It’s a difficult time in Baltimore. A mayor stepping down. A transportation department director resigning. At least five top aides to the former mayor terminated. The list of our city’s troubles goes on and on.
Lost in all this is what’s really being done to change the never ending, embarrassing pattern of ineffective management of city government.
One potentially positive step came in last Monday’s City Council meeting. A package of “governmental reform” legislation was introduced (“Baltimore City Council members seek charter reforms to allow removal of a mayor amid investigations into Catherine Pugh,” April 29). Most significant is a proposed change in the structure of city government to allow for the hiring of a city administrator. This individual would run the day by day administration of Baltimore as a chief operating officer.
Perhaps this finally recognizes that not just officials must change, but how things are run must change as well. Most politicians who become mayor (here and elsewhere) come from the legislative side. As former council people or state legislators, they have little or no experience in actually running large organizations. Many I have known around the country will privately tell you they are surprised to find out how difficult the job is once they are elected mayor.
Few private sector businesses with thousands of employees and customers run without both a chief executive officer and chief operating officer. Why do we think Baltimore, with 600,000 people and thousands of employees, can effectively govern without a highly skilled manager? Other large cities have city managers. Why not us?
Its time to focus on delivering basic city services. City residents have a right to safe neighborhoods, quality education for their children, well maintained roads and thriving neighborhoods.
In this context, the proposal for a city administrator who works in partnership with a mayor who has a clear vision of a resurgent, vital Baltimore, deserves serious consideration.
It is only by changing the established culture and clearly prioritizing our resources that the Baltimore we all desire will emerge from this turbulent period as the great city it has the potential to be.
Jay Newman, Baltimore
The writer is the past president/general manager of CBS Television, Baltimore.