BBJ: Former Baltimore mayors bemoan city having ‘more will than wallet’

By Melody Simmons 
Sept. 21, 2020

Four former mayors offered some advice to Baltimore’s next leader who will take the helm in three months: Focus on reducing homicides and violent crime and remain nimble in the ongoing fiscal fallout from Covid-19.

“This recession is going to be worse than the last one,” said Sheila Dixon, mayor from January 2007 to February 2010, during an online forum held Sept. 21 by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Kurt L. Schmoke, mayor from 1987 through 1999 and now president of the University of Baltimore, added: “The one thing I found was there was more will than wallet. There were a lot of things we wanted to do, but we were constrained on resources — that’s the biggest challenge Baltimore continues to face.”

The event focused on reflections of former mayors Dixon, Schmoke, Martin O’Malley and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as the city prepares to change leadership.

Dixon, a Democrat who lost a bid to regain the mayor’s office in the June primary race, said the next mayor should focus more on listening to city residents and hiring a talented staff at City Hall. Rawlings-Blake said being ego-centric was not beneficial for mayoral success. O’Malley said a stronger link between the business community and City Hall was needed to help fix some of the city’s problems.

Schmoke said the next administration should “focus on the needs of the people and not the structure of government.” Dixon agreed, saying changes to the Board of Estimates could make it more political. Rawlings-Blake agreed.

“It’s very short-sighted to do things like that now,” she added. “Baltimore, like other cities, is in a fight for its life. Legislation like that is akin to jumping into a ring and trying to fight with one arm tied behind your back.

O’Malley left City Hall to serve two terms as governor and then ran for president in 2016. He focused his advice on the urgent need to quell the city’s crime problem.

“Our city is a great city — we have amenities, great locations and people, a blue-collar grit and a can-do attitude, and yet we allow ourselves to tolerate a high level of violent crime,” he said. “We have to break out of that.”

To read the complete story, visit the Baltimore Business Journal website.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

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