BBJ: Greater Baltimore Committee: City needs a mayor who can ‘measure up’

By Donald C. Fry
May 26, 2020

Through June 2, Baltimore residents will cast their ballots in the Primary Election for Mayor, City Council President, City Council seats and Comptroller.

With Baltimore’s “strong mayor” form of government, a lot of eyes are focused on the race for the city’s top executive seat. The next mayor needs to be a transformative leader as he/she will have significant influence on the future direction of the city.

Baltimore has had more than its share of disappointment among its elected officials in recent years. It is imperative that Baltimore elect a mayor who can measure up and provide leadership and direction to the city to address the many complex issues currently facing it.

As a public service, the Greater Baltimore Committee launched an election education series in April called “In Their Words,” which provides the viewpoints of candidates for Mayor and City Council president on a number of major issues, such as crime, transportation and leadership.

The GBC does not endorse or provide financial support for any candidates for public office. But it does believe it has a role to help educate voters about the candidates and encourage city residents to get involved and vote.

On the critical question of leadership, the GBC asked the candidates for mayor: “Baltimore is at a crossroads and is in need of strong, ethical leadership. Why are you the best candidate to lead the city into a new decade and chapter?”

A sampling of the responses from the leading Democratic candidates is illuminating and provides voters with a snapshot of the diversity of thinking among candidates on this compelling issue.

  • Sheila Dixon: Dixon said, “As former Mayor, I have a track record of accomplishments and a vision and detailed plan for Baltimore’s future. The mayor’s number one job is to make the City safer for everyone.” Dixon also said, “I plan to take my experience as well as my new ideas to City Hall to lead Baltimore through this complicated time, and to build systems that will help to build the city up for years to come.”
  • Mary Miller: Miller said that after she was nominated to the U.S. Treasury Department by President Obama, she “went through two rigorous U.S. Senate Confirmation hearings” and was confirmed “unanimously by both political parties each time.” She also noted that she was “vetted by U.S. intelligence agencies and received the highest level of security clearance.”
  • Council President Brandon Scott: “Baltimore needs a mayor who will honor the office and who does not seek the office for his own gain, and who is not wedded to the status quo.” He also said that he has released the past five years of his tax returns and since taking office as Council President, he has “demonstrated a commitment to ethics reform legislation.” He also said, “Under my leadership, this Council is moving to provide the Board of Ethics the resources it needs to more effectively police the City’s ethics laws.”
  • T.J. Smith: Smith remarked, “I am not a politician. I am a career public servant. I’ve lived and worked an honest and ethical life. This is personal for me. When politicians have chosen to cheat the residents of Baltimore, they cheated all of us.” He also said, “I swore to protect and serve and uphold the constitution and that is [what] I have done.”
  • Thiru Vignarajah: Vignarajah commented, “As a former federal prosecutor, city prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General of Maryland, and now litigation partner at DLA Piper, I have held myself and been held by my colleagues and vocation to the highest standards of ethics, professionalism, and performance.” He also said, “I am also the only candidate who has seen how exceptional institutions are run and managed — from the U.S. Justice Department to DLA Piper to the Harvard Law Review…”
  • Mayor Jack Young: Young said, “I can’t think of anyone better for this job than someone who’s spent his whole life working to make our great City a home to clean and healthy communities with equitable neighborhood development.” He also said, “I have a proven track record of steady, progressive leadership and being a change agent to improve the lives of people here, and added, “That includes… bringing new levels of transparency to government.”

The outcome of the June 2 primary election will have a profound effect on the city for years to come.

Elections matter and have consequences. It is critical that voters become informed and exercise their right to vote.

It is time for voters to take the lead, get involved and elect the mayoral candidate who can ensure Baltimore navigates the crossroads with the highest ethical standards.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Read more in the Baltimore Business Journal.

See more 2020 Baltimore City Election coverage here.