Does the current intergovernmental infighting help or hurt the citizens of Baltimore?
While most citizens of Baltimore have been mesmerized by the cat fighting between two of the city’s most prominent elected officials – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Comptroller Joan Pratt – over the rights of who shall control the city’s phone system; another citywide official has joined the fray in questioning the Mayor’s actions.
City Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young recently sent out a mass email calling the Mayor “unscrupulous” in her quest to seek credit for a program she once opposed. In a very detailed letter sent out on Tuesday, Young points to an email sent out from the Office of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, that according to the council president “incorrectly claimed that she alone is responsible for the news that the city’s cable access office will now begin televising hearings of three very important boards”. Young was referring to the policy that now allows for the airing of the Municipal Zoning and Appeals Board hearings, as well as the live hearings of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners and the fiscal arm of the city, the Board of Estimates.
According to public record, the first introduction of the bill to have these hearings televised was in fact proposed by Young in November of 2010, in an effort to increase transparency by allowing for these hearings to be seen by the masses of Baltimore voters – piggybacking on the promise of ‘transparency’ articulated by the incoming Mayor in 2010.
However, the Mayor and the Finance Department representative Thomas Kim, opposed the measure at a city council hearing on the legislation, stating that there was no way they could come up with the proposed $45,000 needed annually to ensure public transparency. This seemed to enrage Young, who at the hearing on the bill – which every council member supported and voted in favor of – called Mr. Kim’s repeated statements of ‘we don’t have it’ ludicrous. “Well certainly the Mayor realizes that she made a promise to the people to become more transparent in her efforts as Mayor right,” asked Young at this hearing, aiming the rhetorical question at Kim and reported on by this Examiner. “She made this statement on many occasions, yet now that we’ve come up with a measure that shall certainly give more Baltimore residents the opportunity to educate themselves on these proceedings and see exactly what goes on in these meetings, you can’t find $45k a year?”
Nonetheless, the council agreed with Young’s quest for transparency and the resolution was passed, though it had to no real teeth based on it not being an ordinance and the council having no real power of authorizing financial expenditures without the consent of the Mayor. However, while Young is pointing the finger at the Mayor for not telling the complete truth, he seems to be guilty of such himself; as this proposal idea was not his alone, in fact it was suggested to him at a community meeting organized by the members of the Independent Movement Political Action Club – days after he was appointed to replace Rawlings-Blake as Council President. In fact, it took Young months to propose the legislation after it was raised at this February meeting of the group inside Eden’s Lounge; and Young never once considered consulting the group or the members who suggested the idea to him.
“It seems as if the Council President has gotten on his high horse as of late, without realizing that rhetoric without real action never helps anyone but the individual trying to get his ego stroked,” says Shaun Louis, Vice-Chariman of IMPAC, who was one of those sixty plus members at the meeting. “The Council President seems to be getting a taste of his own medicine by the city’s commander-in-chief; and honestly we can’t do anything but laugh and realize the chickens have seemed to come home to roost.”
In fact, it’s this kind of rhetoric that Young has relied on when standing up for principled issues that directly affect the citizenry of Baltimore; and while they at first glance seem genuine and sincere, when you check the policy background and passage rate of these stances by the Council President, you realize he has been very ineffective in getting anything done as Council President – which is sad when you realize he is the second most powerful local legislator in Baltimore.
From his opposition to the closures of local rec centers and fire companies, to his ‘People’s Plan for a Better Baltimore’ that went absolutely nowhere; the Council President takes stances that are very good publicity stunts, yet remains ineffective for the citizens he claims to represent.
In fact, one of the most effective policies suggested by Young as Council President, a moratorium on water-bill based foreclosures on people’s homes, was abandoned by Young when the Mayor forced his hand on the measure. His stance was, “I don’t want to stretch myself too thin in the fight’s against the administration,”; however, of all the battles proposed by Young, this one would have possibly been the most effective piece of legislation in terms of helping real people.
His proposed ‘alternative budget’ to the Mayor’s plan earlier this year witnessed a very savvy Rawlings-Blake administration out-politic a seemingly naive Council President – who has served in elected office for the past 17-years. His arrogance as Council President and his ineffective leadership skills led one council member to state in a previous Examiner article that “the Council President needs to realize he is no longer a councilman, and start acting like the leader of this body”.
That same council rep said that Young never once sat down with them to discuss and explain his amendments to the Mayor’s Budget, or even asking them what they may need for their district constituents; highlighting a big difference between he and Rawlings-Blake. In fact, Young’s consistent stances against the administration have yet to materialize into anything of substance, failing on almost every public stance taken against the Mayor and her allies. The only time he has prevailed was when the Mayor tried to backdoor his appointment as Council President, secretly favoring and lobbying for the appointment of freshman Councilman William ‘Bill’ Cole to succeed her – which of course failed.
“This latest attempt by the administration to reject true partnership between the two branches of city government, in an attempt to score cheap media impressions, only furthers the unflattering narrative of an insular and uncooperative administration.” – Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young
Young is absolutely correct to point out the apparent fiscal reversal by the Mayor, who never said she didn’t support the idea of televised hearings; yet, merely stated that if the council president wanted it so bad, he’d have to find the $45k needed to make it a reality. However, when you choose to nitpick and point the finger at others, you need to make sure that you yourself have your bearings in order; for as they say – ‘don’t complain about someone else’s backyard when yours isn’t completely clean.’ As Matthew 7:3 says: ‘Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own’?
Regardless of who takes credit, the citizens of this great city can now watch these three very vital hearings each week/month, on the city’s channel TV25. I would like to personally thank Dana Lee who initially suggested this idea during our meeting in February 2010, which ultimately led to this approval regardless of whichever politician decides to take credit for it! #ValueMyVote
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