Richard E. Vatz
This writer was a resident of Baltimore City years and years ago when it was run by serious people, people like William Donald Schaefer and Kurt Schmoke. In the last few years, reasonable people concluded its prospects per the violence, educational opportunities and economic realities were slim to none.
Marilyn Mosby’s loss in the state’s attorney’s primary election, however, gives hope to a number of ingenuous audiences: the hardworking and besieged citizens of Baltimore who would like to live, work and raise families without fear of being threatened, injured or killed in the mean streets of the city; those who do not want the illegal drug culture and trespassing violations, ignored by the current state’s attorney, to be normalized in the city; and those who want an end to the general demonization of police, motivated irrationally by the unacceptable behavior of a few rogue cops.
To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, the city should pay any price, bear any burden, to save the city from the crises of crime, failing education and poverty.
Offense and defense
The answers, somewhat oversimplified, to these significant problems lie in city offense (headed by the mayor and his administration and backed by city leadership, teachers and clergy) and city defense (the state’s attorney’s office and the police).
As the Democratic nominee, Mr. Bates will in all likelihood be the state’s attorney. That is the defense. The offense, represented by the mayor, is inert and feckless, personified by a mayor who doesn’t realize that tweaking different areas of supporting youth is not a bad idea, for example, but it is wholly inadequate as it does not change the overall character of city youth.
That is what must be done – changing the character of city youth. And when the character of the city criminal element is influenced by the same dysfunctional family situation day after day after day, year after year after year, and the city ignores its 72-80% fatherless rate, you have a permanently large percentage of bad citizens who will never change en masse.
Bates has said of his primary victory, “I’m truly humbled to have this opportunity. I will work twice as hard. I will work harder than I ever had so that we can have a safer city. It’s not just about my daughter now; it’s about all the children in the city.” He has added that his running was motivated by the hope to ensure city safety for his 6 year-old daughter.
Incentives and disincentives
Disincentivizing one-parent families and incentivizing two-parent families would have a major positive effect and put the city on the offensive to diminish the violence, education miseries and poverty in the city (and it will work elsewhere, as well). Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke agrees and has authorized me to quote him on the cruciality of two-parent homes. It will take some time, but had we begun 10 years ago, we would already be on our way to alleviating these terrible quality of life problems that are devastating Baltimore and other similar cities. How many quality people have left Baltimore?
This is the “Offense” that the city needs, not absent timid leadership. When asked by not particularly aggressive radio media what he will do about crime, squeegee lawbreakers, etc. the mayor provides a predictable word salad, causing this professor of communication to ask consistently, “What did he say?”
Questioned by WBFF, one of the more aggressive media outlets, about lawbreaking squeegee kids, the station reports that Mayor Scott, “when pressed why squeegee kids are not being held accountable for breaking current laws on the books…said the kids aren’t breaking a law: ‘I will say when someone does it, we make arrests, there’s a difference. Squeegeeing itself is not a criminal behavior,’ ” Scott said. “The U.S. Supreme Court says it’s panhandling; it’s protected. Can’t argue with the Supreme Court.’”
Again, the electing of Ivan Bates as state’s attorney is not a bad start, but it deals with only half of the equation needed to save Baltimore. It means more aggressive policing of more serious crimes; it means an enemy of good policing is out of office; and it means a serious prosecutor open to answering good, probing questions without attacking the press with angry, irrelevant ad hominem attacks. In short Mr. Bates appears to not have the insecurities that are Ms. Mosby’s trademark.
What can he do with a good defense, while the offense is being run by the attractive, ethically pure and inert non-entity Scott? What should expectations be?
Back to quoting J.F.K. in a quote applicable to Baltimore: “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”
Baltimore citizens, you have surprised many pundits, including this writer, but now the second half of your work begins.
Time to push Mayor Scott to lessen the criminal element through supporting stable families, and, if he doesn’t, he needs to be voted out of office.
Let us begin: you have by nominating (soon electing) Mr. Bates. The defense is covered; now you need a competent quarterback and surrounding offense.
You have nothing to gain but your quality of life.