comprehensive public safety plan for our district to serve as a model for other districts in the City, and I want to create a blueprint guidebook on how to accomplish it along with best practices. I mentioned being on the front line before, but I want to do this with a Social Worker to engage our youth, the homeless, and those suffering from addiction or mental health issues with an underlying goal of decreasing the call volume for BPD and EMTs. This plan also includes working to cover as many of the thousand or more blocks in the District with block captains, the primary objectives of which are neighbors knowing and looking out for neighbors while building community organization and improving the social fabric of this City. I will also lead a COP Walk in each community one day per month, using the recent crime summaries to map the itinerary while addressing 311 matters and involving other agencies as needed. This is the proactive approach of a City Councilman to addressing constituent services the right way. I will also bring back the Public Safety Taskforce and invite not just the neighborhoods in my District but also any neighborhood that is in a neighboring district, but in the Southeast, Eastern, or Central police districts, so that we all work together, including the NCOs and Command Staff from each one. Together, we will tackle our problems, apply for grants for more cameras and lights where needed, and expand the block captain program, including having someone from my team help expand it to native Spanish-speakers. While doing this, we will examine the volume of crimes by category and by police post, but unfortunately, the police posts no longer align nicely with whole neighborhoods. I want to reverse the population decline in the City. We’re the number two City in the country for population loss, and I worry about our sustainability. Part of that is Public Safety, and there are so many other factors, so trying to narrow it down to just three priorities or goals related to this central issue is difficult, but I will attempt to by thinking about where can I add the most value to City Council and the District, and what I have a comparative advantage in focusing on relative to other City Councilmembers.

As a result, my next priority is to focus on Economic Development of the City and performance of the City Government. I plan to create an Economic Development and Small Business Taskforce, inviting all 2,000 businesses in the District as well as other stakeholders like unions that are represented here and other relevant organizations. Businesses bring in multiple revenue streams for the City, and in order to optimize those, we should allow for them to have a say but also make them part of the social fabric. Together, I want to resolve common issues, make it easier for businesses to thrive in Baltimore, and focus on legislation needed to do that. I would like incentives to encourage small business owners to live in Baltimore, for employers to hire City Residents, which would increase revenue for the City overall, and for organizations to promote the arts (live music and other performing arts as well art galleries and other visual arts) and therefore attract artists and performers as well as attract others to see them. But none of this matters if we cannot also improve the economic performance of the City Government itself. This can only come if we have 100% transparency and accountability within the Government, and as a CPA and auditor, I intend to drill down on everything making up actuals and variances to budget and being able to explain why. These feedback mechanisms often point to inefficiencies or issues within government operations.

I believe Economic Development of the City and Economic or Financial Performance of the City Government are major priorities where I can be effective as a City Councilmember and add a lot of value to City Government and Baltimore. My third priority is to focus on our youth because I believe that the goal for each generation should be to try to provide the next one with a better life just as I believe that parents should try to provide their children with a better life than what they had. I want to increase the number of Judy Centers in the City from 11 to a point where we have one in each neighborhood that could benefit from it or a similar model: community centers with wrap-around services while also increasing Pre-K and childcare options. As private schools become more unaffordable, the demand for public schools should go back up; however, we don’t have enough schools in our District. I want to advocate for Hampstead Hill to be expanded because some of the class sizes for Middle School are up to 40 students and if we use the vacant school behind my house at 801 S Highland, the school can accept more students for its Pre-K and Elementary Schools. We also don’t have a high school in District 1 now. It would be great for the area if families had a good high school to send their kids to that wasn’t a private school or a school on the other side of the City. There are other things we can do to improve schools but right now, the City Council is more in an advocacy position and can help with additional programming. As a Rec Council President and Treasurer, I want to see more Rec Councils throughout the City. They increase parental involvement by having parents on the Rec Council Boards, parents running the different programs (sports and visual and performing arts), and parents coaching or teaching their children. This can also be in line with the Community Center use of school buildings.

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing District 1 residents right now?

The most pressing issue facing District 1 residents right now is public safety. Through extensive outreach to over 15,000 individuals in our district, it's clear that public safety concerns are paramount. As the Public Safety Chair for Canton for the past seven years, I have a proven track record of addressing these concerns effectively. I've helped secure a $100,000 grant for surveillance cameras in commercial areas, implemented innovative strategies like expanding lighting to make people feel safer and have more lighting for cameras, and established a block captain program, fostering neighborly bonds to enhance community safety. These initiatives have significantly reduced various types of crime, making our neighborhoods safer and more welcoming for all residents.

What else would you like voters to know? Feel free to share any other perspectives or details about your background, priorities and vision.

As a candidate, it's crucial for voters to know that addressing the population decline in Baltimore is central to my vision. By combating crime through innovative approaches like integrating social workers and providing wrap-around services for our youth, we can change the narrative and attract new residents. My holistic public safety plan includes bolstering youth services, increasing police presence for community policing, and implementing crisis intervention teams for non-violent incidents. Moreover, enhancing transportation safety with additional surveillance measures, stop signs, and speed humps in high-traffic areas is paramount. Furthermore, education is a top priority. I advocate for fully funding schools, expanding educational options to reduce class sizes, and implementing the Judy Center model citywide. Additionally, I propose establishing a dedicated high school for District 1 to ensure all students have access to quality education.

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