By Barry Rascovar
Jan. 22, 2018 — Baltimore, oh Baltimore! How low can your situation go?
–A killing crime wave that won’t stop. Corrupt cops. A fired police commissioner.
–Losing its bid for the Amazon-East headquarters.
–Frigid school buildings caused by bursting pipes.
–Homes going without water for weeks due to crumbling infrastructure.
–Historic monuments horribly defaced by far-left vigilantes.
–A governor who practices “benign neglect” toward the city — and cuts $21 million from the state’s aid-recovery programs.
–An embarrassing screw-up at a downtown city hospital that leaves a mentally ill woman wandering the frigid streets in a hospital gown.
–An NFL team that blows its playoff hopes not once but twice in its final games.
–A baseball team about to lose its most popular and best player, with no signs of a recovery plan.
Yes, it’s been a terribly rough patch for Mayor Catherine Pugh in her first year. Can it get worse? Possibly. Then again, perhaps we’ve hit the low point:
–A new police commissioner, not an outsider but a 30-year veteran of the force. He comes with high praise and a plan to target the worst criminal offenders that he implemented immediately.
–A downtown residential building boom as the strong demand from millennials to live and work in the heart of the city persists in spite of its problems.
–The progress by Kevin Plank at Port Covington to create a city within a city — with or without an Amazon to embellish this already ambitious project.
–An aggressive city delegation in Annapolis that isn’t likely to allow the Hogan administration to treat Baltimore City as harshly as the governor indicated in his new budget.
The mayor herself seems to be breaking out of her lethargy — another good sign. Baltimore needs strong, proactive leadership, especially at this moment in its history.
What’s missing is a true partner in the governor’s office in Annapolis.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget gives no sign of recognizing a role for the state in turning around a dreadful situation in the state’s most important metropolis.
Instead, the Republican governor has used the city’s woes as a political punching bag to boost his reelection drive.
There’s no extra money to transform Baltimore’s schools, its social welfare safety net, its rehabilitation programs or its under-staffed law-enforcement efforts.
Instead, Hogan has played to his right-of-center audience, hectoring city officials in mean-spirited jabs in which he condemns incompetence, bureaucracy, the mayor and always Democrats in charge.
That’s fine from a reelection standpoint. But on the ground, where people’s lives and futures are at stake, Hogan’s jabs merely deepen the problem and do little to reverse the tide.
Politics vs. Governance
It will be up to state legislative leaders to come up with creative ways to persuade the governor to become more than a sideline critic.
In an election year, Democratic lawmaker may also try to turn the tables on Republican Hogan — embarrassing him politically while directing more aid to make Baltimore safer and less of an albatross around the state’s neck.
At some point, Hogan has to recognize that Baltimore’s nationally publicized plight is damaging Maryland’s economic development efforts.
So long as Baltimore remains poor, under-educated and lacking in jobs for its residents, the city will drag down the rest of the state — not only financially but also in terms of the state’s reputation.
It’s a dicey dilemma for Hogan, who seems to relish his rants against what’s going wrong in Baltimore because it brings cheers from his followers in the suburbs and rural communities. Yet in his role as governor, Hogan is not burnishing his legacy by ignoring the steep decline of Maryland’s major city.