Op-Ed: Baltimore Needs a New Way Forward

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By Jessica Solomon

As Baltimore adapts and grapples with structural challenges that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, we are also tasked with choosing our next leader on June 2nd. 

This moment of uncertainty is a call to action for all of us. This is our time to usher in the kind of change that will override generations of status quo politics and move us from recovery and reconstruction to the reimagination of Baltimore. 

We must ask our neighbors, loved ones, and colleagues to imagine a city where the quality of schools, jobs, cultural experiences, food and air we breathe is not dependent on our zip code or affiliations. What kind of leader do we need to enact visions like these?

Baltimore City Council President, Brandon Scott. (Courtesy Photo/brandonforbaltimore.com)

We don’t need political outsiders or insiders; we desperately need a connector. We need a mayor who can restore hope, unite us across zip codes, and make long-lasting change. Structural change in Baltimore requires leadership that is visionary, truly progressive, culturally competent, and ready to go on day one.  

I see these characteristics in mayoral candidate, Brandon Scott. As a community leader, public servant and lifelong resident of Baltimore, he deeply understands the problems and the possibilities we face. As our current City Council President, he is building public trust and infrastructure that is transparent and accountable, amidst internal challenges and a global pandemic. Naysayers that point to Brandon’s age, I must point out that former mayor Martin O’Malley and Baltimore County Executive Johnny O were both elected at 36. Building on Brandon Scott’s momentum is critical. His time is now.  

I am from Baltimore. My grandfather retired from Bethlehem Steel. Many of my loved ones are frontline staff at our major medical institutions. I wear my Western High School class ring with pride. But today, I am a concerned tax-paying resident, creative entrepreneur and leader in the city. I am thinking critically about Baltimore’s children and how their inheritance will be the political decisions we make today. What will we do different?

A few reasons I am endorsing Brandon Scott for mayor include his reframing public safety as a public health issue. As someone who has been directly impacted by gun violence in Baltimore, I know that getting to the root of what plagues the city means going after gun traffickers and making common sense reforms to the gun offender registry. 

Brandon has also embedded equity into long-lasting policy. With the Water Accountability and Equity Act, he’s working to ensure Baltimoreans will receive affordable and equitable water bills. For the first time ever, he expanded recreational centers’ hours to open on Saturdays, and he took the first steps to get money out of politics by establishing the Fair Election Fund. In response to COVID-19, he recently passed the Children and Youth Fund Permanent Fiscal Agent Ordinance to allow the city government to provide emergency funding for food access, digital devices and expanded internet connectivity. 

Some of our historic problems stem from Baltimore’s governing power being  autocratic and in the single person of a mayor. Brandon Scott has shared his plan to give more power to the City Council and to introduce new positions such as a City Manager to handle day-to-day operations and eliminate the nepotism we’ve seen in past administrations. 

And lastly, Brandon Scott is endorsed by trusted organizations that are also committed to moving our city from recovery and reconstruction to the reimagination, including Baltimore Women United, Progressive Maryland, Maryland Working Families, Sunrise Movement Baltimore and many others. 

Momentum is important when it’s time to move forward. It’s time. Brandon Scott will be the mayor with the energy and weight of coalition support, first-hand experience, and commitment to structural change that will undoubtedly set us on the path to the Baltimore that we all deserve. 

Jessica Solomon is a Baltimore based practitioner working at the intersection of arts and culture, equity, and philanthropy.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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