Baltimore City Council Candidate: Gentrification is Not A Development Plan
Nnamdi Scott of Ujima People’s Progress Party discusses vacant housing, unemployment, and Port Covington
EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN: Where is your office located at?
NNAMDI SCOTT: Right now we meet over at Coppin State University. We do that in conjunction with the Urban Studies Program. It allows us to have space and have discussions throughout the community about different things in the city and we really appreciate that. We also traveled throughout the state because we have some subchapters throughout the state as well, wherever they have their venues we participate as well from out of Baltimore and try to help them build and grow as far as the same strategy to organize themselves.
CONWAY: Okay. Do you have, and I haven’t noticed this in my travels, any campaign literature? Fliers, posters, leaflets?
SCOTT: We have fliers and leaflets. We don’t have campaign signs. As we’re getting into this, these are things that are really priced out. If you’re a grass roots candidate, the prices that they have for these things to be affordable are really high. Part of the thing is getting out there so people know. If you’re watching this and you really believe in social justice, I’m encouraging you to help donate.
We need the resources to put this out. We have 74 days to put this word out about a social justice candidate. A candidate who believes in working class people organizing themselves but the money doesn’t fall from out the sky. We’re not being funded like a democratic candidate. Our candidate Leon Pinkett who is a part of the city government now.
CONWAY: Your opponent.
SCOTT: my opponent, is being funded by all the interests about gentrification, about the corporate development and things like gentrification. These are the kinds of people putting money in his coffers so he can have access to those things. We’re going to have to work form the grassroots to get it. I’m encouraging people to go to NnamdiScott2016.com so they can go there and find out how to participate. If you live in Maryland or Baltimore, get involved with party. Build it. You don’t have to be in Baltimore City to start a chapter of the party in your area.
CONWAY: Well I heard you say earlier that you’re involved in a coalition for the $15 an hour minimum wage hike and two things stuck in my mind. One thing is that yes the city council’s not supporting it at this point but it has something to do with some of the language excluding people with disabilities like blind people and so on. Is that the opposition? Is there any other opposition?
SCOTT: No the opposition is real. The truth is we would want a bill that didn’t exempt anybody. There’s no justifiable reason for a poverty rate because if you don’t pay people what they need to live, it’s a poverty rate. So we don’t make any exception to that. We understand that there are a lot of businesses, small businesses, that are under threat should this go on. But there are ways that which we could help them that weren’t even investigated. So the language is only part of it.
It really was about the right of people to have a livable wage in this city. They’re not addressing the whole unemployment question but the poverty level in this city at 25%. They’re not talking about that. They’re not talking about the violence relating to people in contention with each other because there are limited resources. These are the things that drive social justice policies and help us make right decisions as opposed to business oriented decision which drive us farther and farther into crime and poverty in this city.
CONWAY: Okay the second part of that question that I wanted to ask you was you say you’re working in coalition with some of the other groups. Who’s some of the groups you’re working with that’s part of the coalition?
SCOTT: So part of the coalition is the Worker’s World Party, the Green Party, we’ve had members from SCIU work with, which is really the big partner with this whole discussion, and we’re trying to push them farther. Because they have a place where they want to be at and we really are stressing not just a $15 living wage but a right to a union as a part of that right. So and there are other individual working people who are part of that as well and it’s been growing and the truth is with this defeat it’s only emboldened us because we know we’ve got to be much more work than behind the scene stuff that SCIU was pushing. We really got to go to the masses. We’ve got to go where they’re working, where they’re catching buses at and really engage and talk to them about why they need it and why they need to push politicians to make the right choices and not sit back and wait.
CONWAY: Okay one, maybe two final things. One is that what’s your party’s policy about getting employment. One of the key things in most of the community and particular in the 7th district is a massive unemployment. So how do you employ the youth? How do you employ the adults?
SCOTT: So one of the things I think that really stands out from what we’re saying is we have all this underdeveloped housing that’s vacant right? All this housing that’s empty that needs to be redeveloped. The Baltimore City government owns a lot of this private property as well. But they’re also laying low [inaud.]. We’re saying look let’s create a public work jobs for all program. Let’s take young men and women that want to be trained to be plumbers, electricians, carpenters and all of those other kind of trade skills, put them to work to rehab these houses and make them livable right?
It’s very doable. Let’s make them livable for people. Let’s make them available for low income people and also we make them available to people that want to purchase them. Matter of fact if you give them a living wage, you can buy those houses themselves so they can live in their own communities. We don’t believe that gentrification is the only development plan that works for Baltimore. It does not work for the black community and it doesn’t work for working class people. So that is our straight away answer to how to fix that. Also the infrastructure of Baltimore, the piping, the electrical lines. These are things that need to be fixed now and we could put people to work to do meaningful work and give them real job skills.
CONWAY: Okay, Port Covington, I would be criminal if I didn’t ask you, what’s your party’s position on Port Covington?
SCOTT: Let billionaires build their own cities. It should not be tax money from poor working people to build Kevin Plank’s city. Let him do that on his own dime. We don’t need anymore development in those kind of areas that will make it safer and nicer for white middle class rich people to have. That same money needs to be piled into these communities that already exist that have vacant housing that need human beings to be living in them and fixing them up. If you want to spend money, spend money that way. Let billionaires build their own cities.
CONWAY: Okay one final question and then we’re done here and it’s back to one of the earlier statements you said about educating the masses and encouraging them to organize and so on. You know you’ve been here for like 20-30 years doing that kind of stuff. It’s a tedious long hard kind of thing to do. What can you do in the immediate interim that will help change the conditions in your district whether you’re elected or not?
SCOTT: I think again we need to look at, I’ve always said this and this is true. There [are] organizers already on the ground in all parts of Baltimore City. Not just at 7th district. And they’re struggling to make things happen with whatever resources they can. We have to be able to start networking with these organizers and help them make the change that happens. There are people running chess programs, food programs, clothing programs, helping homeless people who are getting very little support from the city.
Let’s network and build that relationship so that right now we can make those things successful on a small level and this is without government intervention, right. We only say that a city councilman in office should serve those interests as well. To not get into City Hall and become a part of the ruling class but serve those interests. So even if we don’t win, we still want to be able to build those relationships, help these programs move forward and give those as examples for everybody else so that it can be done. We have to unite, we have to obviously understand where our end goal is but we have to have unity and organize in our own interests.
CONWAY: Okay, thank you. And thank you for joining the Real News.
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