When Stephanie Rawlings-Black became the mayor of Baltimore 20 months ago after then-incumbent Sheila Dixon was convicted of embezzlement and forced to resign, she inherited a city plagued by crime and budget shortfalls. By all accounts, Rawlings-Black has managed those challenges well, and, as The Baltimore Sun reports, with her Democratic primary victory this week, she will soon have an opportunity to shape the office and its agenda.
“It’s a subtle difference. It’s not quite your term yet until the election,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told the Sun. “Elections matter. Elections are important.”
As is the case with the mayors in many of the nation’s urban centers, Rawlings-Black has to balance providing a greatly needed safety net with making the city attractive to prospective new residents and outside investors. On one hand, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) told BET.com, Baltimore students have a high drop-out rate, making it even more difficult for them to find jobs during a recession. Both the state and local governments want businesses to move to the city, but an uneducated workforce is not a selling factor. Cummings said that the school system has improved a great deal, “but it still isn’t where we want it to be.”
That presents another problem. The young families that are so key to helping a city survive and thrive, Cummings adds, are more likely to move to the neighboring Howard Count, where houses may cost a little more but the public school system is one of the nation’s best.
“All of these things are interconnected. You need taxpayers who can hold onto a house and contribute to the tax base as opposed taking away from it,” Cummings said.
But they are challenges he thinks Rawlings-Black is more than capable of handling. Already, he says, she has made great strides in helping young people develop and businesses thrive, and is trying to build stronger neighborhoods.
“I’m looking forward to her next four years,” Cummings said.
(Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for AOL)