Gov. Larry Hogan proclaimed on Fox News this week that Rep. Elijah Cummings could do more to help Baltimore. He didn’t elaborate, so we asked his staff what exactly he meant by that. After all, we’re sure no one would be more curious than Mr. Cummings to know if there’s something more he could be doing to help the city he’s served his entire adult life, and he’d surely be grateful to hear about it from a suburban real estate developer.
Mr. Hogan would like more federal prosecutors working on gun cases through the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore. (Note: The U.S. Attorney for Maryland is a fellow named Robert K. Hur, not Elijah Cummings. The attorney general is William Barr.)
He wishes members of the federal delegation would come to Annapolis to support the Hogan administration’s “initiatives to take repeat violent offenders off the streets and bring transparency and accountability to our justice system.”
He wants the federal government to support the creation of community engagement centers in Opportunity Zones.
He would like the Maryland congressional delegation to support his request that the federal government transfer ownership of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to the state.
And he wants the delegation to support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (President Donald Trump’s re-working of NAFTA), on the grounds that it would help the economy in Baltimore and Maryland generally.
In case you didn’t pick up the pattern, the list doesn’t really have to do with Mr. Cummings specifically. Indeed, the Hogan administration says the governor was really trying to say that the White House and Congress in general could do more to help Baltimore. (The full quote: "I don’t think you can put all the blame of Baltimore City on Elijah Cummings, but I also think he could do a lot more to help us. I think everything we’ve been trying to do at the state level, I’d love to have more help from the White House and from the Congress, frankly, to help the state go in there and help the city. It’s really a city problem, but they can’t do it by themselves.”)
But even at that, their list isn’t terribly impressive. The B-W Parkway? Really? That’s a top-five way the feds could help Baltimore?
Meanwhile, though, we don’t need to think hard to come up with a list of things Governor Hogan specifically could have done and still could do to help Baltimore. Off the top of our heads:
He could have not killed the East-West Red Line light rail project that Baltimore leaders (and, particularly, Mr. Cummings) had spent a decade building local, state and federal support for. He could have not thrown away the $900 million investment the federal government was about to pour into a project that would have created thousands of construction jobs and would have provided key transit links between isolated, segregated inner city neighborhoods and key regional employers. Or he could have at least replaced the Red Line with something more substantial than an over-hyped and under-resourced rejiggering of bus routes.
He could have worked through the logistical obstacles to move forward with the redevelopment of the State Center office complex in Baltimore, rather than backing out of a years-old deal and embroiling the state in lengthy, expensive litigation. Barring that, he could settle the lawsuit and move forward with a new plan for replacing the decrepit office buildings that house thousands of state employees, or at least commit to maintaining the state government’s presence on the site as a catalyst for broader redevelopment.
He could have not tried to de-fund the package of assistance the General Assembly put together for Baltimore in the wake of the Freddie Gray unrest, including millions for neighborhood redevelopment, incentives for teachers to work in under-resourced schools, support to keep libraries open longer and scholarships for students. When he proposed extra aid for rural school systems coping with declining enrollment, he could have done the same for Baltimore. (Legislators were able to at least partially rectify those sleights.) This year, he could spend the money legislators set aside for Baltimore’s YouthWorks summer jobs program, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, East Baltimore redevelopment, the state’s attorney’s office and the police department.
He could stop complaining that the Kirwan Commission education reforms, designed to address the disparities in Maryland’s public education system and ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for the 21st century economy, are too expensive and instead get to work finding a way to pay for them.
We get it, Mr. Hogan loves nothing more than looking above the fray on the national media, and he’s figured out the way to do that is to never take a side but to criticize both. But before he denigrates Mr. Cummings’ efforts to help Baltimore, even in passing, he might want to take a look in a mirror, unless the walls of the glass house he’s living in are sufficiently reflective on their own.