From an historic blizzard, a convicted mayor, taunting robocalls, the 2010 census and a string of fires, the year culminating the first decade of the 2000s was a memorable one in Baltimore.

January brought the political fall of Baltimore’s first Black female mayor Sheila Dixon, who resigned after a two-month trial resulted in her conviction on embezzlement charges. The resignation ushered in City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as Baltimore’s new top leader. She quickly enacted plans to tackle the city’s looming $121 million deficit, proposing spending cuts and tax hikes including a beverage tax that charged 2 cents extra for drinks and a contentious overhaul of the fire and police pension. Both drew censure.

The largest back-to-back snowstorms in Baltimore’s history—shedding over 50 inches of snow in February? blanketed the surrounding area, leaving residents trapped, businesses closed and the city’s emergency crews stumbling.

Federal officials claimed the future was “in our hands” as they conducted the census. In Baltimore City, 68 percent of residents participated, a 5 percent increase from the last count, while 78 percent did in Baltimore County, a 2 percent decrease from 2000. Questions surfaced about City Council President Jack Young’s residency in East Baltimore, and Councilwoman Helen Holton was removed as chair of the Taxation and Finance committee for conducting illegal campaign finance payments. A budget proposal to close local pools and recreation centers waged a war between residents and local government. City officials eventually allocated funds to keep the resorts open and an individual donor stepped in to keep pools operational through summers end.

The Black community suffered losses in the deaths of Elias Dorsey Jr., one of the 12 founders of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity and a longtime Baltimore administrator; John H. Murphy, former president and CEO of the Afro-American Newspapers; and Raymond Haysbert, the pioneering community leader and business giant behind Parks Sausage.

Statewide and some city elections came in autumn. Baltimoreans questioned the effectiveness of state’s attorney veteran Patricia Jessamy despite the city’s recent crime lows and voted for political newcomer Gregg Bernstein to unseat her in the primary. The gubernatorial race fell in Martin O’Malley’s lap, but not before Republican challenger Robert Ehrlich’s camp tried to swindle Democratic voters with controversial robocalls, telling residents to “stay home” and “relax.”

A week before Thanksgiving, a tornado ripped through North Baltimore leaving roughly 19,000 residents without power and dwellers in 16 buildings homeless. The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP elected its first female president since Enolia McMillan after longtime leader Marvin “Doc” Cheatham stepped down. The Baltimore Teacher’s union approved a revised new teacher’s contract that ties compensation to student performance, while Baltimore City Public Schools won accolades for lowering the dropout for Black boys to 4.9 percent. Black-Jewish relations were tested after a 15-year-old Black teenager was allegedly beaten by a Jewish patroller in a Park Heights neighborhood. Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who served Southwest Baltimore for over a quarter century, announced her retirement. And at the end of the year, multiple large fires raged in the city’s Mount Vernon, “The Block” and East Baltimore neighborhoods.


Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO