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City needs more rec centers, less bickering

On Baltimore recreation centers where is the coordinated leadership?

I read with much exasperation The Baltimore Sun article, "Mayor renews pitch to sell 4 city garages" (July 15). I then watched Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in front of a TV camera ridicule any opposition to her plan as "old school" and tell Baltimore citizens that we are not playing "small ball" anymore. Your article notes City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young as characterizing the recreation centers plan as "political theatrics." I could not agree more. It is the theater of the absurd!

In case the mayor hasn't realized it, Baltimore is in difficult straits right now. The mayor's plan shows an astonishing lack of deftness and response to a crisis situation and a pettiness and disrespect of the City Council and Mr. Young. It has been her continuing management style. None of this bodes well for a city teetering on the edge of chaos while Mayor Rawlings-Blake seeks to settle scores. The city's future hangs in the balance. She rails against City Council objections to her plan to sell four parking lots to partially pay for her recreation centers proposal. Does she not realize that "old school" didn't facilitate closure of many recreation centers in the past but she did?

"Old school" didn't permit aimless, undisciplined, lawless youth to wreak havoc on the city. She did as a direct consequence of actions that she took. "Old school" didn't create a non-inclusive plan which drains the city of revenue-producing entities. She did. "Old school" didn't propose a $136 million recreation plan with no way to pay for it. She did. "Old school" didn't obfuscate, avoid accountability or play the "blame game." She did. She blames Gov. Larry Hogan, former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and Baltimore "thugs." She blames anyone in the vicinity. Instead of casting aspersions on "old school" City Council members, Baltimore citizens or others (including thugs), why can't this city learn and grow from its experiences including the experiences of the "old school" which I guess in her mind means Council President Young or other members of the City Council. It appears that the mayor's "new school" ways have given us crime, grime, blight, searing poverty, hopeless youth, a slow (or non-existent) response to crises and a national image of managerial ineffectiveness. We have become laughingstocks. Baltimore deserves better.

The recreation plan calls for six centers. They would be much like a YMCA with gym facilities, wellness programs, etc. However, the time frame is from 2014 (she takes credit for the Morrell Park Center from last year) until 2017. How convenient that these plans coincide with what could be a neat little "talking point' for her reelection campaign next year. Meanwhile, the resources and efforts are needed now. The violence is now. Families are crumbling now and the plans that she is espousing are on the drawing board, they are not real. And the money is still not there.

You can't establish recreation centers after you are the architect of their past closures and not expect people to remember. Where are the strengthened neighborhood centers versus a niche that the YMCA, Planet Fitness, Brick Bodies and others have already established? The mayor's plan would seem to conform to the YMCA/Planet Fitness type of recreation center at the expense of neighborhoods. Ostensibly, these new centers are designed to attract the 10,000 new people that the mayor believes will be flocking to Baltimore. You can't say it's going to cost $136 million and then not have a plan to pay for your new idea.

Some folks have obviously never worked in large, complex organizations at the federal, state, or local government or private sector levels. Otherwise, they would have knowledge and experience with strategic planning, evaluation, coordination and communication. It would appear that this is woefully absent in the mayor's office. First, the council president, whether one likes it or not, is the second ranking person in City Hall. He's owed full inclusion and consultation, even if there is a difference of opinion between the City Council and Mayor Rawlings-Blake. Second, it does not bode well for attracting and leveraging financial resources if the leadership structures are in disarray. What businesses would want to engage in chaos? Finally, it serves no good end to provide information to a select few in advance of a full "vetting" of the nature, operation, funding and expected means of maintenance of the recreation centers. It is clear that not all hands are on deck. From the mayor's rhetoric over the past few days, it doesn't appear that it will occur in the near future. As the second in command for this city, the council president deserves the access, collaboration and consultation in accord with his position — no ifs, ands or buts.

It appears that Mayor Rawlings-Blake needs some remedial education on management techniques. I would hope that her actions reflect a simple education deficit and not an intentional and petty slight or "message" to the City Council or Mr. Young. It is simply counterproductive and unnecessary. Baltimore needs coordinated leadership. We have no more time for City Hall intrigue.

James C. Morant, Baltimore

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