Here's what I want from Baltimore's next mayor:
I want a cheerleader — someone who is willing to be on the street, meeting and greeting citizens every day, complimenting them on good deeds and taking them to task for their bad deeds. A person who finds ways to unite the diverse elements of our wonderful city.
I want a CEO who recognizes that the city needs talented folks to manage the agencies, people whose first loyalty is to improving the health and well being of the city of Baltimore, rather than to the mayor and the mayor's ambitions. If someone is committed to the city, they will not fail in serving the citizens. If they are simply loyal to the mayor, they will more than likely make decisions that are not in the best interest of the city. Reducing the number of City Hall employees will place the emphasis back on the agency staff to do the jobs they were hired to do.
I want an elected official who wants to be mayor for the next 16 years and is not making decisions based on future aspirations to higher office. Mayor of Baltimore is honor enough for anyone.
I want an individual who grew up in a Baltimore neighborhood and understands the dynamics of our neighborhoods. Baltimore's neighborhoods make the city a livable city. Every neighborhood has assets that can be used to strengthen it. The history of the city has made many communities highly valued places to live. Mix new subtly with the old; don't destroy the good because you don't understand how a neighborhood functions.
I want a leader who is willing to work to fix the real problems, not patch up the symptoms that plague us. The vast majority of the crime is committed by individuals involved in the illegal drug world. The Baltimore City Police Department cannot solve this problem. It can barely stem the tide of violence associated with drugs. Stop putting this monkey on their back. This issue is directly connected to several generations disenfranchised from our society economically. Be brave enough to tell the truth. You can only do this if you are committed to Baltimore. If you are committed to a political career, you won't tell the truth.
I want a manager who understands that governing by statistics is governing without a heart or soul. CitiStat has a place in government, but the bottom line is serving people, not numbers. Staff need to be able to make decisions that are in the best interests of the citizens — and not make decisions that are designed to boost their statistical reports.
I want a builder who knows that bricks-and-mortar projects lift people's spirits and hope for renewal. But more than that, I want a builder committed to keeping our hard-earned money in Baltimore, not doling money to out-of-town developers and contractors who take the profits and run back to Boston, New York and Atlanta and leave the crumbs for us.
I want a mayor who thinks outside of the box. A mayor who has the chutzpah to call together the bankers and tell them to stop the foreclosures, to work arrangements that keep families in their homes. One who challenges the financial wizards to create loan pools available to people who want to move into the city and invest in a home. Who wines and dines those folks fortunate enough to be very wealthy or control large sums of money and asks them to be an active part in rebuilding the city.
I want a human being for mayor who publicly mourns the loss of a child through gunfire; gets visibly angry when he or she sees trash on the street; is insulted by vacant houses and their owners; does not accept mediocre work from our contractors; is not afraid to walk down an alley at dusk; is thrilled to see the smile on a child's face as she plunges into a cool pool; jumps for joy when our parks are used for ethnic soccer games; and prays every day that every student in our schools graduates with a degree that means something.
Finally, I want a dreamer: a person who can walk down the street and see a future of families living in a neighborhood, shopping, learning, praying, chatting, playing and creating.
Michael Seipp is executive director of The Baltimore Station, a therapeutic, residential recovery community for homeless men with addictions. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.