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Baltimore mayoral candidate Bob Wallace started 3 companies. Here’s where he stands on tech and access issues

The independent candidate answers the campaign questionnaire: "My goal during my first term as mayor is to create 100,000 jobs in the city," he said.

Bob Wallace is a 2020 candidate for mayor of Baltimore. (Courtesy photo)
When the general election ballot arrives this fall, a founder will be among the candidates.

Bob Wallace is an entrepreneur who started three Baltimore companies. Now, he is running as an independent candidate for city government’s top executive office.

Wallace, who makes plain that he is “not a career politician,” announced that he was getting into the race just before the primary election. Running as a candidate that isn’t affiliated with a party, he didn’t participate in the June contests. To appear on the ballot, he had to gather the necessary signatures.

The Cherry Hill native’s bio says he “overcame social and economic obstacles through his own rags-to-riches story to become a successful business leader.” He has experience starting 25-year-old, Mount Vernon-based IT services provider BITHGROUP Technologies, alternative renewable energy company Bithenergy, and EntreTeach Learning Systems, which offers web-based training for minority and women entrepreneurs. Plus, he has served on public entities such as the State of Maryland Information Technology Board. He also brings a passion for STEM education.

“I always say that Baltimore has the resources necessary to be great but lacks connectedness to implement real changes,” Wallace said. “As mayor, I will be committed to using technology and strategic alliances to move Baltimore forward and increase transparency in city government.”

Today, we’re publishing responses from Wallance to the campaign questionnaire on tech and entrepreneurship issues. We submitted this questionnaire for responses during the primary election, and are continuing to seek candidates’ views in the general election. Find Democratic nominee Brandon Scott’s responses here, and Republican nominee Shannon Wright’s responses here.

Wallace responded yes to all questions on the survey. They are outlined below, alongside additional comments from the candidate.

QUESTION #1: I support city government initiatives to expand access to technology across the City of Baltimore, including to the more than 74,000 households who currently lack an internet connection.

This includes:

  • Exploring how to increase broadband access, including the completion and release of Baltimore city’s study on the feasibility of municipal broadband, as well as potential solutions leveraging the city’s conduit system and fiber ring.
  • Exploring infrastructure to help the city prepare for 5G connectivity, such as small cell technology.
  • Convening public, private and nonprofit leaders to explore best practices.
  • Taking steps to ensure the U.S. Census reaches all households, regardless of internet connectivity.

Comments: Crises amplify the good or the bad that exist in the system. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the inefficiencies and inequities in our educational system. To address the disparities in our system that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, we must assess the technology and processes in place to support virtual learning in the Fall. As mayor, ensuring all students have access to internet and laptops as virtual learning continues will be a top priority. We must change the school system processes to meet the current needs of our students in a high-tech environment where remote learning is the new norm.

QUESTION #2: I believe Baltimore’s economic growth requires modern workforce development strategies.

This includes:

  • The need for supplementary educational opportunities in STEAM, like robotics, advanced manufacturing, and entrepreneurship for Baltimore school children to be better prepared for careers of the future.
  • Prioritizing computing centers and digital literacy training in the City of Baltimore budget for modern workforce development, leveraging the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Community College and other existing stakeholders to help develop a more inclusive and diverse innovation ecosystem.
  • Integrating computer science and engineering education into city-run programs, such as the Rec to Tech initiative launching in Baltimore City Parks and Rec.
  • Providing education and work experience to students in Baltimore schools as a pathway into tech careers, most recently shown through the partnership between the City of Baltimore and Code in the Schools.

Comments: As a successful entrepreneur and engineer with a STEM education — which began during my time at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute — I recognize the importance of creating modern opportunities for city residents and investing in workforce development. My goal during my first term as mayor is to create 100,000 jobs in the city. This means jobs for unemployed and underemployed residents, residents without high school or higher education degrees, ex-offenders, and job and mentorship opportunities for our youth. My economic development plan includes supporting emerging industries, like artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, robotics, and biotechnology, and expanding vocational training and job skills training programs for teens and young adults in underserved communities across the city.

QUESTION #3: I support programs that aim to introduce technology practices and products developed by public and private sector leaders into city government.

This includes:

  • Programs which pair local tech organizations with city government departments to explore tech-enabled solutions, such as the TECHealth program.
  • Adoption of modern software development best practices, including testing of new and existing products, as described in frameworks like Agile software development.
  • Executing on the city’s five-year tech transformation plan.

Comments: Part of my plans to improve efficiency and transparency in City Hall includes undertaking a complete forensic financial audit of every city agency within my first 100 days in office to see how and where budgets are being spent and how well they are being managed. In upholding my commitment to transparency in city government, I will create an online public dashboard that measures the success of key city agencies and reports important indicators of the city’s economic standing in real-time. Utilizing improved technology and data, we will root out mismanagement to ensure that each agency is doing its best to carry out its duty to serve the needs of the citizens of Baltimore City.

QUESTION #4: I believe modern economic development includes high-growth software companies.

This includes:

  • Recognizing the role private investment, like venture capital, must play in growing local communities through social entrepreneurship and other civic-minded business growth.
  • Supporting programs that aim to attract, retain and grow early stage businesses, like the ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), and its AccelerateBaltimore program, in addition to private-sector incubators like Betamore, the University of Maryland BioPark, the Johns Hopkins University FastForward, Impact Hub Baltimore, and programs like Baltimore Creatives Acceleration Network, Innovation Works and others.

Comments: We are lucky to have world-renowned institutions, universities and organizations in our city. Part of my economic development plan includes tapping the latent research and development capacity at Baltimore’s HBCUs in collaboration with other Baltimore majority universities and institutions. As mayor, my administration will support such programs to encourage economic growth and technological advancements for our city.

QUESTION #5: I support viewing technology and entrepreneurial expansion through an equity lens.

This includes:

  • Ensuring communities of all races and geographies are supported by new projects.
  • Launching and supporting initiatives at all levels that create opportunities for more women and people of color to enter the tech industry, and potentially gain a job within city government.
  • Launching and supporting tools to promote inclusive economic growth among small businesses and ventures in Baltimore’s underinvested neighborhoods, such as the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund.

Comment: We cannot bring change to Baltimore without operating through a lens of equity. This pandemic has highlighted the digital divide and illustrated which communities are most vulnerable. I have put forth my economic plan, which includes supporting small, minority- and women-owned businesses, and ensuring they have the necessary resources to recover following the COVID-19 pandemic.

QUESTION #6: I support efforts to bolster cybersecurity within the City of Baltimore, including ensuring that the city has learned lessons from two ransomware attacks over the last two years, and taking steps to prepare in the event of future attacks.

This includes:

  • Completing a review of the 2019 ransomware attack to ensure lessons are learned.
  • Establishing business continuity planning to deal with potential threats.
  • Training city employees in cybersecurity best practices.
  • Taking steps to limit potential disinformation and protect data during the U.S. Census.

Comments: We must be diligent in conducting regular risk assessments to ensure the city will not be vulnerable to ransomware attacks again. We can do this by providing cyber-security trainings to city government employees to better mitigate these threats.

QUESTION #7: I believe open data is a dominant trend in transparent, responsive and effective government.

This includes:

  • Maintaining and upgrading
  • Elevating, whether through a director, office or advisory committee, experts within the administration who can advise and provide recommendations on how the city can use data to increase transparency and improve services. Recent examples include the chief data officer role and open data advisory group.
  • Developing plans and strategies for programs that apply data and regular accountability to the delivery of city services and policies, such as CitiStat.

Comments: Improving transparency in City Hall will be one of the top initiatives of my administration. As noted above, I plan to create a real-time online public dashboard that will hold city agencies accountable and reflect progress my administration has made to hold us responsible for commitments to bring change and improvements to the city. My administration will focus on using technology to increase transparency at all levels of city government.

QUESTION #8: I support city procurement reform to enable the City of Baltimore to more efficiently, transparently and modernly acquire the best goods and services, including the use of open source software when appropriate and preferring locally-based firms.

Comments: Without a doubt, this is something the city should be pursuing. The procurement process in the city must be done with more transparency, equity, and with the best interest of the city’s residents in mind. Prioritizing locally-based firms not only supports Baltimore’s businesses, but it also helps grow our local economy.

Final comments:

I always say that Baltimore has the resources necessary to be great but lacks connectedness to implement real changes. As mayor, I will be committed to using technology and strategic alliances to move Baltimore forward and increase transparency in city government. My mission as mayor is to create an environment of success and opportunity where citizens, small business owners, entrepreneurs, corporations, faith-based institutions and nonprofit organizations thrive through the delivery of quality, customer-focused municipal services.

To achieve our mission, we will use data, advanced technology and proven best practices to make decisions and measure our progress based on the movement of Key Results (OKRs). For the city to reach its full potential, we must be forward thinking in our strategies and upgrade our technology.

Companies: City of Baltimore

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