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OPINION

Brandon Scott: The Biggest Hurdle in Combating Baltimore’s Problems
Brian Vaeth   I  Candidate for Governor

Now that murders have exceeded the benchmark number of 300 for the year, or the amount when it seems to really become of concern to officials in the City of Baltimore, for the third consecutive year now, Baltimore City elected officials are trying to deflect blame for their lack to properly address the problem in a very irresponsible and dangerous way. In the aftermath of multiple violent attacks on people committed by groups of teenagers in various locations throughout the City, the media focus has shifted from it being just a local story to a national one. With that shift in focus comes the grandstanding by elected officials that even pushes the bounds of political finger pointing that their own party dares not to cross because of the absurdity it may demonstrate. Enter one of the biggest clowns in the circus that is City Hall, Councilman Brandon Scott.

In an absolutely ignorant interview with WBAL radio, Councilman Scott stepped off the cliff on the wrong foot by essentially blaming the police for not handling the problem by suggesting that they are not the only solution to it. This demonstrates a lack of confidence in the Baltimore Police, in my opinion, because Baltimore Police continually reach out to citizens for help in solving crime and they always respond. As far as I can see, Baltimore residents are very responsive to request for help from the community and others will see it too. That is if the ridiculous notion that law abiding people in the City are blamed. It would never stand. I have attended standing room only meetings between the police and the community, so any attack on them has to be rejected outright.
This is what makes Councilman Scott’s statements in that interview, so ridiculous. In a spectacular display of obfuscating from placing direct blame on the responsible party to answer for the rise in violence, he blames the blameless by somehow suggesting that it is a state of Maryland problem. Is he saying the violence occurring in the City is being perpetrated by people who don’t live in the City? How is it a Maryland problem if Marylanders don’t come into the City because the level of violence has gotten so out of hand? He recognizes that it is an economic issue, that is actually a reflection of decades of poor leadership, so he goes completely off the rails.

“With some people perhaps not wanting to come into the city because of potential crime, the path to a better Baltimore needs to be led by all Marylanders. The entire state of Maryland has to realize that [the state’s] success depends on Baltimore’s success. This is our city if you live in the state of Maryland, and we all have to invest and figure out ways to make Baltimore better and stronger”, Councilman Scott said in that interview.
What more are Maryland residents supposed to do? Those same residents are shouldering the burden of supplementing the City’s annual budget appropriation from the state in order to pay for the increasing costs of providing police services in the City, despite doing it with a 14% smaller force than the Baltimore Police Department sustained in the past. The City wants to control the Baltimore Police Department, but it is a state agency and it seems all the General Assembly does is throw money at them without providing the real oversight that is necessary. This means that not only are Maryland taxpayers footing the bill, they lose money that could pay for government services in their own counties that has to otherwise pay for the unexpected additional money they need due to their fiscal irresponsibility every year.

I was a City firefighter for 13 years and I know the games the City plays because the Police Department and Fire Department are members of the same retirement system. When police, firefighters, and EMS personnel are deemed to be disabled from the performance of their duties by City medical staff, their only resort is to apply for disability pension benefits that they have to fight for and are routinely denied of. When members are killed in the Line of Duty, the widows also pay a high price in being denied of rightful benefits that they deserve. Along with that, they have to contend with the loss of healthcare benefits to both active and retired members and diminished retirement benefits overall. In many cases both departments operate with less support in not being given the proper tools needed to do their jobs, but the City has funds to put computers in vehicles with imaging capability that is used to discipline members. For example, in fire apparatus a computer captures video of the interior of the cab. If a firefighter does not have a seatbelt on, they are disciplined. As a firefighter I can attest that wearing a seatbelt hinders your ability to properly don the safety equipment required to do your job. My point is that the City of Baltimore works more to break the morale of the departments by unnecessarily retaliating against their public safety professionals. In the police department it has related to officers not wanting to do their jobs and leaving the City for jobs in surrounding jurisdictions that pay better. For firefighters it is different. They are all about doing their jobs and being the best at it. The Baltimore City Fire Department is highly respected in the fire service community and it is a well deserving source of pride for the members. You can call me biased for that because I was a firefighter but that is just the way it is going to have to be. I will let the record speak for itself.

I will go to the extent that I can give Governor Hogan credit on the issue, he did attempt to intervene, but it went nowhere. What I think he should have done is to declare a “state of emergency” in the City and takeover the Baltimore Police Department for Commissioner Davis’ failure to achieve any of the goals under which he was hired in allowing the situation to get so out of hand. Home Rule is failing in the City of Baltimore and I believe it is best to just let it happen on its own. One of the things that will absolutely ensure it is re-electing Brandon Scott to the City Council. What will really expedite it is to elect him Mayor.