By Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor
I don’t remember a time quite like this in Baltimore; to paraphrase the great Chinua Achebe, everything is falling apart.
As we continue to reel in the aftermath of the Uprising, which was sparked four years ago this month after the death of Freddie Gray (ruled a homicide) in police custody, the city’s physical and political infrastructures continue to crumble. Since the Uprising, we’ve had the consent decree, five police commissioners, the Gun Trace Task Force, the murder of Det. Sean Suiter and one of those police commissioners, Darryl De Sousa, headed to federal prison for tax crimes.
The latest brick in the city’s towering wall of shame is a burgeoning ethics scandal seemingly drowning the mayoral reign of Catherine Pugh, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the mayor’s chair (currently filled by City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young).
And despite the public assertions of some members of Pugh’s staff that the mayor intends to return to her post, Pugh’s path to a second term seems dubious at best; impossible is more like it. I don’t know if the mayor broke any laws (she and her supporters say she didn’t), but there are powerful people in this state who are trying to charge her criminally.
Let’s not get it twisted: Mayor Pugh got messed up in the game because Mayor Pugh got messed up in the game. But, is she the first politician in Mobtown to play?
No disrespect to the memory of William Donald Schaefer. He was arguably the most effective mayor in Baltimore’s history and I’m not accusing him of criminality and I have no evidence he ever broke any laws; but, it seems implausible that Schaeffer during a protean political career as a member of the Baltimore City Council, city council president, mayor of Baltimore, governor of Maryland and Maryland comptroller never had to directly engage quid pro quo in a statewide political apparatus rife with it.
We can debate the inequity of Baltimore’s political machinations (and we should) to exhaustion. But, the more pressing question for us as a city is how do we move forward?
A couple of days ago I heard the editorial of Dan Joerres, president and general manager of WBAL TV, and his words actually stopped me in my tracks.
“In the early 2000s billboards around town had the single word “believe” in bold white letters on a black background. Rather than a statement, today’s version would probably ask the question, “believe in what?”” said Joerres.
I don’t know Joerres and as we say in West Baltimore, “I don’t mean no harm,” but for him to invoke the amorphous slogan crafted by then Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the same man who gave us the so-called zero tolerance policing policy is borderline diabolical.
“Our situation may call for a real life bat signal, not calling for any one superhero, but many to rescue our town,” Joerres added. “We are calling on all young minds, fresh perspectives, with the aptitude, the desire and the moral compass to lead…new faces of fearlessness willing to develop plans to rid our streets of crime with both strength and compassion.”
Then Joerres ended his soliloquy with a cute little bow. “It’s time to believe again,” he said. Again, I don’t mean no harm but, my ears translate “it’s time to believe again,” to “let’s make Baltimore great again.”
So, here’s the thing: there are hundreds of young (and older), talented, brilliant, fearless, dedicated daughters and sons of this city, who literally risk their lives everyday in an effort to “rescue our town.” I actually wrote a book partly dedicated to them and their heroics. So, what we need to do instead of looking for mysterious superheros to come and save the day, we need to uplift, invest in and support the myriad superheros already on the ground doing the grimy work of keeping this city from being torn asunder.
However, I suspect there is one universal truth for all of us who love our city–we’re pretty much out of time. And saving our city demands manifestly more than the unearthing of a feckless slogan.