Standing in front of the burned-out CVS drugstore in Baltimore's Penn North neighborhood, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked leaders from the business, nonprofit and religious communities on Thursday to join a campaign she's calling "One Baltimore" to tackle persistent city ills.
"This is an opportunity for us to focus more intensely on systemic problems that have faced our city for decades, if not generations," the mayor said. She said the city wants to partner with philanthropic organizations, neighborhood groups and church leaders in the effort.
The mayor's office said the "One Baltimore" campaign has no concrete plans yet. Thursday's announcement was about finding partners who want to help rebuild the city and join efforts to address other problems, officials said. The city has created a website for the campaign — http://servingonebaltimore.org — that is under construction.
"We have got to put a mirror up to our faces. All of us," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who was one of dozens who joined the mayor in making the announcement. "We have to make a change."
Community leaders from impoverished Baltimore neighborhoods say they have suffered for years from structural racism, high crime, poverty, a lack of educational opportunities and police brutality. Last week's rioting — which started with high schoolers throwing rocks at the police near Mondawmin Mall — came the same day as the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died in police custody. Six officers are charged in the case; one faces a charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder.
CVS Health has said it plans to rebuild the store at the location that has become a symbol of last week's unrest. Looted and burned, the CVS store at Pennsylvania and North avenues was one of more than 235 businesses damaged in the violence that shook the city. While much of the damage was done in Penn North and from Mount Vernon into downtown, the unrest affected neighborhoods around the city, including Pigtown, Highlandtown and Hamilton.
City leaders asked business owners hurt by the rioting to enter contact information on the new website, BaltimoreBusinessRecovery.org, which went live last week and is designed to connect businesses to city, state and federal resources.
Meanwhile, Donnell Spivey, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and a Baltimore real estate agent, gathered a group of businesspeople at First Shiloh Baptist Church on Thursday to discuss ways to boost West Baltimore communities, including efforts to stop discrimination by contractors, banks and insurance companies.