Baltimore before, Baltimore after.
The 2015 uprising exposed the rot beneath the glitter of downtown, and the decay of the institutions we need to support our neighborhoods and our city.
Those institutions — City Hall most of all — have been hollowed out by a decades-long vicious cycle of a shrinking tax base, shrinking responsibility, and lower and lower expectations.
It is time for a great reset, and new possibilities.
It might be hard to imagine this right now. All of us had high hopes that the 2016 election would deliver a path forward after 2015’s unrest. All of us hoped for leadership capable of mobilizing a true majority. When our current mayor took office with just 36% of the vote, we still held out hope. Today, those hopes have been dashed.
But we are the beating heart of this region, and ground zero in the fight for a middle-class future. That future is out of reach in other cities, but it is still possible here. And as a great storyteller once said, there’s no Greater Arbutus Symphony Orchestra. There’s no Dundalk Ravens football team or Columbia Orioles baseball either. These things belong to us.
A great reset is possible, but cheer-leading won’t make it happen. Talking about how much “potential” we have won’t either.
A reset requires that we stop letting our leaders and institutions off the hook, and stop thinking that our challenges, even if created by so many root causes, aren’t City Hall’s responsibility to fix.
April 2015, a new beginning.
What was broken in 2015 was the old way of Baltimore politics.
The old way was an imperfect power-sharing arrangement that we call Smalltimore — a balance of power that arose in the 1980s between the politicians, the nonprofits, the foundations, the businesses, the churches, and the “anchor institutions.”
Smalltimore was based on important promises – that schools would get better, concentrated poverty would decrease, our population would stop shrinking, and that our tax base would grow.
These promises have been broken. April 2015 showed us that, ripping off the veneer of progress, the undeniable reality of neighborhoods in decline upending the story of a city with “potential.”
Nothing has replaced the old way of politics, and today it seems like no one is in charge.
Baltimore Now is a new way – willing to build on our strengths as a city, but unafraid to tell the truth about what must change.
The solution starts with every person who is fighting for this city’s future.
Sure, it’s not hard to blame our leadership for what’s going on in our city right now.
Our leadership has been overwhelmed by the crisis of violence, unable to put forth a real vision.
And we’ve never reconciled with 2015 or it’s causes. No leaders have called for a Freddie Gray Commission, even though leaders in St. Louis showed us a better example – creating the Ferguson Commission after the death of Michael Brown in 2014, sparking city-wide and regional change.
But the leadership failure is just a symptom.
The Accountability Reset.
The 2015 uprising exposed a crisis in our neighborhoods. The four years of zero progress that followed has exposed a crisis of accountability.
Today, we face an unacceptable status quo, yet too many make excuses. They say, “what more do you want the mayor to do?”
It’s the result of a vicious cycle. As Smalltimore failed to deliver on the promises it made decades ago, our challenges persisted and grew. As they grew, they became harder to overcome, and as that happened, our city’s expectations of what’s possible sank lower and lower.
Now, we’re used to a City Hall that does not even control our police, our schools, or our transit.
Now, many call the state of our city a “tragedy” — as if it all just happened, like the weather.
This can’t continue.
Our challenges have many causes. They aren’t all City Hall’s fault. But it has to be City Hall’s responsibility to take them on.
The violence we are experiencing today has many complex causes. It’s not all City Hall’s fault. But has to be City Hall’s responsibility to do something about 300 murders a year.
The Accountability Reset starts with the belief that City Hall is responsible for the city we live in, and needs to be held accountable for what’s going on in our city right now.
The Reset calls for structural reform to guarantee accountability, and it is the mission of Baltimore Now to see it happen.