Baltimore mayoral challengers question mayor’s spending of ARPA funding

A challenger to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott leveled harsh criticism over the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal pandemic aid through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Democratic primary mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah on Thursday accused Scott of using Baltimore’s allocation as “a personal slush fund.”

He’s calling for an independent forensic audit to get to the bottom of “unilateral” and “nebulous” distributions to dozens of nonprofit organizations, as well as $2 million to the Service Employees International Union, $15 million to Clean Corps to clean trash in city neighborhoods and $5 million to Lexington Market.

“It’s a thinly veiled political payback in a city that has had it pay-to-play culture for too long,” Vignarajah said.

Fellow Democratic primary challenger and former Baltimore mayor, Sheila Dixon, questioned why Scott didn’t use ARPA funds for roads and bike lanes and to synchronize traffic lights.

“I agree with some of the criticism. It’s clearly a missed opportunity, and it clearly shows the mismanagement of this current administration,” Dixon said. “(The money could have been used on) getting those pools open, recycling would not have stopped. I would have met hiring the private sector to partner with the city while we build up our revenue and our inventory of new trucks, EMS, fire trucks fire stations. There’s a disconnect. It’s about accountability, and it’s about management.”

WBAL-TV 11 News reached out to Scott for an interview. His City Hall office called this a political issue. His re-election campaign office said Vignarajah has not offered “any viable vision” for how he would use ARPA funding.



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