Advertisement

Rawlings-Blake v. Dixon, a mayoral showdown

In a recent Dan Rodricks' column, he offered three categories of Baltimoreans' views on Sheila Dixon's run for mayor. We suggest a subdivision of the "Bring Her Back" category: citizens who are not Dixon loyalists and are disappointed by her ethical lapses, but consider her petty personal avarice outweighed by her greater public virtues.

Let us compare her to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake:

Advertisement

On personnel judgment. Under Ms. Dixon, we had Fred Bealefeld as police commissioner and Andrés Alonso as public schools CEO, both well respected leaders praised for the gains they made. Under Ms. Rawlings-Blake, we had Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, until he was fired this month and replaced by Kevin Davis, and Schools CEO Gregory Thornton, whose leadership has been widely questioned. Some speculate that Ms. Rawlings-Blake even forced out Mr. Bealefeld to appoint Mr. Batts, who after almost three years on the job still did not seem to get, or like, Baltimore. Ms. Rawlings-Blake's appointees have wasted far more money than Ms. Dixon ever pocketed (e.g., Mark Grimes, who has drawn a huge salary to fiddle while CitiStat burns). Clear winner: Ms. Dixon.

On public leadership. Ms. Rawlings-Blake's personal shyness and aversion to confrontation hamper her in a vital part of the mayor's job — being a visible and forceful leader. Ms. Dixon, for all her sins, radiated love of Baltimore and belief in it. Does anyone doubt that in the first hours of the recent unrest Ms. Dixon would have been on the street and on TV, leading the effort to calm matters? Or that Ms. Dixon would not have allowed Gov. Larry Hogan to disrespect her and elbow her aside? Ms. Dixon wins by a landslide.

On being a happy warrior. Sheila Dixon radiated joy and confidence in Baltimore and in being its mayor (and not just for the swag). Ms. Rawlings-Blake often looks like she would like to be somewhere else, anywhere else, and that she is in politics only because her family name demanded it. Ms. Dixon wins again.

On budget management. Ms. Rawlings-Blake seems to have improved the long-term budget situation and we are tempted to give her this category. Still, she simultaneously wastes huge amounts on CitiStat, phone systems, traffic cameras, consultants and, let us not forget, the fiasco formerly known as the Grand Prix of Baltimore. You make the call.

On decisiveness. Ms. Rawlings-Blake never met a consultant or study she didn't like. While caution sometimes is a good thing (see "Grand Prix," above), equally often a timely decision is more important than a perfect one. Single-stream recycling and the Charm City Circulator? Ms. Dixon just did it. And does anyone besides us think that, given current events, a Mayor Dixon would take four years to get body cameras on police officers? Winner: Ms. Dixon.

On inspiring residents to be involved in their city. A commonplace example: Under Ms. Dixon, city residents were recruited and enabled to plant trees all over Baltimore; the two of us joined in planting scores, and it increased our attachment to, and pride in, our city. Under Ms. Rawlings-Blake calls for volunteers seem to have been replaced by corporate-sponsored employee events. Trees may get planted either way, but ordinary citizens' feeling of contributing to their city is lost. Advantage: Ms. Dixon.

On admitting fault. The only time Ms. Rawlings-Blake shows any passion is when she fiercely rejects criticism. Ms. Dixon didn't apologize until she planned to run again. Politics is an odd career path for the introverted and thin-skinned, and a deservedly tough one for those who cannot see and acknowledge their errors. Call this one a draw.

On balance. One doesn't have to be a Dixon loyalist to be in the "Bring Her Back" category, especially if the only other viable choices are Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young or candidates with no executive track record. Dan Rodricks has been a major advocate for giving ex-offenders a second chance. Especially if it would be better for Baltimore, shall we give Ms. Dixon one?

Terry Shepard and Debra J. Thomas are Baltimore City residents and taxpayers. They may be reached at shep72@illinoisalumni.org.

Advertisement
Advertisement