David Warnock, a businessman who wants to turn the city around

David Warnock, a businessman who wants to turn the city around
David Warnock (J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

The rally is packed with about 100 David Warnock supporters, most of whom wear his name on their blue T-shirts. At a park on the 2300 block of Greenmount Avenue is a stage with a DJ, and David Warnock lip-syncing to Smash Mechanic's video-game hit, "State of Emergency" after a couple dudes wheelie past on dirt-bikes.

"We got the momentum behind us and we got the story and we got the people," Warnock shouts to the diverse crowd. "And we got something to talk about!"


What Warnock talks about on the stump are three broad themes. One, he is a competent person who keeps his promises. Two, Baltimore needs a turnaround expert—like himself—and three, raise expectations and deliver "transparency and accountability" to the citizens.

Warnock, a venture capitalist who has lent his campaign nearly $1 million, actually has just one thing for sure: the money to run a campaign like none the city has seen before.

"We're gonna take this city and all of the citizens in it to the place it deserves to be," he tells the camera. He intends to diversify the city's staff. "We're gonna have the first turban in City Hall!"

Warnock knows very little about how things are done in city hall, what flaws their procedures reveal, or what obstacles await his attempts at reform.

He says he is on a listening tour of the city's 276 neighborhoods and, Warnock says, "everybody is hungry for change," which is about the least surprising thing a candidate for Baltimore mayor could hear—or say.

"People feel great pride for the city," he intones, trying again but falling back on his canned campaign rhetoric.

Warnock has business skill and a genuine enthusiasm for municipal improvement, as evidenced by his long service with the Center for Urban Families, whose board he chairs, and his founding of Green Street Academy, a charter school. But when asked how he relates his career as a venture capitalist to the job he's now seeking, he cites his turnaround of Towne Park, a valet parking company. The company has 450 employees now, Warnock says, up from 45 or so when his investors took it over.

His second example is Calvert Homeschool, a Baltimore company that supplies curricula to home-schoolers world-wide. The century-old company needed better technology, Warnock says, and now it has that. He adds that Barack Obama's mother used the company's material to educate the young future president.

"This relates to city government because it's about transparency and accountability," Warnock says. It's a non sequitur, but, hey: Obama!

The interview continues along these lines, each question funneling inexorably down into a tiny hole and emerging as a scripted sound bite.

This is not surprising. Warnock does not manage businesses. He recruits and manages managers—and managers of managers. Asked for specific things he'd consider for the Mayor's Office of Human Services, which manages the city's homeless policy (among other things), Warnock says "I'll certainly get back to you on that." He adds that he believes that this city employs many fine managers and that, in his opinion, Leana Wen is a superstar. Wen heads up the Health Department.

"I've told [Police Commissioner] Kevin Davis that when he retires, I want to have three people inside [the department] who I can pick from," Warnock says. "We need to create a culture in city government where people feel like they have upside."

Correction: A story about David Warnock's mayoral campaign misstated the number of people employed by one of the companies Warnock's company invested in. According to the Warnock campaign, the valet parking company Towne Park had 2400 employees when Camden Partners invested, and has 7,000 today.