Baltimore mayoral candidate Otis Rolley came up with a rather curious strategy aimed at deterring gun violence: a dollar tax on each bullet sold in the city.

“This is not a revenue enhancement tool,” Rolley said when he announced the plan. “It’s a `make it difficult to buy bullets in the city’ tool.”

Rolley’s “bullet tax,” is part of a larger crime-fighting strategy proposed by the former city planner, who claims if he is elected mayor he will reduce crime by 20 percent during year one of a Rolley administration.

I’m not sure which is more dubious, a bullet tax or promising to reduce crime in Baltimore by 20 percent in his first year.

Nevertheless, Rolley’s proposed ammunition tax drips with irony as he and the other candidates for mayor scramble for political ammunition as they attempt to take the job currently held by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. And it seems they’ve been handed a few metaphorical (tax free) bullets over the last several weeks.

Of course the 800-pound gorilla is Baltimore’s gargantuan (in relation to other Maryland jurisdictions) property tax, which until very recently the mayor had no answer for.

But, her recently proposed plan to cut the property tax rate for homeowners by 9 percent over a nine-year period – which would work out to about a $50 tax cut the first year for a home valued at $250,000 – was dismissed by her opponents as paltry and unoriginal.

The MSA test cheating scandal unfortunately threatens to obscure some of the great strides Baltimore City Public School students have made over the last few years.

The Baltimore City Fire Department, which has had a horrific record for hiring women and people of color over the last decade, is mired in a test cheating scandal of its own connected to emergency medical services training (EMS).

And this week the Department took the extraordinary step of ending its EMS training in the wake of the cheating scandal.

However, the issue Rolley, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, former councilman Jody Landers, Clerk of the Courts Frank Conaway and others may be focusing more sharply on is the beleaguered Baltimore City Police Department.

A decline in homicides over the last couple of years obviously helps Rawlings-Blake in her bid to remain in office. But, a series of scandals in the Baltimore City Police Department in 2011 has the mayor’s opponents questioning the agency’s leadership and ultimately her leadership of the city.

Last month Officer Daniel Redd was indicted for leading a heroine operation and brazenly conducting some drug deals in the parking lot of the Northwest police district where he worked.

In January, plainclothes Officer William Torbit was shot to death by his own colleagues during a disturbance outside a downtown nightclub.

Last week, Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein announced no one will face charges in Torbit’s death, one of the most tragic chapters in the Department’s history
In February, an expansive extortion scheme connected to a towing operation in effect for years was uncovered and has implicated over 50 officers.

In June, Officer Gahiji Tshamba was convicted of manslaughter after shooting Tyrone Brown, a former Marine a dozen times during an altercation over a woman outside a Mt. Vernon nightclub. A multi-million dollar civil suit has been filed against Tshamba, the Department and city officials.

In 2010, there were 223 homicides in Baltimore, the lowest number in decades. But, unfortunately the number of shootings and murders has been inching up this year.

San Jose, California, which has a population of over 1 million people, had 20 homicides in 2010.

A lot of people will say that’s an unfair comparison to make and maybe demographically it is. However, it’s still stunning to see a city with over a million people has one-tenth the homicides Baltimore has.

But, maybe we need another perspective on our wretchedness. For so long we’ve been used to viewing crime and murder through the lens of a city that used to register around 400 murders annually during the darkest days of the crack implosion of the 1980’s.

That’s the worst view of the city I can think of.


Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor