Michael Cryor expounds on OneBaltimore. (Photo by Mark Dennis)
In the wake of the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake named Michael Cryor, a well-respected civic leader, to lead the OneBaltimore effort.
Rawlings-Blake announced the formation of OneBaltimore, a public-private partnership focusing on improving education,employment, minority and women-owned business opportunities, and affordable housing, among other things. In tapping Cryor to lead the initiative, Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference, “As soon as we launched the OneBaltimore initiative, Michael’s name was at the top of my list as the right choice to lead this effort, and his name was at the top of the list of many, many others, too.
“I know that he has the understanding and experience in our city, and the vision for what needs to be done both now and in the long-term, to lead the transformative change that OneBaltimore can create.”
Cryor, with a long history of civic and political involvement in Baltimore including co-chairing Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Believe campaign, said that he would first focus on increasing the number of jobs available to high-school student by 50 percent through the city’s Youth Works program.
The program is for young people aged 14-21, and the city has provided funds for about 4,500 positions, Cryor said. The problem is that close to 8,000 people have registered for the program, which begins on June 25 and pays a minimum of $8.25 an hour for 25-hours a week of work. The city is looking for private donations to cover the gap.
The jobs range from working in an office to working outside. “In many cases it will be work outside; gardening, cleaning up, or what have you,” said Cryor. “When I was young man I worked in the shipyards but I learning many things like getting up when I didn’t want to, following orders, and other things that make you a productive member of society.”
Cryor hopes to not just focus on the short term issue of summer jobs, but also long range solutions. “Right now, we have a moment to make some rather substantial improvements not just in services but in the ways we conceive solutions to problems, many of which are long term and systemic,” Cryor said. “In addition, we have the immediate need of providing summer jobs.”
Cryor is also staffing the OneBaltimore organization and figuring out where it fits in with the other services the city offers. “I don’t want to be duplicating services other organizations already provide. Right now I need to get a feel for what other organizations are doing,” Cryor said. “I’m not eager to run out and commit to a lot of things I can’t fulfill, nor do I want to sit in a room and answer to 50 or 60 people every week.”
The goal of the OneBaltimore program, Cryor said, is to prove Baltimore is more than the images of rioting and fires much of America witnessed over the past few weeks. “We hope to restore some confidence in the city of Baltimore,” Cryor said.
“We recognize there are some things to address but we remain a viable city. We have to pull together, we have to deliver on the things we say, and admit there are something we need to improve upon as community.”