He isn’t Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. But then, Rawlings-Blake, the current mayor of Baltimore, isn’t running for President.
O’Malley, the former Baltimore mayor is, and he’s not profiting from reports about how badly the city is doing. As the Washington Post puts it, “Baltimore’s blight has O’Malley on the defensive.”
The Post provides a useful look at O’Malley’s time as mayor. As you would expect from an ambitious liberal, O’Malley was an activist mayor who directed money to pet projects and neighborhoods. Naturally, there were winners and losers. Not surprisingly, the losers tended to be neighborhoods with a low-skilled and poorly-educated workforce. It was ever thus.
Mayors can’t be expected appreciably to alleviate poverty and unemployment. These phenomena are driven by the ingrained habits of residents, their low educational attainment, and regional/national economic conditions.
Mayors can, to some extent, improve the long term prospects of the poor by improving city schools. But given the influence of teachers’ unions within their party, Democratic mayors are unlikely to make serious educational inroads. According to the Post, Baltimore’s schools remain the worst in the state by most measures.
One thing a mayor can influence is the crime rate. To his credit, O’Malley implemented aggressive policing — a “zero tolerance” arrest policy — which, the Post says, “led to a substantial decline in homicides and other violent crime.”
Unfortunately, this accomplishment won’t cut much ice in Democratic primaries because the high volume of arrests during O’Malley’s tenure alienated poor African-American communities. When that alienation boiled over following the death of Freddie Gray, O’Malley’s slim presidential prospects probably went up in smoke.
O’Malley’s successor, Sheila Dixon, abandoned O’Malley’s “zero tolerance” arrest policy. Her successor, Rawlings-Blake has gone further. When rioting loomed, she “gave those who wish to destroy, space to do that” ( her own words). When police officers were attacked, they were ordered not to fight back. A dozen officers sustained injuries while rioters destroyed buildings and looted stores.
In response to the mayor’s lack of support, coupled with the State’s Attorney’s overcharging of officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death, the Baltimore police has become passive. Arrests are way down and violent crime is way up.
Martin O’Malley isn’t presidential material, but at least he isn’t Stepanie Rawlings-Blake.