Andy Green takes a look at potential contenders for the 2020 Baltimore Mayor's race.
The Rev. Douglas Miles made an astute observation this week amid the continuing limbo at City Hall. The veteran leader of BUILD said faith and civic groups have started to come to the realization that they need to work together to develop a shared vision for Baltimore’s future and not wait around for a mayor or other political leader to provide one. The uncertainty and disruption caused by former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s political downfall amid the Healthy Holly scandal, he said, “forces us to take our eyes off of any political officeholder as a savior of the city.”
He’s onto something there. Baltimore is culturally conditioned to look for its mayor to be a superhero, someone who will solve every problem and direct every important thing that happens here, from urban redevelopment to street festivals. Perhaps it’s a nostalgia hangover from the William Donald Schaefer years (heavy on the recollection of the City Fair and Inner Harbor and “do it now” but scrubbed of memories of heavy population loss and insider-dealing). We keep expecting a savior, as Mr. Miles puts it, whether that was in the form of the best and the brightest luster of Kurt Schmoke, the raw ambition of Martin O’Malley, the moxie of Sheila Dixon, or the family legacy of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
We don’t mean to say that neither she nor any of the other mayors accomplished anything of note. They did. But the advances they made tended to be incremental — say, an improvement in the murder rate from horrific to merely abominable — and were ignored or forgotten from one administration to the next.
We welcome both debates, but we also recognize that we can’t legislate our way to a good mayor, nor can a good mayor by himself or herself fix all of Baltimore’s woes. Important as a mayor has always been to Baltimore’s sense of itself and its possibilities, the willingness of tens of thousands of us to commit to this city matters more.
The energy is already there — in the Ceasefire movement or the parents and students who rallied for more school funding or the land trusts that are starting to pop up in the city — to allow local residents to guide the development of their own communities. We need a mayor who embraces and enhances other people’s ideas to raise up this city, not one who bristles at them. We need a mayor who makes city government a partner to the investments in effort and capital Baltimore needs, not an obstacle to them. We need a mayor who will provide other leaders in and out of government with the opportunity to shine, not fear them as rivals.