A Contrast of Leadership in Baltimore (Sour Grapes Edition)
The following is a discussion about policies in the Baltimore City Council. Let’s note at the outset that I ran for a seat on the Baltimore City Council and was not elected. So, if that discounts my opinion as sour grapes, so be it.
However, I do think it’s important for some clarity as to the reasons why the current actions being undertaken by the Council are potentially harmful to the citizens they represent. It’s also important to point out areas where the new Mayor has decided to reach out to be an advocate for her City. Perhaps it is still the honeymoon period for Ms. Pugh, but, if the past week has been any indication, she appears far more savvy and in-touch with the people of Baltimore than her Council. In just the last week, Baltimore has had an interesting contrast in leadership between a Council advocating only for their far-left supporters and a Mayor working for everyone in the City.
As their first act, the elected members of Baltimore’s City Council decided to issue a condemnation of the President-Elect of the United States. Let’s be clear that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, at times, has caused division and probably a few hurt feelings. Especially after a grueling, and at times nasty, Presidential election fight, it’s completely understandable that nerves are raw. Mr. Trump has even agreed with this assessment and, for his part, has done his best to put the fights of the election behind him (your mileage may vary on how effective he has been at doing this). Mr. Trump has even gone so far as to candidly admit that there were times that he regretted saying some of the things that he had said on the campaign trail.
So, with that backdrop, it may be fair to see an all-Democrat City Council may have trouble adjusting to the President-Elect. As it’s been noted, and as they’d no-doubt agree, the newly-constituted Council, with its eight new members, is a more liberal/progressive Council than the one it replaced. It’s also important to note there hasn’t been a Republican on the City Council since 1942 (yes, yes, sour grapes).
While I, personally, don’t think that Mr. Trump is nearly the boogeyman that progressives and the Council make him out to be, let’s imagine for a moment that he was. Let’s assume that the Council’s condemnation of Mr. Trump pointed out all of his glaring failings and noted his unfitness for office. What a heroic undertaking by the Council! Until we turn to the people they represent.
We live in a City where hundreds of people are gunned down every year, vacant houses are collapsing, poverty is spiking, police aren’t getting the resources they need, pensions are forcing the City onto the brink of insolvency, and businesses are leaving. We live in a City where thousands depend on government assistance and programs to make ends meet and provide for their families. We rely on federal funding for major infrastructure and issues concerning the Port. Billions of federal dollars have buoyed Baltimore for decades, and tens-of-billions more will be needed going forward.
Let’s assume, again, for the purpose of argument, that our enlightened City Council is absolutely correct about Mr. Trump. What then would this unstable President-Elect do when he hears about the condemnation by a unanimous City Council? Certainly the thousands of people who depend on the benevolence of social programs and the business owners who depend on federal cooperation would not have such a rosy view as our progressive Council. A President Trump, as described by the Council, would have wide-ranging powers, especially given the number of consent decrees the City is under, to crush any recovery in our City. The fact that the City Council would undertake such a partisan and potentially harmful action as their first decision as a Council speaks to their poor judgment.
There are two silver linings to this story for Baltimore’s concerned residents. The first is the obvious reality that Mr. Trump probably won’t concern himself with being vindictive to the small-time politicians and activists of the Baltimore City Council. He has a nation to run and we certainly hope that he takes the high road (if he’s even heard about the petulance of our Council).
The more important silver lining is the excellent, bipartisan, message coming from Baltimore’s newly elected Democratic Mayor, former State Senator, Catherine Pugh. On several occasions since her election, the Mayor has appeared with Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan at events geared towards enriching the partnership between the City and the State. This relationship, which reached its nadir with former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore Riots, is critical for Baltimore’s success and future projects. Both Mayor Pugh and the Governor should be commended for their effort to repair the rift.
If the City Council’s decision to condemn Donald Trump was a symbolic act of foolishness, then Mayor Pugh’s decision to approach Mr. Trump over the weekend at the Army-Navy football game and hand him a letter about Baltimore’s needs is an act of political courage. Certainly Ms. Pugh, a Democrat, is more likely to agree with her City Council in not supporting Mr. Trump. However, rather than merely setting fire to any relationship, Ms. Pugh undertook to hold her tongue, swallow her discomfort, and reach out as a representative of the City. This is both political savvy and also true advocacy for Baltimore. It also has the added bonus of perhaps smoothing over any of the feathers that may have been ruffled by the City Council’s whining.
In just the past week, we’ve had a clear lesson on what leadership means in politics. On the one hand, you have arrogance and on the other you have humility. We all understand that, sometimes, it’s cathartic to “tell off” someone who you disagree with. It certainly feels good in the moment. However, the rules are different when over 600,000 people are impacted by your moment of anger.
Hopefully our new Council will be less prone to temper tantrums and take a lesson from our Mayor: working together for your constituents will benefit everyone in the long run.