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Speaking only for myself, I'm appalled. The shame of damage to Baltimore, its reputation and future extends beyond wreckage strewn streets and injured people in blue. In the 35 years that I've been involved in media, communications consulting and college teaching, I have never seen a more lethargic response than that by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan ("Mondawmin Mall, businesses around city damaged in rioting," April 28).

When disaster strikes — and Monday's rioting was a disaster — people need to know that their leaders will act quickly on their behalf. That did not happen here. Instead of leadership that reflects the situational awareness to act, the mayor and governor were for hours nowhere to be seen. In a press conference hours after attacks on police and property began, when asked where she'd been, the mayor's typically blase response was that she had things to do behind the scenes.

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She also said that she was "at a loss for words."

Note to the mayor: When there's an emergency, people need energetic and involved leaders. They urgently need your face, voice, words and action. That was apparent by late afternoon. Governor Hogan indicated that he was unable to reach the mayor and so didn't call on the National Guard until after she called and asked him for help.

Note to the governor: You're the boss in Maryland. Rather than be satisfied watching Baltimore descend in chaos while you defer to courtesy of waiting on an "official" request, you must have the guts to do what's needed to protect the people of your state. It was clear by 5 p.m. that Baltimore police and residents and businesses in affected neighborhoods needed National Guard assistance.

This is a sad case of spineless, inept leadership by both the mayor and governor. It's impossible to know how much damage might have been avoided by earlier action, but it's clear that earlier action was a crying need. Burned buildings, slashed fire hoses and the broken bones of first responders speak volumes.

The combined inaction of the mayor and governor is a reminder that politicians may hold positions of leadership, but position alone doesn't make you a true leader. Ms. Rawlings-Blake and Mr. Hogan failed in a crucial test of their willingness to act on behalf of the people they were elected to lead. Their lack of urgency and tentative action proved that they're more comfortable being politicians than leaders.

That's a shame, and the excuse-making we will hear in coming days will do nothing to erase the damage done. Any big business want to move to Maryland or Baltimore in particular today? No? I didn't think so.

John Castagna

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