Former Mayor Sheila Dixon kicked off her campaign for re-election Sunday with an ice cream social in Pigtown, saying she wants to address illegal dirt bikes, improve public transportation and foster mutual respect between police and the communities they serve.
About 400 people gathered under the pavilion outside the B&O Railroad Museum for Dixon's announcement, which comes two days after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake shocked the city by revealing that she won't seek another term.
Dixon, 61, said Rawlings-Blake's decision "doesn't affect me. I am going to stay focused and move forward." Dixon resigned in January 2010 after being convicted of a misdemeanor charge of stealing gift cards intended for the needy.
She'll face a crowded field of Democrats — including state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh and City Councilman Carl Stokes — for the April 26 primary. In heavily Democratic Baltimore, the primary has for decades determined the city's mayor.
Dixon said she's "running for mayor to get things done." She was first elected to serve on the City Council in 1987 before going on to become the city's first African-American female mayor.
"I am not saying it's going to be easy. I am not saying I can do it alone, but I am saying there is no one who can fight for this city like I can," Dixon said. "The time for on-the-job training has surely passed. We need a mayor who knows our community and is ready to listen.
"I know Baltimore and Baltimore knows me."
At the top of her list is addressing the city's crime rate, especially homicides, she said. She wants to work with dirt bike riders to come up with a solution to get them off the streets, collaborate with the state to develop a regional transportation plan and team up with community members who have ideas about how to clean up litter and bring more businesses to West Baltimore.
"Our city is a deep reservoir of untapped potential," she said. "I am running for mayor to put these ideas into action so that together we can reclaim, revive and rebuild this great city."
Several City Council members attended the fundraiser, including Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and members Mary Park Clarke, Eric Costello and Edward Reisinger.
An estimated one in four of the people in attendance came from outside the city, including Jacqueline Adamson of Prince George's County. The fundraiser cost $30 for admission.
Adamson said she's watching the city mayoral election closely, even though she can't vote in the contest. Baltimore's successes and failures affect the region, and Adamson said she thinks Dixon is the right person to lead the city.
"She's real. She's raw. She's a real person," Adamson said.
Pierre Stewart of Pigtown said the turnout for Dixon's announcement — on the same day as the Ravens season opener — is a testament to her popularity. Like many others at the event, Stewart said he wasn't bothered by Dixon's embezzlement conviction, saying she deserves a second chance.
"She did a fantastic job," Stewart said, pointing to Dixon's work to establish a single stream recycling program, one of her signature initiatives as mayor.
"My mind's already made up. She's great for the city."