What could be a more perfect metaphor for the end of the 2011 campaign for Mayor of Baltimore than the completion of the inaugural running of the Baltimore Grand Prix?

I agree with the analysis of most who argued Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake took a huge risk scheduling an international road race a little more than a week before the Democratic Primary for mayor on September 13.

If there had been some sort of catastrophic or near catastrophic incident during the weekend of the race, the mayor could have taken a huge hit. But, if all went well, then SRB could get a big boost. And by most accounts the race went well; it brought in tens of millions of dollars for a cash-strapped city, which was thrust into a white-hot, international spotlight, giving it world-class bona fides. And the spectacle of the race itself was mesmerizing by all accounts of those who witnessed it.

However, before the super-charged formula one cars even hit the track on Saturday and Sunday, thousands of people attempting to enter Baltimore last Thursday and Friday in their far-less spectacular automobiles – most of them simply trying to get to work – viewed the Baltimore Grand Prix as an epic fail.

Attempting to enter the city on those two days was a study in chaos, confusion and massive frustration. From the standpoint of “traffic control,” the Baltimore Grand Prix was perhaps the most poorly planned event in decades, if not ever.

But, that’s sort of how the 2011 race for mayor has gone.

We’ve seen essentially the entire Democratic machine of Maryland line up behind Mayor Rawlings-Blake. She has raised more money than all her opponents combined. The only poll I’ve seen has SRB garnering more support than all her opponents combined.

The mayor and her supporters want you to keep your eye on the shiny, super-fast sports cars zipping through the streets of Baltimore’s glitzy downtown, while the mayor’s opponents: Sen. Catherine Pugh, Otis Rolley, Jody Landers, Clerk of the Courts Frank Conaway and the others keep pointing out all the road blocks slowing progress along the city’s perimeter.

They keep pointing out pesky details like the city’s ubiquitous property tax rate and widening corruption in the Baltimore City Police Department, the homicide rate inching up this year, and more than 40,000 abandoned properties throughout the city.

But, in recent weeks there have been significant gaffes by Rawlings-Blake that her opponents have attempted to seize upon as September 13th draws near.

Perhaps the main plank of the Rawlings-Blake crime plan – the hiring of 300 new police officers – was emphatically rejected by the city’s police union in a very public way when Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Cherry said hiring the new officers “will put scores of inexperienced officers on the street and will not fix Baltimore’s crime problem.”
And there was an awkward exchange between the mayor and WBAL’s notoriously tenacious lead investigative reporter Jayne Miller over a payroll discrepancy involving Otis Rolley’s wife Charline, who works for City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young. Miller asked Rawlings-Blake if she had a problem with Rolley working for Young and the mayor seemed to dither in response.

Q. Did you have any discussions with anyone in the council president’s office concerning the employment of Charline Rolley?
A. No.

Q. No conversation at all?
A. Just that she was, well, that’s not true, yes, that she was working there.

And the Baltimore Business Journal reported in August that the successful bidder for a Baltimore slots parlor will get as much as $6 million to help pay for the infrastructure at the site near M&T Bank Stadium, further buttressing the assertion by Rawlings-Blake’s opponents that the corporate crowd keeps getting all the breaks in Baltimore.

Rev. Alvin Hathaway of Union Baptist Church on Druid Hill Avenue, a community activist and astute political observer wrote on my Facebook wall recently, “We operate in a city of machine politics. It will be interesting to see if a candidate can beat the machine,” he wrote. “If they do, that successful candidate better work quickly to turn their groundswell into a machine of their own. In a city-wide election, I can only think of a few instances when the machine was beaten,” Hathaway added.

All the cogs of the prodigious Rawlings-Blake machine hope 2011 isn’t one of those instances. But, those who keep bringing up those pesky details – Pugh, Rolley, Landers, et.al – of course want a different outcome on September 13.


Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor