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Baltimore’s next mayor must be a leader of action

Fifty-six years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “Dream” speech during the August 1963 March on Washington, looking with hope toward a future of greater equality and civil rights. If he were here today leading a March on Baltimore, what would he say to infuse us with hope and optimism amid the despair in our beloved city?

Could he even have an impact on today’s Baltimore? As we desperately look for a way to climb up from the city’s rock bottom, Baltimore doesn’t just need someone who can inspire with words of hope and promise, Baltimore needs a leader who can deliver with action. We want a leader who can inspire us, gain our trust and produce bold solutions to truly convince us that Baltimore can have a better tomorrow. We desire a leader who can be a role model for our youth, and someone who understands our challenges in depth but hasn’t played a part in bringing us to the current nadir.

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We need more than an eloquent speaker; we need a new mayor.

Today’s largely white-flight segregated Baltimore City is not what King envisioned as a future of parity for America. Nor are our underfunded schools and feeble high school graduation stats; relentlessly high rates of murder, crime and opioid use; crumbling infrastructure and poor public transportation; high property taxes and streets filled with shells that were once homes; and insufficient job training and quality jobs. While these are pressing issues needing to be tackled, our greatest immediate priority is finding a mayoral candidate who can inspire us to dare to dream of “One Baltimore,” someone who can bring diverse neighborhoods and residents together to resolve the crises we face.

Is there such a person who would be crazy enough to want to be mayor of Baltimore? Call me an idealist, an optimist, a dreamer. I was raised in this city, and I’m not ready to wave the white flag yet, even as I look around and see the results of lead paint poisoning, corruption and an understaffed police force. As we mourn a Harborplace that was once Baltimore’s symbol of hope and now depicts our hopelessness, most city residents won’t dare to dream of a better future.

We can’t turn back the clock, but I believe we can start to turn this city around in 2020 with the election of a new mayor who can restore hope and faith to those who struggle to believe there is a future here for their children and grandchildren. We need a mayor who can create a better city for everyone — One Baltimore. The divides in the city are devastating, and every single resident deserves equal opportunities, regardless of what street they live on or which neighborhood they call home.

Who can make that happen?

Any official elected in Baltimore City for more than 10 years is part of the problem, not the solution. It’s time for a new face and fresh ideas in City Hall’s top seat. Sheila Dixon had her chance and failed us. Nick Mosby should stay where he is; voters didn’t want him the last time he attempted a mayoral campaign. Let’s remember that Catherine Pugh only became mayor in 2016 and left in 2019; she can’t be blamed for the city’s deterioration. And it’s time for Jack Young to retire. Despite having a new title, Jack Young is not new to being in a position of great power in Baltimore City. Since becoming City Council president in 2009, Mr. Young has been in a position of power city-wide, with a large staff and budget at his disposal, receiving $50,000 more annually than City Council members for his responsibility to drive legislation through City Hall. He had almost 10 years in which he could have fixed Baltimore’s problems. He didn’t.

We need someone who understands Baltimore’s problems first-hand but is enough of an outsider to shake things up on the political front. We need a mayor who can restore our hope and our city’s glory. We have the potential to be a united and equal-opportunity city. Let’s dare to dream of living in a safer Baltimore, with better schools, quality jobs, and a healthy environment.

In 2019, let’s dare to dream of One Baltimore. In 2020, let’s elect a mayor who will make that happen.

Chevy Weiss (chevy.maryland@gmail.com) is a political consultant who has strategized campaigns around the U.S. at all levels of government; she previously taught political science for the Baltimore City Community College.

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