The following is the opinion of Sen. Mary Washington, candidate for Mayor of Baltimore; it is not an endorsement by the AFRO. We invite other candidates for Baltimore Mayor to submit OP-eds of 700 words or less. The AFRO reserves the right to edit them as we see fit.
By Mary Washington
Violence has many faces in our city. Vigils on street corners, evidence markers on sidewalks, dilapidated row homes crumbling onto sidewalks and our children wearing winter coats in their classrooms.
We are watching our neighborhoods buckle under decades of violence and trauma, and increasingly, we recognize that this is not an issue that can be resolved by law enforcement alone. Our city is in a severe public health emergency, one that demands the same focus and tenacity that we dedicate to getting violent offenders off our streets as to restoring our neighborhoods and healing our people. And we must push further still. Baltimoreans no longer have the patience for the same old approaches, repackaged over and over, without real results. We no longer have patience for dysfunctional leadership that fails to effectively execute its own plans. We must insist on action, and not just talk about crime. We must push beyond the finger pointing and the speechmaking that solves nothing.
That’s why I put forward a public safety proposal open for consideration to the people of Baltimore, and why I will hold a listening tour of six community meetings across the city for feedback. This proposal blends transparency in policing while aggressively tackling the deeply entrenched root causes of crime, like drug addiction and inequitable school funding. It melds law enforcement accountability with wrap-around re-entry services for returning citizens. And at its core, it balances each vital component of the public safety ecosystem: policing, government, education, public health, and the community — recognizing that all these factors must be addressed if we are to succeed.
This is the kind of model that Commissioner Harrison implemented in New Orleans, a city that just closed out 2019 with its lowest homicide rate in nearly 50 years, and the kind of model we should be supporting with every means possible here in Baltimore. We hope that the Commissioner can repeat the success he had in New Orleans, and as your Mayor, I intend to give the police department and its commissioner every tool and support necessary to ensure that success. There needs to be steady leadership from City Hall that can facilitate the building of functional alliances not only across city agencies, but with community members, nonprofits, and other community-based institutions. This sort of convening represents a new, bold direction for Baltimore and reflects the kind of mayor that I will be: a leader dedicated to having the people of Baltimore be at the center of solving our own problems.
These meetings demonstrate both the urgent need for community input and my continued commitment as a public official to heavily engage the community before writing concrete policy. We will welcome your feedback, listen to your stories and hear your ideas. We’ll take your questions seriously and read every single suggestion presented to us, and at the conclusion of these meetings, by Monday, March 2, we will submit a common vision — the People’s Vision for Public Safety and Restoring Peace in Baltimore. This will be a plan specifically crafted to elevate the voices of those who truly know their communities best — you.
Baltimore needs a mayor who recognizes and values the leadership in our communities. Baltimore needs a mayor who isn’t interested in passing down policies from on high or created in back rooms by special interests. Strong leadership is having the authority and the ability to bring diverse voices to the table and facilitate the bold, inclusive change that we desperately need.
In the words of Dorothy Height, “If you worry about who is going to get credit, you don’t get much work done.”
Baltimore, let’s do this together.
Sen. Mary Washington is Baltimore’s State Senator for the 43rd District and candidate for Mayor of Baltimore. To leave feedback on her public safety proposal, you can go to mayormarywashington.com.