Poor housing conditions lead to health problems, lack of neighborhood pride, low property values, and increased neighborhood criminal activity. Many of these homes are rentals, and landlords have little incentive to make improvements, only to see tax assessments lead to increased expenses after improvements are made. In neighborhoods most impacted by this lack of investment, the Mayor, working with City Council, should introduce a tax abatement program for the redevelopment of empty lots and abandoned properties, and a tax credit program for non-owner-occupied properties that are renovated to code. Additionally, through the addition of staff, code enforcement should work toward proactive enforcement, particularly in the case of non-owner-occupied properties. Increased code enforcement, along with the tax credit will serve as motivation to finally bring properties to modern standards
Police, firefighters, and paramedics are the city's first line of defense when problems arise. In the case of the firefighters of Cambridge Rescue Fire Company, these non-paid volunteers leave from whatever they may be doing to help ensure the safety of our community. In order to ensure that our City remains safe, that volunteer firefighters live in Cambridge to maintain quick response, and that those protecting it are invested in the safety and security of community, a public-safety tax exemption, up to 100% of city property tax, but at a level determined through study by city financial advisors, should be instituted for full-time paramedics and police, and active, life-active, and associate members of Rescue Fire Company who make their annual response. and attendance point requirements, as well as life members with more than twenty-five years of service.
Cambridge's city government has built a reputation over many years with some business owners as being a barrier to their ability to invest in the community and succeed. And, once businesses arrive, the city has continued making their success difficult, either through increased taxation, selective enforcement of city ordinances, or the threat of requirements related to hiring. In order for Cambridge to succeed, businesses that develop locally and those relocating or expanding to the area should be celebrated and assisted in any way possible. The many advantages Cambridge has, including a capable industrial workforce, a rural location that is less than two hours from three major metropolitan areas, important historical connections, and a host of others, should be leveraged by the City. City government must make investment easy, and our regulations clear, while making investment in Cambridge affordable.
One of the largest, yet most important expenditures upcoming for the City of Cambridge is the purchase of new fire apparatus. At this time, Rescue Fire Company's aerial tower truck is out of service for repairs that will cost over $40,000, only three years after a previous set of repairs that totaled over $135,000. RFC's tower, rescue squad, and two engines have reached replacement age, while a third engine is approaching the age of replacement in the next five years. Yet, no plan exists to finance this cost. The replacement of three of these units in the shortest possible timeframe should be the foremost goal of our next Mayor and Council. In order to receive the greatest savings for these units, a group purchase should be explored and performed. Unfortunately, because past administrations have allowed the situation to reach its current state, a loan for the purchase may be necessary. To prevent Cambridge from facing this large an expenditure with no contingency in the future, Cambridge must establish a public-safety equipment fund, annually funded by a percentage of tax revenue to be determined, and sequestered to prevent its use for non-public-safety expenses. The fund should be invested in low-risk markets to build a return on its monies until used. Finally, a schedule of replacement should be jointly developed by the City of Cambridge and Rescue Fire Company for fire apparatus.
A transparent government, that understands the concerns of its people, while informing them, is a good government. Transparency and trust in our election processes is also of great importance. Moving forward, the Mayor and Commissioners of Cambridge must do a better job of informing the people of Cambridge what the City is facing and how we are handling those matters. We must also be available for citizen concerns and suggestions. Using the model of the City of Salisbury and Mayor Jake Day, Cambridge's leadership should begin giving weekly updates by Zoom or Facebook Live. We must also be more accessible to print and radio media, ensuring people of all walks of life understand where Cambridge is going.
We must also move toward greater trust and transparency in our elections, Not all concerns voiced thus far have been correct, but many concerns exist. As an example, Cambridge has no campaign contribution limit, opening the possibility that an interested party could "buy" our election. We also have no campaign finance reporting schedule or requirement, simply an annual report in April, months before and after the election occurs. Finally, contributions from parents, spouses, children, siblings and others have no reporting requirement of any kind, allowing these individuals to become a conduit through which funds may pass. A campaign finance model based upon Maryland law, and tailored to Cambridge's needs must be adopted to ensure the security of our elections.
In addition to improving the condition of housing for residents already in Cambridge, the City must also make an effort to make Cambridge inviting to those seeking to relocate across socio-economic levels. A large portion of individuals relocating to Cambridge at this time are at, or near, retirement age. These individuals have made a great contribution to our City. However, the long-term health of Cambridge is dependent upon young-professionals and middle-aged people with children calling Cambridge home. As we recover from the fallout from COVID-19, a new work model is emerging, where work is performed from home, while meetings are held in office spaces once or twice weekly. Marketing Cambridge's many advantages to people relocating from cities and dense suburban areas, who previously may have only moved as far as Queen Anne's or Talbot Counties will allow us to add to the vibrancy and vitality of our City, while also adding to the tax-base, leading to improved City services. In order to make Cambridge appealing to these people, however, we must ensure safety throughout the community, and we must work with Dorchester County Public Schools to aid in improving educational outcome for students in the system. Though a "county issue," educational outcomes and school safety are prime considerations when discussing the future of Cambridge and the potential we have.