A new vision for our city in the 21st century is sorely lacking from the discourse in the Baltimore City mayor's race.
Sure, lowering property taxes is a good idea, but it is not a game changer — even if it could be done without slashing city services. More than fiscal magic, our city yearns for a leader with a strategy for improving Baltimore's image and economic prospects.
We all realize that Baltimore is not a place that people from other states or countries think of as a prime vacation destination. But we could be, one day soon; we just need a leader who can see the way to that economically and culturally vibrant city we have always been meant to be.
It is not pie-eyed optimism to suggest that one good mayor could spark another period of rising prosperity and esteem for Baltimore. We have seen it happen in the not-too-distant past. Just look at how much of what is nice about our city today we owe to the vision and leadership of the late Mayor
What historical or cultural figure is most prominently associated with Baltimore?
I suspect the answer has something to do with race. So many of the greatest true stories in America's political and literary history take place in Baltimore, but visitors from out of town could probably spend weeks here and never suspect they were treading on hallowed ground. But most of these stories come from African-American history, and so earlier generations were not sufficiently proud of them. And this rich legacy continues to be ignored by city officials today, out of general ignorance or simple shortsightedness.
This is the only suitable explanation for why you will still find on
By contrast, the city does little to promote the man who is arguably its greatest literary, cultural and historical product:
As a city history teacher and proud native, I think Baltimore should be the
However, the problem goes beyond race. It seems that Baltimore is generally unable to celebrate and market its historical legacy, even of our prominent white people. For example, that
This sort of thing must change if we are again to be seen as the vibrant cultural center Baltimore is meant to be. Perhaps the upcoming bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 would be the perfect time to begin to kick this habit of self-deprecating historical amnesia; I hope that some candidate will step up and show us the way.
Perhaps we could begin by replacing that disgraceful Taney monument with one of young Frederick Bailey, disguised as a sailor, clutching his borrowed freeman's papers, heading to the train station to begin his trip to freedom in the North and his future triumphs for all humanity as Douglass. And we desperately need a real monument to Douglass down in Fells Point too; maybe a statue of Bailey as a youngster, tricking neighborhood white kids into helping him learn to read. Douglass' literacy enabled him to convince the train and boat conductors that he was a freeman; it later became the source of his fame and influence, and today literacy is still the key to wealth and personal freedom, even for athletes and rappers. That is why I think that a mere plaque is a grave insult to Douglass' contributions to the world.
To my mind, no one better represents the tenacious, resourceful, and knowledge-loving spirit of Baltimore that we should be known for around the world.