By Talia Richman
Sept. 21, 2020
A panel of Baltimore’s former mayors spoke out against two proposals to restructure local government, both of which have been championed by the Democratic nominee for the city’s top job.
Former mayors Kurt Schmoke, Martin O’Malley, Sheila Dixon and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined the Greater Baltimore Committee Sept. 21 for a virtual panel to discuss what they learned during their tenures.
They were asked about two bills proposed by City Council President Brandon Scott, who is heavily favored to be the city’s next mayor after November’s general election. One would shrink the size of the city’s powerful spending panel and the other would install a city administrator to serve alongside the mayor and oversee day-to-day operations.
“I would not be in favor of either of those two proposals,” said O’Malley, who served as mayor between 1999 and 2007, before leaving for the governor’s mansion. “We should not lightly throw out the strong-mayor system we have.”
Schmoke, now the University of Baltimore president, said he’s been urging mayoral candidates to “please focus on the people in government, not the structure of government.”
“I don’t believe it’s the structure that creates inefficiencies or corruption, it’s the particular individuals you have in government,” he said.
Dixon, who ran against Scott in the Democratic primary, said shrinking the Board of Estimates would make city business drag on and become more politicized.
The four mayors also shared reflections from their tenures and offered advice for the city’s next leader. They preached the importance of hiring good people, of being decisive — and of finding time to exercise.
Schmoke said he realized early on that he could “win elections without the business community, but I can’t govern without the business community.”
“That’s truer now,” he said. “So many of the problems that the city faces have to be dealt with through public-private partnerships.”
They all agreed that tackling violent crime and the homicide rate is paramount.
Still, they said the next mayor is facing challenges they could not have imagined.
“There’s no mayor that will be taking office or is currently taking office that is operating in a world that us on this screen have operated in,” Rawlings-Blake said. “The pandemic has changed everything.”
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Source: Baltimore Sun