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Pushing Baltimore Forward

April 30, 2012 6 comments

During my time as the mayor of Baltimore, I have undertaken numerous projects that have transformed Baltimore from an industrial center into a modern city progressing towards the 21st century.  In 1992, we also finished construction on the Camden Yards Baseball Field that is the home of the Baltimore Orioles. I also brought the Ravens Football Franchise to Baltimore in 1996. In addition, we have also completed construction on the M&T Bank Stadium that will house the Baltimore Ravens. Having two major sports franchises and two state of the art facilities in the heart of Baltimore should generate greater wealth for the city (Schmoke 1998, 111). In addition, I have also made sure that the successful development of the Inner Harbor reached out to positively affect the surrounding neighborhoods by introducing new restaurants, businesses, museums shops, and hotels.

Economic and urban redevelopment are essential to rebuilding Baltimore, however it is not possible to rely on development exclusively and, it is clear that the past policies achieved limited success due to their over reliance on redevelopment as a solution to poverty.We need to get at the roots of poverty if we are to help the poorest of Baltimore’s poor.  I believe that the roots causes of poverty stem from deficiencies in education and housing, poor public health policies, and increasing crime. These are not problems that can be solved by building a few fancy hotels or stadiums.  We need to turn this “tale of two cities” (Schmoke 1998, 112) into one story.

The first problem I mentioned is the lack of quality educational programs available not only for children but also for adults. We are long past the point where an individual with a limited education could go out, get a factory job, and provide for their family. Jobs of the new service economy require a higher degree of education that most lower class Baltimoreans lack and face great difficulty acquiring. Simply put, Baltimoreans cannot advance in today’s world without education. That is why in 1994 I launched a new literacy program in Baltimore. The program includes two groups, the Baltimore Literacy Corporation, a government run group, and Baltimore Reads, a local non-profit (Schmoke 1998, 112). The two organizations combined forces to provide quality educational opportunities for both adults and children.

A second problem facing Baltimore is the fact that the poorest Baltimoreans have long been restricted to subpar housing that was not conducive to family living. We therefore decided to have several of these complexes torn down to make way for new row and town houses that would be available to all citizens of Baltimore. We want to also appeal to middle class residents in and outside Baltimore which would not only bring people back into the city but also diversity neighborhoods (Schmoke 1998, 112).

A third problem is the rampant cases of drug addiction and HIV/AIDS in Baltimore. It is estimated that 59,000 Baltimore residents suffer from a severe, deadly drug addiction (Schmoke, 1998, 113). This figure is staggering when one considers that the population of Baltimore city is approximately 675,000 people (Schmoke 1998, 111).Furthermore, research shows that approximately “85% of new HIV…infections are attributed to drug addicts using dirty needles” (Schmoke 1998, 113) in Baltimore. To combat this problem, I started a needle exchange program to halt the growth of HIV cases. The program was at first controversial and still is but it has been successful in reducing the rate of new HIV cases and providing drug addicts with access to drug rehabilitation programs.

What I would like to show is that Baltimore needs innovation more than anything. Much praise has been laded onto two welfare acts passed by President Clinton, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in 1997. These programs are meant to help families get off welfare by finding work. These two programs however have been far from perfect. There is a federal requirement that at least 14,000 welfare recipients must find work by 1999 however Baltimore is projected to produce only 2,800 jobs in that time frame (Schmoke 1997, 78). My administration thus started a “Bridges to Work” program (Schmoke 1997, 79) that would give bus passes to welfare recipients so that they could access the suburbs where job growth is far greater.

Simply put, Baltimore needs more than economic development and federal acts. We need to reach out to the people to determine their needs and solve the real problems that lead to poverty. Such a process however also requires a great deal of innovation from city leadership and the people. I know my programs are not perfect but I believe that we are on the right track and that Baltimore will become a great city in the near future.

The Mayor, 1998

Schmoke, Kurt L. “Ingredients for a Successful City. “Vital Speeches of the Day. 1998, 110-113.

Schmoke, Kurt L. “Welfare Reform: A Work in Progress.” Vital Speeches of the Day. 1997, 78-80.

Levine, Marc V. “A Third World City in the First World: Social Exclusion, Racial Inequality, and Sustainable Development in Baltimore.” The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and the Management of Change. Eds. Mario Polese and Richard Stren.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. 123-155.

Photo: Blackpast.org

http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/schmoke-kurt-l-1949

Photo: Pharmacy Exchange.http://www.exchangesupplies.org/needle_exchange_supplies/never_share_syringe/practice_notes/pharmacy_exchange.html

Reviving Baltimore

April 27, 2012 4 comments

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The 1970s and 1980s have presented greater challenges for the great city of Baltimore. During the period, we witnessed a national decision to turn away from Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and towards what many are now calling Neo Federalism or Reaganomics.

Several city mayors across the nation faced challenges in retaining power and stability following this reduction in federal and state aid. They had no choice but to turn to powerful and wealthy special interest groups for necessary funds to maintain their cities. They instead became puppets of these groups.

Baltimore, however, managed to retain a significant degree of centrality.  Because of this centrality and our having a focused solution to combating poverty, we have been able to fend off these special interest groups who would like to manipulate the government so that they could see their own private interests be met at the expense of the city (Fuchs 272). The efforts of past mayors have ensured that future mayors of Baltimore would be able to enact policy not for the sake of a few but for the sake of all (Krefetz 26).

Despite not having to face as much pressure from special interest groups, there have been other problems that we have encountered under this new economic policy. The main problem is that there has simply not been as much money coming into the city since the cutbacks on state and federal aid. The Great Society and the Nixon years, while not perfect, were useful financially for several reasons.

The second problem has been the ever-growing trend of suburbanization. More and more Baltimoreans have been leaving for Baltimore County in search of jobs and homes. These people are valuable taxpayers who could contribute to the city. The suburbs are becoming more and more independent and we need to find a way of retaining the wealth that is leaving the city. This issue is further compounded by the fact that Baltimore has almost completely lost its industrial economy. The industrial sector provided numerous low entry jobs to the lower class and ensured a healthy taxpayer base for the city (Levine 139). These lower class Baltimoreans do not have the means to support a city on their own. We must therefore change our city to cater to the middle and upper classes that have the means to support a city. Baltimore can no longer get by as an industrial town. We need to look elsewhere.

Baltimore must become a tourist town. I believe that making Baltimore more attractive to suburbanites and people from all over the nation will put money back into the city and help make Baltimore the great city we all know it is. A vibrant tourism industry would lead to job creation, especially for those in the greatest need of employment. In addition, it would bring outside wealth into the city. Obviously, we will continue to spend money on social programs aimed at helping citizens who are in dire need of economic and social assistance. However, it has come to the point where we must help our people help themselves and the best way to achieve this is through economic development.

The Inner Harbor is becoming one of the most envious pieces of real estate in the country and the model for how to revitalize a post-industrial city. We have already completed a massive multimillion-dollar convention center in 1979 that has successfully attracted several major conventions. These conventions in turn have provided numerous jobs for local Baltimoreans and have caused many outsiders to spend within our city. We also completed the Baltimore National Aquarium that had attracted 1.6 million people in its first year and has continued to attract large numbers of people (Levine 129).  I am confident that we will show the world that Baltimore is a wonderful, one of a kind city to “live, work, and play” (Newman 129).

The Mayor, 1985

Levine, Marc V. “A Third World City in the First World: Social Exclusion, Racial Inequality, and Sustainable Development in Baltimore.” The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and the Management of Change. Eds. Mario Polese and Richard Stren. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. 123-155.

Fuchs, Ester R. Mayors and Money: Fiscal Policy Making and City Politics in New York and Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Krefetz, Sharon Perlman. Welfare Policy Making and City Politics.New York: Praeger Publishers, 1976.

Conlan, Timothy. From New Federalism to Devolution: Twenty-Five Years of Intergovernmental Reform. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1998.

Newman, Sandra J. “Is There an Urban Revival and What Does It Mean for Baltimore?” Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, Occasional Paper no.24 (January 2000).

Photo credit: rpertlet http://www.orbitz.com/blog/2010/07/baltimore-vacation-celebrate-the-arts-in-maryland-this-summer/

Photo credit: Maryland State Archives.http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/08conoff/comptroller/former/html/msa01489.html

Where Will We Go: A Mayor’s Reflections on the Past and Future

April 11, 2012 2 comments

As the current mayor of Baltimore and a former politician in the city of Baltimore, I have seen numerous positive changes occur in this city due to the great policy decisions of the men in Washington and the grit and intelligence of the Baltimore people. I did not know how effective President Johnson would be, filling the shoes of former President Kennedy, in solving the problems of our great nation. President Johnson however did not disappoint during his presidency. The Great Society programs created a great balance between all levels of government: federal, local, and state. The federal government has mobilized itself to help all members of the nation by giving us  the needed funds and support to create a greater standard for the American people.

I am especially fond of the great progress we have made with our welfare and racial policies. For example, AFDC in Baltimore has never looked better. Baltimore’s Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program has proven to be one of the finest in the nation due to the hard work of both federal and Baltimore workers, a true success story of the cooperation between the various levels of government. De jure segregation formally ended in Baltimore following the ruling in Brown v Board of Education (1954). The desegregation process took its time, but I can now say with confidence that formal segregation no longer haunts Baltimore. De facto segregation and what many sociologists refer to as “white flight” may have replaced de jure segregation but I think that both will become a relic of the past as well. I am confident that the current policies, if continued with the same fervor, will bring these groups into the new Baltimore. The economic growth of this city has been simply too great to ignore.

Yet this brings me to my reason for writing this. I believe that the Great Society may be ending at an inopportune time. I have been a great supporter of President Johnson’s efforts and it has become clear that his successor, Richard Nixon, will not maintain them in the same manner. It cannot be denied; America has turned its back on the Great Society. I have sensed a growing divide between the federal government on one side and the states and cities on the other. Last year’s Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) report revealed that the relationship of cities, states, and Washington has deteriorated. The states and cities have become critical of the federal government’s increased role in states and cities. I also cannot lie that I have felt a loss of power in my own city.

I have also faced numerous complaints from my citizens claiming that the welfare programs and other social programs are a response to a “black problem.” They believe that these programs are meant to take money earned by working whites and give it to unemployed blacks for the sake of income equality. This is absolutely false! These programs are a means of supporting our less fortunate citizens so that they may receive a boost towards being able to help themselves.The falsehood of this attitude however does not erase the fact that this is a growing attitude. What concerns me the most is that it is a growing attitude in my own democratic party.

Baltimore mayors have enjoyed a great degree of support from the Democratic Party. In fact, the unity of our party is probably the main reason for our success. I am not sure what will happen if we begin to lose members. Blacks are devoutly loyal to our party and compose almost half of the city’s population so it should be possible to still have a large coalition if blacks and some loyal whites stay. It should be noted that many consider the victories of former mayors be the result of their ability to court black voters. Even if we are successful with a smaller constituency, those unhappy with the party’s direction can flee to the suburbs of Baltimore County and elsewhere. Racial tensions have also flared in the city. We experienced a severe series of riots following the assassination of Dr. King. Riots elsewhere in the country like in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts have also made things difficult. I am also concerned with the growing influence of Black Nationalist groups in our neighborhoods.

I believe that the Great Society and my city are both in trouble. These social attitudes need to be addressed as soon as possible if Baltimore is to continue being a great American city.

The Mayor, 1968

Krefetz, Sharon Perlman. Welfare Policy Making and City Politics.New York: Praeger Publishers, 1976.

Fuchs, Ester R. Mayors and Money: Fiscal Policy Making and City Politics in New York and Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Lemann, Nicholas. The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America.New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.

Crenson, Matthew. “Organizational Factors in Citizen Participation.” The Journal of Politics.36.2 (1974): 356-378. 08 April 2012. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2129474?uid=3739960&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=47698865076617

Heclo, Hugh. “The Politics of Welfare Reform.” The New World of Welfare.Eds. Rebecca M. Blank and Ron Haskins. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2001. 169-199.

Conlan, Timothy. From New Federalism to Devolution: Twenty-Five Years of Intergovernmental Reform. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1998.

The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Washington, D.C., 1967. http://www.library.unt.edu/gpo/acir/Reports/information/m-17-1967.pdf

Photo credit: Baltimore News American Gallery.http://archives.ubalt.edu/bsr/images/newsamerican.html

Photo credit: Marylandstater http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_L._J._D’Alesandro_III