The US Conference of Mayors kicked off their 83rd annual meeting this weekend and as part of the proceedings they named their new president for the coming year. The lucky winner was Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
No, seriously. I’m not kidding.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is in San Francisco this weekend to be sworn in as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors — a position she says she’ll use to advocate for fixes to Baltimore’s entrenched problems.
“The systemic issues we have in cities … are problems we cannot solve alone,” she said in an interview. “I intend to use my role as president to advocate for those very specific needs, whether it’s food access, education, poverty or neighborhood investment.”
Rawlings-Blake will become the first African-American woman to hold the influential leadership position, and the first Baltimorean.
Many see her election as a positive development — both for her and the city — but others question whether it will cause her be out of town too much in the aftermath of April’s rioting.
As noted in the local Baltimore coverage, there were some observers who were immediately skeptical regarding this selection. Given all of the recent… activity in Charm City, isn’t she a bit busy? There’s a big trial coming up involving some of her police officers, her State’s Attorney is taking on water like a submarine with a screen door and – depending how this trial goes – her town may be going up in flames again before the summer is out. One might think she’s already got plenty of irons in the fire.
But perhaps even more to the point, the Conference is supposed to be about collecting and sharing good ideas in an effort to help cities improve their conditions and address challenges. Wouldn’t you suppose that somebody with a long, proven track record of success would be a logical choice? Let’s remember that Rawlings-Blake started out on the City Council and only became president of that august body by default when the previous president, Sheila Dixon, became mayor. The two have had their political fortunes tied together quite a bit, because due to Baltimore’s rather odd election laws, the City Council President automatically steps up to become mayor if the current office holder steps down. That’s how Rawlings-Blake originally became mayor when her friend Sheila Dixon resigned after being convicted of embezzlement.
And how about that track record of success? We’ve already talked about the, shall we say… disappointing unemployment and crime rates in Baltimore, not to mention the recent meltdown on the law enforcement and public safety fronts. This is the shining example being put forth to steer the Council of Mayors?
Just a suggestion here, but how about considering the mayor of a city where things are actually working? Take, for example, Mike Rawlings, the second term Mayor of Dallas. It’s a place where employment is up, voters approve of the work being done, and when crime happens it gets stamped out quickly. Yes, I know… he’s another boring old white guy, but he seems to have a fairly good grip on making a major US city function. And besides, he has “Rawlings” in his name too! You won’t even have to change the stationery all that much!
No? You’ll take a pass on Rawlings? Well, okay then. Let me know how that whole Baltimore leadership thing works out for you.