Reading Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's "What Would Schaefer Do?" on Sunday (May 1) reminded me once again how little she understands about leading a major city. She compares herself to one of our greatest leaders without understanding what made him great. To paraphrase former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's famous rejoinder Dan Quayle, Mayor Rawlings-Blake is no William Donald Schaefer.
What made Mr. Schaefer a great mayor is that he cared about Baltimore, its people and the neighborhoods they loved. Though the current mayor notes the development projects completed under Mr. Schaefer's watch to advance her own argument, she fails to grasp his greatest legacy. His greatest legacy isn't bricks and mortar. It's the people he loved, connected with, and tirelessly served.
Yes, Mr. Schaefer's leadership gave us the Inner Harbor. For that and for many other monuments to his passion and drive, we are all eternally grateful, but Baltimore's challenges in 2011 are more than one large-scale development deal away from being solved. Our challenges and the answers to them are complex, and our mayor must be prepared to deal with that complexity. We must focus our economic development agencies' resources on start-ups, small businesses and medium-sized enterprises. We must prioritize the industries that countless studies have told us have the greatest potential for job growth and job creation. We must reduce the tax burden on our citizens and businesses. We must create and expand opportunities for our youth. We must strengthen our schools and make excellence not just a goal but a basic expectation. We must rebuild local government so that customer service and efficient, effective municipal service delivery become job number one. In short, we must plan and act for our future, one in which we gain jobs and residents.
I speak from experience. I have been working since I was 13 years old because I had to. While serving this city under three different mayors, I had the pleasure of bringing the second urban Main Streets program in the country to Baltimore, helping to strengthen neighborhood retail and supporting small businesses. I reorganized the development permitting shop, removing red tape and improving customer service, making it easier for residents and developers to rebuild and invest in Baltimore's neighborhoods. I reorganized and rebuilt the Planning Department, adopting dozens of neighborhood and community-wide master plans, all while working with diverse — sometimes competing — interests to achieve common goals. I directed the development of the first citywide master plan to be adopted in 39 years. I'm running for mayor because I love this city, want to see it prosper, and know I have the education and experience to lead that process. Not everyone can say the same.
I'm ready to be judged on my record. I hope that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and all residents of Baltimore are truly inspired by Mr. Schaefer's great mantra, "Do it now!" But no one should be allowed to claim the office he held so proudly without understanding the true greatness of the man and the meaning of his accomplishments.
Otis Rolley, Baltimore
The writer is a candidate for mayor.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun