Thursday, January 18, 2007

We Didn't Quite Make History, But It Happened Anyway

Well, we made history today. Sheila Dixon was sworn in as Baltimore’s first female Mayor.

Scratch that – we didn’t actually play any role in it. Dixon took the job over from former Mayor Martin O’Malley, who left for the governorship (what, he can’t multitask?). We the Citizens of the Great City of Baltimore never actually voted for Dixon, but that doesn’t make her any less the Mayor – First Female or Otherwise. Just ask anyone who tried to drive down Saratoga or Lexington this afternoon: an inaugural ceremony for someone who ascends to an office as a non-elected replacement shuts down streets just as thoroughly as one for someone who was voted in.

Similarly, a non-voted-in ascendant also has all the other powers Mayors enjoy. She will remain ultimately responsible for City Services. She will make important decisions on development and land-use. She will set the agenda for this town of our’s.

The League has criticized Dixon in the past for ethics issues because, quite frankly, she is corrupt. But, just as frankly, we want to note that that doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be a bad Mayor. Dixon has indicated she’ll follow in O’Malley’s footsteps. She’s kept quite a few of his people on staff and even borrowed the new Governor’s most recent rhetorical obsession of “One Maryland” (Dixon’s inaugural speech was titled "One People -- One Baltimore”). If you think O’Malley did a good job running this place, you’re likely to think Dixon is up to par as well.

But most close observers with a progressive tilt saw a number of shortcomings with O’Malley. On a couple of these, Dixon offers break with the past. For example, she does not embrace the unforgiving, Get-Tough-On-Crime approach to our law-breakers that O’Malley promulgated. She won’t take the Orwellian cameras off our corners (even though the blinking one keeps up this Leaguer some nights), but we may see the emphasis shift to treatment instead of incarceration for drug addicts. On development, Dixon will likely continue the strong investment into the Harbor and central business district (she kept M. Jay Brodie on with the Baltimore Development Corp.) but she has also promised just as strong a push for revitalizing residential neighborhoods. She mentioned Park Heights.

Keep in mind another factor that will strongly influence Dixon’s actions: she must keep her job in a September primary in which she’ll face some tough and qualified challengers. This must inform much of her thinking and actions as Mayor.

Baltimore’s First Female Mayor is likely to be the Second O’Malley Mayor – but let’s hope she breaks with her predecessor on some of his shortcomings.

from The League: Reassembled


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take issue with your characterization of Dixon as "corrupt." Just last week the independent ethics board cleared Dixon of all wrongdoing.

I, for one, was very impressed with Dixon's inaugural speech. Not only did she seem down to earth and demonstrate a deep understanding of the community - she also seems to be right on policy. I think she's going to surprise a lot of people, be a very effective mayor and win election in a walk this September.

1/19/2007 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Carolyn in Baltimore said...

The 'corrupt' problem is more than perception. I hope she can rise above it but she will have to be squeaky clean. She has done some pretty lame things as a councilwoman and she will also have to rise above 'pettiness'.
There are some other great potential candidates so hopefully the competition will make her try governing as a priority.

1/19/2007 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So how about an update on who wants to be Mayor?

1/23/2007 10:53:00 AM  

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