I was recently honored to be elected chair of the Greater Baltimore Committee, a role I accept with enthusiasm and optimism. Baltimore should be — and can be — the greatest, safest city in America. As the 33rd chair of the GBC, I will be active, vocal and aggressive in working to make that happen.
Since 1955, the GBC has made Baltimore a better place to live and work. The GBC has always been very special to me. I always understood and appreciated the dual meanings of “greater” Baltimore: the greater Baltimore region and working to make the Baltimore region greater.
For me to take on this role is humbling and extraordinary. I am proud to be a Baltimore home boy: born, raised and schooled here, the son of a Baltimore Police sergeant and grandson of Italian immigrants who chose to make Baltimore their home. I have always loved our city.
Like many in our city, I could have gone elsewhere to work, but I chose to stay in Baltimore and make it my home and to work at the outstanding law firm of Piper & Marbury, now DLA Piper. Why? Because Baltimore is a great city and the Baltimore region has many attributes that no other area can match.
Among them are great medical and academic institutions that bookend our city. In the east there is Johns Hopkins — the leading medical institution in the world and a world class university — and in the west, the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Regions across the country are envious of these two powerhouses.
But we also have a downtown that sits on a jewel of a harbor, with a vibrant, growing Harbor East; the best baseball and football stadium complexes in the country; the best arts university in the country (MICA); and outstanding public museums, among many other rich resources.
What other city can claim as its own a history of such disparate citizens and personalities as journalist H.L. Mencken; abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; civil rights leader Clarence M. Mitchell Jr.; jazz musician Eubie Blake; Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps; actress Julie Bowen; publisher Steve Geppi; and filmmakers Barry Levinson and John Waters? None.
All of us should strive to be more positive and optimistic about Baltimore because we have much to be proud of. I recall Mayor William Donald Schaefer’s campaign in the 1980s: “Baltimore is best, Baltimore’s best.” He willed Baltimore to be thought of as a greater city — both by our citizens and by the rest of the country. And it worked.
We need to follow his example today. Mayor Catherine Pugh, like me, worked for Mayor Schaefer and learned from him. She is very much like him in her vision and leadership and her love for Baltimore. She is passionate about our city — as all of us should be.
The real “Greater Baltimore” is within each of us. We can make it happen — not just for business leaders but, more importantly, for the thousands of Baltimoreans who struggle every day.
As GBC chair, I will work on several new initiatives. Of course, violent crime must be reduced, and the perception of the city as a dangerous place must be changed. Progress on this difficult issue has been made, but more must be done. The GBC will continue to work with Mayor Pugh and the community to solve this problem.
The GBC is and always has been about accomplishing big things — from the Charles Center redevelopment to the Inner Harbor and Harborplace to the original Baltimore Convention Center and Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium.
We will continue this tradition by working on two important capital projects. First, we will address the future of the Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown and Baltimore’s version of the Super Bowl. The Preakness belongs in Baltimore. Second, we will tackle an expanded Baltimore Convention Center, the state of Maryland’s largest convention venue.
Tourism, conventions and special events bring significant visitor activity to Baltimore, which helps drive the city, regional and state economies. But Baltimore cannot flourish and stay competitive with peer cities such as Philadelphia, Charlotte and Washington, D.C., without modern facilities. It is time that we invest in these two important economic development venues.
We should all be leaders of, and cheerleaders for, our beloved city of Baltimore and our dynamic region — the economic engine of the state of Maryland. Together we will make a greater Baltimore.
Paul A. Tiburzi, a partner at DLA Piper, is chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee. This op-ed is based on a speech he gave during the GBC’s annual meeting in May. His email is email@example.com.