“Service is the rent we pay for living.”
(BALTIMORE – June 11, 2018) – Running for an elected office will ultimately reveal what a person is made of, whether or not they are centered, and who they actually are. At the end of the day, Baltimore needs people who will serve the public and passionately so.
Campaigns are extremely demanding, and so, let me say that my utmost respect goes out to anybody running for office. Mentally, it is taxing. Financially, it is very demanding. Physically, a campaign will drain one’s last drop of energy. Spiritually, a campaign will test one’s faith.
Psychologically, one could add, a political campaign is the one of the most challenging tasks one might ever undertake.
I don’t care what one’s race is, or what their religion is – a political campaign has had devastating effects on the psyche of both winners and losers. Truth be told, many folks never recover psychologically, especially if they are voted out of office by their constituents. One could liken it unto a pro athlete who at first was a winner and fell in love with the roar of the crowd; however, upon losing, I have seen that same politician shrivel up into a shell of a man or a woman never to return to the game as a player ever again.
Being an elected official is a balancing act, and if one is raising a family or running a business – invariably something is going to give because something or someone is going to get neglected. It is the nature of the game.
This is why I tend to look at a candidate’s calling. Just like a minister, not everyone is called to be an elected official. Yet, just like Hollywood and the associated celebrity status, many people get caught up in the hype and are blinded by the glamour of it all.
However, at the end of the day – even if a candidate wins the seat – it is all about public service.
Today, it seems as if there is more emphasis put on the glitz and the puffed-up ego rather than – in Baltimore’s case – making our city better.
The Freddie Gray Unrest of 2015, one would think, would have put all of our elected officials on-point. Enduring the first riots in 47 years was truly an unnerving experience. In response, we saw black elected officials and notable personalities swarming Penn-North like they lived there. Truth of the matter is, Penn-North is one of the most forsaken parts of Baltimore, and as the CNN cameras left, so did the “wanna-be” leaders.
Further, since Freddie Gray’s untimely death, the only thing new in Sandtown is a renovated Western District Police Station – along with a second homeless shelter, also known as “Tent City.” Tent City is the 20 to 30 tents of homeless people who were initially parked outside of City Hall. They were shipped up to the former Pinderhughes Elementary at 1200 N. Fremont. While Mayor Catherine Pugh told homeless advocates that they were only supposed to be at the location for a couple of months, it has been a year. Every single day, increasingly more homeless people are shipped to this shelter.
The challenge is that Sandtown already has a homeless shelter, along with a whole lot of dope. So, to further concentrate more homeless people – many of whom suffer from opioid abuse – into this area is not a good look, particularly when a hearing was held two years ago and the community adamantly told the Baltimore City Department of Housing that it did not want another homeless shelter here.
This all fell on deaf ears, and today, Sandtown is supersaturated with more addicts than any part of town. To boot, many of these addicts are white and now live in vacant houses across Sandtown, Upton and Harlem Park.
Baltimore City is clearly in need of leaders who love the people, not elected officials who are more in love with themselves. The Freddie Gray Unrest clearly illuminated that the people in Sandtown, Penn-North and East Baltimore don’t matter to the powers that be, even though they are in desperate need of healing.
Yet, to date, no busloads of therapists were dropped off to talk to people in the disaffected parts of West Baltimore. No triage unit was dispersed to Penn-North so that the people most injured could get access to whatever kind of help they needed. To his credit, Delegate Antonio Hayes was one of the only elected officials from Baltimore to lead any kind of relief effort. He pulled Democrats and Republicans together to provide people with food, especially the seniors. With the help of state Senator Joan Carter Conway, Hayes was also able to help the seniors at Penn-North and surrounding areas get their prescriptions filled as the CVS drug store at Penn-North was burned and looted.
Nope! The City of Baltimore’s clearest response to the uprising was putting up some lights at the Inner Harbor – possibly to shift our attention away from the real issues. The United Way collected money on WJZ TV 13 and One Baltimore told the Baltimore City Council that it had collected $21 million. Yet, those of us in Sandtown never saw a dime of that money.
So, in this an election year, our black elected officials especially need to tighten up their games. What we do not need is another cadre of entitled individuals who insist that they love the people of Baltimore when their actions show that they are only concerned about themselves and their loved ones. And, fact of the matter is, some politicians are in above their heads; they thought they wanted to be in office, but they have yet to demonstrate true leadership.
I remember when Bea Gaddy ran for City Council in Baltimore in 1999. No doubt, this “Mother Theresa of Baltimore” had an extensive track record of serving people and unconditionally so. Yet, when she won her City Council seat, I remember our black elected officials at City Hall treating her like crap. Who did this? Mostly all of the people at City Hall, starting with her Eastside brethren. To me, other politicians treated her like she didn’t belong.
I will never, ever forget this dark period in our city’s history.
These elected officials, honestly speaking, were jealous of Bea Gaddy because she had the undying and unconditional support of the community. All she wanted to do was serve the people. At the same time, our black elected officials gave this woman the blues, tried to undermine her, and attempted to sabotage her otherwise altruistic intentions.
The thing is, Bea Gaddy did volumes of work in the community, had nurtured relationships that many elected officials knew nothing about, and could have gone as far as she wanted – all because she had put in the work.
What’s unsettling about this new era of politics is that too many people want the golden ring but have not done the necessary work.
As stated previously, being an elected official is not about self-service. It is about public service. And right now, the last thing we need are celebrity types who are not focused on improving Baltimore. Too many of us come to think that having an elected seat is about our own legacy and not that of the people.
And no one is immune. A women from the Eastern Shore told that even President Barack Obama forgot a little bit. She said, “This was not supposed to be about Obama’s legacy, but our legacy.” Sure, Obama made us all proud, but at the end of the day, East and West Baltimore still look like Syria in the black parts. As a matter of fact, many parts of Black Baltimore look no better than they did after the Riots of ’68.
While Early Voting begins this Thursday, my prayer is that those in office and those seeking office will remember the big picture, that this is about making Baltimore better. And that starts with servant-leaders who comprehend a very basic tenant: Public service is – first and foremost – about taking care of the people and not one’s own family.
Hence, be mindful of people who will lie and steal to secure their position. Be aware of the play on words that many politicians have become crafty at doing. Do your research on a candidate because not every politician is on the up and up. Peep their track record. Talk to people. Research their accomplishments. Don’t believe what they tell you; instead, watch what they do.
The educated voter is not going for the okie doke. The seasoned voter is looking beyond the TV and radio commercials, the mailers, the billboards, and the snappy “one liners”. The smart voter is going to dig deep to find out the truth before they vote someone into office for an entire four years.
I must add this one last piece: Considering the pain that Baltimoreans are in, I do not care what race or religion a candidate is because I have seen too many people that look like me abandon the people. I have also seen non-Blacks who have served the people well.
So, as unapologetically black as I aim to be, I just want people in office who will help make the City of Baltimore better. They need to be intelligent, innovative, effective and very loving of Baltimore. If a candidate does not meet these standards, then vote against them.
In a city where no one takes responsibility for the bad but everyone takes credit for the good, I just want bona fide leaders who will do their damn jobs. We have thirteen schools where no student is proficient in math. We have an army of white addicts fleeing South Baltimore to run to Sandtown for dope. We have a murder rate that continually breaks records and en entire generation of young adults who are proving to be the most underemployed generation this city has ever seen. And we have businesses haul-tailing elsewhere, taxes up the ying yang, and we struggle to attract a Fortune 500 company. In short, we are facing incredible issues with seemingly no alleviation of madness in sight. Further, we have no idea of who we can trust, including still-dirty cops and politicians who have traded their positions either for a piece of sex or a piece of silver. Meanwhile, Baltimore City has students in freezing classrooms despite money promised via slots and a surge of new inmates over at City Jail with ‘no-bails’ thanks to the newly implemented “bail reform”.
And let’s not forget that during the last election in Baltimore, the city had 1,800 voting irregularities compared to 200 in the 23 other Maryland jurisdictions combined.
People have little faith in a system where 9 out of every 10 people in the city are Democrats. Accountability must be more than a buzz-word. Transparency must be more than an illusion. Humility must be obvious. And integrity must be more than an utterance. We need real leaders who actually give a damn and will adamantly do the right thing – no matter who doesn’t like it!