Missing the Point – Brandon Scott, Playing Baltimore Voters for Suckers

Thirteen candidates are running to be the Democratic nominee and likely general election winner to be Mayor of Baltimore.

Of the total thirteen, only two of them matter – incumbent Mayor Brandon Scott and former Mayor Sheila Dixon.  Scott has an eight-point lead – 40% to Dixon’s 32% – according to a recent Goucher poll taken after the Key Bridge collapsed.  It’s the kind of high-profile event that may have given Mayor Scott a temporary advantage.  Everyone else is too far behind to catch up.  The primary is May 14, with early voting to begin on May 2, in just eight days.

Why are Scott and Dixon leading when they neither of them has been able to stop and reverse the decline of the City of Baltimore?  Because they’re the best-known candidates in the field and, for various reasons, better-qualified candidates were not interested in running.  I suspect, but can’t be sure for example, that better-qualified White candidates have long since concluded that Baltimore voters are no longer interested in electing someone who isn’t African American.

In any case, superior Black candidates aren’t running either, quite possibly because they refuse or are unable to do what it takes to raise the money they need for a successful campaign.

So, there’s that and the fact that Mayor Scott is surprisingly good at playing the city’s voters for suckers.  His record is unimpressive and unworthy of re-election.  What else can he do but reimagine recent history to his advantage and exaggerate the potential impact of new programs and projects that are meant to sound good, but aren’t?  In support of this point, I have three examples to offer.

Telling the people they’re better off when they’re not – and then taking credit for it.

Mayor Scott has told his constituents that crime is down and the economy is up.  The fact is, violent crime is down all over the country for reasons, which are none of Mayor Scott’s doing.  In any case, a recent poll conducted for the Baltimore Sun, Fox45 TV, and the University of Baltimore indicates that a majority of voters believe that crime in their city continues to be a serious problem.  Whether it’s their imagination or a matter of fact is academic.  The effect on one’s sense of personal safety and the city’s economy is the same.

Who is Mayor Scott kidding?  That fewer residents may be shot to death is good news, of course. Still, it does not signal the end of legitimate resident and business anxiety stemming from ongoing violent and non-violent crime in the neighborhoods where they live and work.  And then there’s the logic of his pitch.  If the Mayor is going to take credit for fewer shootings now, is he willing to take the blame for more violent crime in the recent past and the future if the number of shootings goes back up again?

As for the economy, recent growth in the city’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is a statistical anomaly having to do with national and area economic development for which the Mayor is taking credit even though he had nothing to do with it.  Almost a quarter of the city’s families are making less than the Federal Poverty Level which is only $27,750 for a family of four.  According to the Census Bureau, in 2021 median family income in the city was only $54,124 as compared to a national median family income of $70,784.  Are the many thousands and thousands of Baltimore families that struggle every day to get by any better off today, to any significant extent, as a result of Brandon Scott being their Mayor?  No, they’re not.  At the very least, it’s a question all voters should be thinking long and hard about before they vote for either of the two leading candidates.

The remodeling of the Inner Harbor.

In the Sun/Fox/UB poll cited above, a significant majority, almost 60%, of respondents believe that the Scott-backed plan to revitalize the Inner Harbor is a good idea.  Let’s assume that it’s a methodologically solid poll, fully representative of Baltimore voters.  The problem with its conclusion is that the people conducting the poll didn’t explain one extremely important point about the question.

“What was that?”

I’ll illustrate by posing the poll’s question about the Inner Harbor in two ways…

This first text is taken directly from the poll.  It’s the actual survey question.  Assuming familiarity with the plan for the Inner Harbor…  Do you support or oppose the plans to redevelop Harborplace?”  Of course, a positive response could be for all sorts of reasons.  That said, what’s not to like about a shiny new downtown?

Alternatively, suppose respondents had heard this question…  Do you support or oppose the plans to redevelop Harborplace – given that the city will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars – including tax revenues, borrowing, and grant money – that will not, if the plan is approved, be available for investment in Baltimore neighborhoods most in need of assistance?”  …I know, I’m setting the question up for rejection, but then that doesn’t mean that my question, disregarding the length of it, isn’t the one the survey should have been asking.  In any case, this alternative text might have produced significantly different results.  Don’t be fooled.  The original text is an example of how unintentionally misleading a poll can be – in this case, in support of Mayor Scott’s plan for downtown Baltimore which he’s pushing, not to save the city of Baltimore, but as a favor to certain special interests.

The sale of vacant, dilapidated housing for $1.

Does it sound to voters as if Mayor Scott’s “Fixed Pricing Program” will convert some of the city’s vacant housing into affordable housing for a great many of his constituents?  That’s certainly his objective, getting voters to appreciate his commitment to urban redevelopment without actually doing anything about it.  The plan is idiotic and a world-class example of clueless government.  Here’s why…

*Lower and middle-income families who need affordable housing most can’t afford to renovate these units.

*Investors can buy these properties for $3,000, but to rehab and sell to whom at what prices?

*The Mayor’s plan is too limited to solve anything – just another example of useless city government under the Scott administration.

*The effort is ad hoc and isn’t part of any thoughtful overall plan for citywide redevelopment.

*Most importantly, where exactly are these houses that people can buy? Relative to each other and in terms of the tracks of jobs-productive vacant land that could be created by tearing these vacant houses down to make room for labor-intensive employers?

That last point is, by far, the most important.  That the city needs more and better affordable housing is true, but housing isn’t a starting point for effective, citywide, all-inclusive economic redevelopment.  Jobs are the key, not housing.

Give people jobs.  Give them long-term, higher-paying employment, with benefits and the potential for advancement and they’ll use their income to demand the housing and the commercial services they need.

Sure, selling a couple of hundred units for $1/house sounds good, but what does it really accomplish for the people and neighborhoods most in need of assistance?  Does Mayor Scott think his program will change the course of a huge city with long-term, deep-rooted problems as serious as Baltimore’s?  Of course, he doesn’t.  What he thinks…  What he’s counting on is that voters will buy into his junk government programming and re-elect him.  When a candidate can’t give his constituents solid, visionary reasons to re-elect him, he offers voters, desperate as they are for help, as many meaningless nuggets of hope as he can.  That’s what Brandon Scott has been doing now and throughout his decidedly unimpressive political career.

He tells you that your families are safe, but you know better.

He boasts about how well the city’s economy is doing while you struggle every day to get by and people continue to leave.

He wants you to believe that remodeling the downtown will make your neighborhoods better places for you to live and work, but it won’t.

He keeps throwing government programs against the wall that lack the power to stop and turn around the decline of your city.

He’s neither your friend nor your champion.  He owes you everything, but has given you little or nothing in return.  …So why is it, exactly, that you and your neighbors are voting for Brandon Scott?  Or for Sheila Dixon for that matter?  These candidates are not the saviors of your city.  You are.

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