TGR: Arena Players Mayoral Forum Exposes Candidates’ Reasoning


Photo by Russell Henry

By Doni Glover, Publisher

(BALTIMORE – February 5, 2016) – With several mayoral forums having already taken place and with a long list of forums still to go, all of the candidates have come to paint us a picture of Baltimore, where it’s been, and where they respectively want to see it go.

These forums have given attendees – as well as the respective mayoral camps – the opportunity to feel out the opposition and get a sense of where each is headed.

Pay close enough attention and the keen observer may even start to see patterns and the unveiling of each candidate’s line of reasoning.

Actually, it is a beautiful thing to see the candidates evolve and become more relaxed telling their own truths and how they see the world. I am enjoying these forums, typically with a moderator or small cadre of panelists posing questions in a fair process where everybody gets a turn to speak.

It is really key, however, for the citizenry to show up. On that note, a huge thanks to Rodney Orange and his mother (and my 7th and 8th grade English teacher at William Hugo Lemmel, Jr. High School), Catherine B. Orange. They run Arena Players, the oldest black continually-run theatre house in the country. Theirs is a fascinating history on McCulloh Street involving the likes of the late Sam Wilson (Read more about the Arena Player’s history here).

Kudos, too, to promoter Lou Fields and WOLB 1010 AM’s Larry Young of WOLB. This may have been the liveliest, most pointed one thus far.

I encourage everyone to make it their business to attend as many of these forums as possible. This is our city and it is imperative that we are properly informed on all of the issues. We also have to read on our own and do our own research. We have to ask questions. We have to visit their websites and campaign offices, and we have to look at their track records of service. We must understand their logic and their guiding principles, as well as their commitment to the community.

In short, we have to be well-informed voters and we have to have a sense of history and a basic understanding of how politics work.

It should be noted that beyond the upcoming forums around town, the debates are what I’m really looking forward to seeing. This is where the candidates square off against each other and are typically afforded the opportunity to respond directly to other candidates.

Thus far, it’s been civil. Eventually though, the gloves are going to come off and this might erupt into a serious battle of wills.

Tonight’s assessment: No, I didn’t hear anything to even remotely change my mind. Who is the best person to run Baltimore? Sheila Dixon, of course! But, this is not about me. It’s about the people and what the people see and hear.

I will say this: Baltimoreans know real from phony all day long and twice on Sunday. We know game. We wrote the book. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’d better be real with people because eventually the whole world will see us for who we really are.

We can put on the fresh business attire. We can rehearse the best sound bites and even learn how to charm the camera. Yet, at the end of the day, we have to deliver. And right now, Baltimore needs a mayor who can deliver the goods, who understands business and who understands the citizens’ need to work a decent job. Baltimore also needs an education mayor, a person who truly gets it about our children and how mass incarceration in the US is killing the black family.

You see, some people act like they love little black children who are dealing with a litany of issues, sometimes involving being a crack baby or a lead baby or a Percocet baby. But it is truly a daunting task. Of the candidates in the fold, I don’t think any of them genuinely compare to Sheila with respect to the needs of our children.

I see people with nice sound bites, but I also sense a lack of substance. With Sheila, you can look in her eyes and see her love for the people – black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, African, East European – of Baltimore; All of the people of Baltimore!

It’s plain to see. Having studied the competition (and believe me, there is much to observe), I just don’t see genuine leadership I can trust.

And that’s what this city needs. We don’t need fast talkers who think they can fake their way into our hearts. We don’t need whiners. We don’t need folk who can’t find Penn-North or Sandtown without a GPS or folk who have never been there before last April.

I’ll end by saying that the biggest deficit in these candidates is their knowledge of Baltimore history. They are so lacking.

You see, if they knew about how empowering Baltimore City has been to African Americans since before the Civil War, then they might show a better appreciation for the greatness that abounds in Baltimore and stop giving us fluff. While Henry Parks, the founder of Park Sausages, was noted tonight by his attending granddaughter as being the first black corporation to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Baltimore has a ton of black history that is being lost all the time.

David Warnock, for instance, has no clue about how empowering Baltimore has historically been to people of the darker hue. Blacks had powerful businesses here, including on the waterfront. If Mr. Warnock did have a sense of this history, he would stop trying to shove that “I’m helping the black people” thing down our throats and come to understand that giving a man a fish is different from teaching a man to fish. My point: Help people because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want to be mayor.

If Nick Mosby, the councilman, had a stronger sense of Baltimore history, he might better comprehend Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.” We’ve always had our own in this town.

You see, African Americans are not of a tradition of begging. We are of a tradition of building strong institutions. So, when I hear people speak without a full grasp of how much we have already done right here in this city, I shake my head in disbelief.

In Nick’s district, I wonder if he has any knowledge of the black funeral business and the countless people it once employed. I believe that when we truly know our history, including people like Rev. Harvey Johnson, then we have a more powerful disposition in life.

When we know our true abilities, then we build. But, we cannot build if all we see in ourselves are inadequacies such that we have to change who we really are just to fit in. That’s not what grown people do, especially grown black folks who are suppose to know better.

Carl Stokes: Now, there’s a guy whose math is fuzzy. Seventeen years ago (he said it was 15 years), he got his clock cleaned by one Martin O’Malley. Although O’Malley lost his recent presidential bid by a landslide, back in 1999, he was the man. Councilman Stokes, for some odd reason, doesn’t connect the dots in that he was a central piece of the puzzle where the black vote was divided. For the record, O’Malley got more votes than both men together.

Most important to this unapologetically black view of Baltimore politics, Stokes and Lawrence Bell together presented a dilemma for black Baltimore after 12 years of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a black man. Neither one would get out of the race.

Today, we are faced with a similar scenario. Cathy Pugh from Philadelphia who has lost two citywide races in Baltimore is once again a candidate for mayor; a big challenge for her is that the Maryland General Assembly is in session and my concern is that the 40th district gets shortchanged again in Annapolis. Mosby. Stokes.

We don’t need this confusion. We’ve already had the first riot in 47 years with some of the same people noted above who were either directly or indirectly responsible.

Bottom line: It’s going to get interesting from here. With 12 weeks to go, I expect things are about to get incredibly real, but I also think the opposition has a lot to learn about Black History, too. So, again, I think Sheila clearly has the best sense of our history and is, I think, best equipped to serve the people of this fine city.

I did miss hearing and seeing Josh Harris, Patrick Gutierrez and Elizabeth Embry tonight. I also missed the antics of young Calvin Young. And, it would have also been nice to finally see DeRay Mckesson. Tonight’s panel only featured five candidates.