By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
When Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott took his oath of office in December he was immediately confronted with dual crises: the city’s towering murder rate and a global pandemic that had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
On March 18, at the 100 day mark of his administration Scott, Baltimore’s youngest mayor in decades gave his assessment of the city he leads during his inaugural State of the City address.
“Every morning I bring you to City Hall with me and when I leave the office at night your issues remain at the top of my mind,” said Scott during a virtual livestream from the Waxter Center in Mt. Vernon. “Throughout the day I often ask myself, have I done everything I can to uplift Baltimore? Have I made Baltimore safer? Have my colleagues and I put in the necessary work to bring new opportunities to our city? As I stand before you tonight 100 days into my administration I can honestly say that the answer is yes,” Scott said analyzing his job performance. “But, like a true son of Baltimore I’m not satisfied. Bringing real change to Baltimore will be a difficult journey. But, in these first 100 days I am proud to say that we are moving in the right direction,” he added.
Early in his address Scott alluded to the litany of political scandals and corruption that is part of Baltimore’s recent past.
“Just like the start of any new relationship establishing trust is key. This is especially true when trust has been broken over and over again,” Scott said. “Given the public’s skepticism and disappointment towards City Hall it was critical that I work to regain your faith and prove that local government can operate in your best interest.”
Regarding perhaps the two biggest metrics in the minds of many Baltimore residents, COVID-19 deaths and the homicide rate, the empirical evidence is somewhat dubious just 100 days into the Scott administration. As of March 19, the city has experienced 57 homicides, which is slightly lower than this time last year (62 murders by March 17, 2020). And there have been 922 deaths attributed to COVID-19, a lower number than the 1,047 deaths from COVID in Washington, D.C. But, during his State of the City address Scott spoke to what he believes is a more forward thinking and effective approach to city governance under his leadership.
“In order to restore your faith in city government we need to deliver effective, reliable and equitable services to our residents. In order to do that we must first restructure city government to bring it into the 21st century,” Scott said. “That is why I established our first city administrator and brought in Chris Shorter to serve in that role…(in) building the right team…I selected the best talent I could find. The team is mixed with great home grown talent and fresh national perspectives,” Scott added. “These individuals not only believe in my vision for a better Baltimore, they believe in you. They believe in your potential and your ambitions.”
Scott also pointed to several innovations established during his first 100 days. Perhaps the most critical new policy is a response to the city’s burgeoning population of people struggling with mental health issues and the city agencies charged with providing sometimes lifesaving services for them.
“As the home to world class health institutions such as Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Medical System, we must ensure that we are delivering premier clinical care for our residents experiencing behavioral health or substance abuse crises,” Scott said. “Many of our 911 calls should receive a response from a clinician not a police officer. I’m excited to announce that we are on the cusp of implementing a cutting edge 911 diversion pilot program with our partners….it will ensure that we are sending the most appropriate resources when our neighbors call for assistance,” he added.
As he closed, Scott touched on themes that he emphasized throughout his mayoral campaign and during his swearing in ceremony.
“Baltimore should be proud of all that we have accomplished in such a short time, but we know we have much hard ahead. We must remain steadfast, honest and true to our mission,” Scott said.
“Although I am committed to bettering the city for all of its residents I recognize that I can’t do it alone. When I was first sworn in as mayor of Baltimore I called on each and every one of you to get to work. Tonight I call on you again…Together we will build a Baltimore that works for everyone.”