TGR: Political Analysis of GBBCC Mayoral Forum: Time Will Tell All, Part 2 of 2: Brandon Scott vs. Bob Wallace vs. Shannon Wright

By Doni Glover, Publisher
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(BALTIMORE – September 8, 2020) – When I think of Black mayors who understood political economy in my lifetime, people I actually met and/or interviewed – two names come to mind. Again, political economy is the interrelationship of politics and economics. Put differently, if your Black politicians are not helping empower the Black community grow Black businesses, helping create jobs or bringing development projects to the community – then they are worthless.

DC’s Mayor for Life, Marion Barry, and Atlanta’s Maynard Jackson immediately come to mind. They both helped make new Black millionaires. Mind you, it is not enough to help those who are already successful. I’m talking about creating new Black millionaires.

Frankly, in a majority Black city like Baltimore, that has not been the case. I can only say ‘thank God’ for ancestors like Raymond V. Haysbert, Sr., Robert Lee “Bob” Clay and Attorney Arnold Jolivet for their advocacy efforts over their lifetimes. These men and others fought the good fight to ensure that Black businesses got a piece of the business pie.

Their work was herculean in nature, as they stood up against rich, powerful, white business interests. They kind of remind me of Laurence Fishburne in “Hoodlum”. They insisted that Blacks must eat, too, ‘by any means necessary’. And they were unapologetic about it.

Given the dynamics of Baltimore, once dubbed the home of segregation, it is no secret that institutional racism plagues this city. Greedy white interests have perpetually presented a barrage of obstacles to Black progress.

While North and Charles, for instance, can get re-developed overnight for white people’s interests, North and Bentalou – along with North and Patterson Park … have not seen any development in 50 years.

In another scenario, while Freddie Gray put North and Pennsylvania in the international media spotlight in the spring of 2015, the only re-development in nearby Sandtown has been a renovated Western District Police Station. Now see, journalists from around the world came here and thought the riots created all of these abandominiums and the like – only to find out that these conditions existed long before the Freddie Gray unrest. It is not new!

Nonetheless, anyone seeking to become Mayor of Baltimore must have a working understanding of Black Baltimore as well as white Baltimore. Further, the successful candidate will actually have an outreach effort that targets whites as well as one that will target the Black community.

While I have shared this strategy with candidates in the past, most miss this critical point. The truth is, everybody must eat. What ends up happening, though, is the white interests take precedence leaving an unfed and underdeveloped Black majority riddled with addiction, alcoholism, under-education and unemployment.

In the first column on the Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce Mayoral Forum, I covered Brandon Scott’s segment.

In retrospect, there is one key question he must ultimately answer: Is he willing to use his platform to help empower Black businesses such that some new Black millionaires will be made. And as a Black media owner, I am particularly interested in whether or not he understands the need to support the Black media community. For me, his response about running commercials on Radio One demonstrates he has a lack of understanding about the historical and cultural significance of the Black media in Baltimore.

Let me explain: In my expertise, the Black media corps in Baltimore starts with the Afro American Newspaper, a company that goes back to 1892. Secondly, there is WEAA 88.9 FM, a station built by Black people on a Black campus (Morgan State) in a Black city. Thirdly, there is the Baltimore Times Newspaper. Their history goes back to 1986 with founders Peter and Joy Bramble. Lastly, there are other newer outlets, like the Flywire.com and Bmorenews.com – both nearing 20 years of service. Oh, let us not forget www.DMVDaily.news, founded by Hassan Giordano a.k.a. Mr. Politics.

No media out here speaks to Black issues in Baltimore like these outlets. Sure, we are all inundated with the local mainstream TV stations and the local daily newspaper. However, the aforementioned Black news outlets have carried the ball for the Black community for a long time. Our biggest challenge, if I may, is countering the regular dogma spewed by mainstream outlets who clearly have no interest whatsoever in the likes or dislikes of Black people. That point has been flagrantly reiterated time and time again.

I’d also suggest anyone seeking to become the Mayor of Baltimore to peep this clip of former California Speaker Willie Brown as he addressed the National Newspaper Publishers Association in Portland, Oregon a few years back. His words speak volumes.

You see, Blacks in Baltimore have a long, strong history of success. Despite pitfalls and the presence of politicians like Mayor J. Barry Mahool, the Father of Segregation, we have always emerged with victorious accomplishments. A huge reason for that success is that our ancestors knew how to play their individual roles and they understood teamwork.

Even in my parents’ day, I watched them do business with other Black people all the time. I also watched them support Black politicians. And I even recall where the Black church was an essential part of that broader picture. Better yet, I have learned about how even cops – like Violet Hill Whyte, Baltimore’s first Black police officer – had a role to play for our overall progress.

There was a time when Black unity was vibrant. Yet, decades of struggle have taken their toll on the Black community. Today, it is nothing to hear about a Black politician catching a charge for stealing. It is nothing to hear about a preacher serenading two or three women on the front row. It is almost commonplace to hear about a Black cop being dirty.

The fact of the matter is, we have played a role in our own demise. We must get back on point and we must do it now – especially amidst COVID-19.

Thus, it is our hope that the next Mayor will be mindful of how to lead. The Black community in Baltimore is in need of healing. The white community, in many instances, needs to understand that there must be development for Black people, too. And we all have to learn that there are others in our beloved city, who are neither Black nor white. There are Asians and Latinos, for instance, too. Both have burgeoning populations that must also be engaged.

As noted previously, Baltimore is a 9-to-1 Democratic city. That being the case, clearly Scott has the advantage.

When it comes to the challenge by Republic Shannon Wright, she has the impossible task. Short of her being the sister of Jesus Christ, I’m not seeing any chance whatsoever of a victory for her. She did, however, give us some unique viewpoints and is a reminder to us all that we have put all of our faith in one basket.

Again, though, with so many people against Donald Trump, Republican is simply a dirty word.

As for Bob Wallace, he has less than two months to turn this train around.

In the GBBCC forum, he said that he hired a CEO a year ago to run his company. My point is that if that is so, why are we just hearing about his campaign?

Now, granted, Wallace is an amazing businessman and Baltimore sure could use his expertise. At the same time, being proficient in business and being proficient in the political spectrum are two entirely different skills sets.

I only wished he gave himself more time and had more relationships established with Black power brokers who could have helped him better penetrate the Black community.

Now, Wallace, unlike the other candidates, has a keener understanding of what Willie Brown was stating in the video above. Put differently, there is no way Wallace could be successful in Baltimore in the energy industry without some strong relationships with Black business leaders. So, he does know the value of our Black businesses.

I guess the question that remains for Wallace is if his credibility in the Black community is enough to withstand the political prowess of Brandon Scott’s machine.

When it comes to Wallace’s presentation last week, he said a lot of things that I can appreciate. He spoke about vendors being paid on time and how a better system must be engineered to streamline the process. Put simply, if the City doesn’t pay vendors, the vendors stop working. If these vendors are Black, then it is clearly detrimental to their survival.

Wallace spoke about moving his company from Howard County to Baltimore City after 15 years and how, upon arrival, his employees began to get stuck-up and carjacked. So, he knows first-hand what is hurting our city.

I imagine he also understands some of the things it will take to attract news businesses, including some Fortune 500s. He said it himself, “People are afraid to come to Baltimore.”

Here, this man is hiring 6-figure scientists and engineers, but he cannot protect them in these streets. This tells me that Wallace understands that we have to make people feel comfortable here.

So, if you ask me, a Wallace administration – in order to be successful – will have to revisit this Consent Decree and will have find innovative ways to get a brand new attitude at Central District Police Station. Truth be told, a successful Baltimore Mayor will have to pull the FOP to the table as well as Vanguard, the Black cops group, and have some frank discussions.

There is too much polarization between the cops and the community. Race is going to have to be a valid topic of ongoing discussions. Further, the City must do a better job of vetting racist cops. We don’t need them. There is enough hate and ugliness in this world.

Wallace also spoke about other issues that must be addressed, including the 17,000 abandominiums across the city. And he noted the failing Baltimore City Public School System that he feels should go back under the leadership of the City. I agree with that. He proposes extended school days. I actually agree with that, too. However, one might take that a bit slower because our teachers are already doing more than what they get paid for (Something that is ludicrous considering the Maryland State Lottery established in 1973 and the table gambling and slots ushered in by Gov. Martin O’Malley both promised money for education).

Wallace also touched on addiction, mental health and homelessness. He said that his administration would provide wrap-around services for all people trying to turn their lives around. He discussed trash and rats, as well as the institutional racism that Blacks face across the board.

Mostly, I enjoyed hearing him discuss the need to support Black businesses. That made me most proud. He said that the City must become a better partner with Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs). And he is right.

Wallace stated that the certification process to become a MBE in Baltimore “is ridiculous”. He said that too many City employees “are not business-minded”. I agree. And he said that we have to get back to making homeownership a priority. I also agree with that, too.

So, from a business standpoint, Wallace clearly has mastery of the subject matter. His challenge, as said earlier, is convincing enough voters within a very short window that he, in fact, has the goods.

From appraisal discrimination to investing in human capital to purchasing property in the City of Baltimore to the benefits of the Opportunity Zones, Bob Wallace is a walking encyclopedia. Now, he must parlay that great sense of business into the realm of politics in a city as historically corrupt as Baltimore.

In any event, last week’s GBBCC Forum was awe-inspiring and hella-enlightening. We all got the chance to see these candidates sell themselves.

According to the GBBCC’s Kendrick Tilghman, an organizer of the event, “I think our goals were accomplished,” he said. “Our team a phenomenal job, we had an awesome panel, and the people were engaged for three hours. Our goals were to get some engagement, have it well-attended online, and to grow our membership. Our Facebook and Instagram pages were more engaged than ever before. It was a grand slam!”

GBBCC Chairwoman Debra Keller-Green had positive feedback as well.

“I thought that it was very engaging,” she said, “And it was a great opportunity for our business owners to engage the candidates. It gave the business community an opportunity to meet them and to discuss issues surrounding business. I was glad that members of the GBBCC and the Black business community were able to gain a perspective on the respective candidates and to get a first-hand peek at each of the candidates’ views.”

Keller, who owns and operates Keller Professional Services, Inc., said that not all of her questions were answered.

“A question I still have relates to the Opportunity Zones and how they will benefit Black businesses and the Black community.”

The General Election in Baltimore is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Be sure to vote!

TGR: Political Analysis of GBBCC Mayoral Forum: Time Will Tell All, Part 1: Brandon Scott vs. Bob Wallace vs. Shannon Wright