O’Malley launches White House bid amidst poverty in his backyard

Former Governor Martin O’Malley’s presidential announcement Saturday in upscale Federal Hill starkly contrasted the People’s BBQ for the Homeless behind St. Vincent DePaul’s Roman Catholic Church on Front Street that occurred less than two miles away.

The attendees at the events were polar opposites.

O’Malley’s supporters on Saturday rival top Democratic contender Hillary Clinton’s as many work on Baltimore’s version of Wall Street: T. Rowe Price, Legg Mason, and Under Armour. At the People’s BBQ, the homeless just wanted jobs with livable wages in a city and state that O’Malley has taken credit for reforming.

No Malley (1)
Not everyone is happy with the former Governor. (Bryan Renbuam)

After a brief concert, O’Malley, 52, entered the stage with the sleeves rolled up on his crisp, white dress shirt. Flanked by his wife Katie and their four children, he delivered a short speech, calling for economic equality — a theme familiar to those at the homeless BBQ who struggle on a daily basis to find shelter and food.

However, many at the homeless event were frustrated with O’Malley as well as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake because their administrations have done nothing to change the equality picture. Neither of them showed up at the event where more than a hundred turned out for a free meal.

“This is the urgent work calling us forward today: to rebuild the truth of the American Dream for all Americans,” O’Malley told his sea of wealthy supporters in Federal Hill and hundreds of others who came to watch the official announcement. “And to begin right now.”

O’Malley, often credited as the man who helped reform Baltimore, made his announcement only a few blocks away from the city’s most poverty stricken areas that only a few weeks ago resulted in riots following the death of Freddie Gray. He briefly mentioned Gray’s death, saying the city’s unrest was about more than race or police brutality but about “the scourge of hopelessness” in the nation’s cities.

“There is something to be learned from that night, and there is something to be offered to our country fyrom those flames,” he said, which set off a small group of protesters who blew whistles and shouted, “black lives matter.”

Six Officers Charged in Freddie Gray's DeathAs O’Malley touched on his theme of an unfair economic distribution of wealth one protester yelled: “You did that! It was you!”

O’Malley’s decrision to officially declare his candidacy steals at least for one day from the populist thunder generated by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who will have plenty of ammunition to attack the former Baltimore mayor – including the fact the man (with his well-to-do supporters bankrolling his presidential bid) who left Maryland in a financial mess certainly doesn’t represent the common man struggling to find work.

Should O’Malley manage to upset Clinton — he  provides much fodder for nine GOP opponents who certainly will point to O’Malley’s former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown’s botched campaign to become the next governor. When Gov. Larry Hogan soundly defeated Brown in a historic Republican landslide — many analysts saw this as an indictment on O’Malley’s failed democratic policies and leadership.

150429162838-baltimore-children-780x439Nevertheless, O’Malley continued to hammer away on the elusive American Dream by reciting excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.

“Our nation was founded on two-self evident truths … That all of us are created equal. And that we are endowed by our creator with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; With these words the American dream began,” O’Malley said.

But he acknowledged that dream seems unattainable to many.

After stressing contributions made by Americans of every race, gender, class, sexual orientation, O’Malley lambasted current economic policies, which he deems unfair and indirectly facilitated by Wall Street.

He took a swipe at Clinton, by calling for  the reinstatement of Glass-Stegall and advocated increased prosecution of dishonest investment bankers.

O’Malley also lauded himself as crime fighter, champion of the poor, and promised to restore middle class prosperity – another strange choice of words considering Baltimore is on target to reach a record-breaking number of homicides this year and wealth disparity has not improved.

He failed to mention that both the city and state he collectively led for 15 years possess rampant inequality.

Nor did the crowd seem concerned.

150429163725-baltimore-median-income-780x439However, when the rally ended, protesters who for the most part had been kept at bay were no longer silent.

“He is not concerned with the needs of people, only advancing his career,” said Baltimore native Andrew Fair, 30, who held a sign reading: NO’ MALLEY.

Fair said he was not interested in partisan politics and had voted for both Democrats and Republicans.

Others briefly jeered anti-O’Malley protesters before returning about their business.

The newly minted presidential candidate has never attended the BBQ homeless event since it began three years ago  – an event that Sanders may have jumped at a chance to attend if it was in his state. Mayor Rawlings-Blake has been personally invited since 2012 and never made an appearance – although council members have showed up in the past.

In a park behind the church, adjacent to Supermax, more than a hundred men, women, and children patiently waited in line for hot meals and most just hated politicians for broken promises.

Shorty takes a break from grilling to pose for a photo at the city's homeless BBQ. (Bryan Renbaum)
Shorty takes a break from grilling to pose for a photo at the city’s homeless BBQ. (Bryan Renbaum)

Amidst despair and hopelessness, music blasted and grills eschewed smoke.

The cookout was hosted by social justice advocate Bonnie Lane — a formerly homeless woman who now spends most of her time working on websites and helping those less fortunate.

“I used to sleep on a park bench,” [nearby] said Lane who credits her determination and help from others in allowing her to rise above those circumstances.

She also has an Associates Degree in Journalism & Public Relations from North Michigan College.

Lane’s most experienced cook, “Shorty,” 56, an Illinois native, was undoubtedly the foremost celebrity in attendance.

Sporting an American flag bandana, flipping burgers and hotdogs, Shorty offered his assessment of problems affecting Baltimore.

“The city needs to start highlighting the good as opposed to the bad,” said Shorty, who complained the media tends to focus on acts of violence rather than kindness demonstrated at events such at these.

Shorty also said the media has a tendency to “instill fear of black people.”

No longer homeless, Shorty dedicates much of this time helping those who share his former disposition.

Raymund Garrett, 35,  of Highlandtown, also volunteered saying he felt it was his responsibility to help the less fortunate.

Jean Lee, 57, said he has been homeless for little over a month after  his public assistance expired. Lee said homelessness could be eradicated if the city decided to refurbish thousands of abandoned homes throughout Baltimore.

Lee’s friend, Disco, 46, concurs but said more businesses are needed to provide employment for those living in poverty.

Both expressed frustration at their inability to secure loans or build credit.

Meanwhile, O’Malley has his work cut out for him — especially in his own backyard.