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Mayor Blake Mounts A Cautious Campaign To Remain As Baltimore's Chief Exec
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August 22, 2011
On a humid Saturday morning Stephanie Rawlings Blake is working the crowd at the Waverly farmers’ market. She’s friendly, but low key as she moves past the stands packed with fruits and vegetables set up in a parking lot at 32nd and Barkley.
“Hi, how are you?
“God Bless you, I’m going to vote for you.”
“I need. I need it. How are you?”
The mayor displays the same reserved public demeanor and deliberate speaking cadence as her late father, longtime Delegate Howard “Pete” Rawlings. City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, whom Rawlings Blake has described as a mentor, says the mayor is a “very reserved person,” albeit one with “a great sense of humor.”
“She’s not going to throw herself out at somebody across the table. But she will pay attention. She will hear.”
Rawlings Blake she shows some spark at the mention of recent criticism that she lacks a vision for the city. You can have a vision, she says, but what can you do about it?
“Vision is a dime a dozen. You can have a vision, but what can you do? And, for me, it’s about making sure that the vision that my communities want for themselves is attained.”
Rawlings Blake, then 25, became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council in 1995. She was elected council president in 2007 and became mayor last year when her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, resigned after a conviction and a plea bargain on political corruption charges.
She said it was a horrible set of circumstances that led to a lot of cynicism about city government and the public servants that she grew up idolizing.
“ So, to think that the work that’s so important was sullied, it was a big deal to me, and that’s why the first bill I signed as mayor was my ethics reform legislation because I knew that we had to start building that trust back .”
It was bad enough the city was demoralized, she said at a recent candidates’ forum at the National Federation of the Blind offices in South Baltimore. But it was paralyzed by two blizzards in a row. And her fledgling administration was faced with the largest budget deficit in the city’s history.
“We eliminated a $121 million deficit without raising property taxes by a single penny, without laying off police officers or taking money out of our classrooms.”
That forum was one of only two of the eight held so far that Rawlings Blake has attended. And that has lead to sniping from her opponents and from Rev. Jamal Bryant, Jr., the pastor of Empowerment Temple and organizer of one of the forums.
“She said in her statement, she didn’t have the luxury that the other candidates did because of her demands as a mayor. To say that a debate is a luxury is quite a statement and really smacks of pomp and circumstance and arrogance unbridled.”
Rawlings Blake conceded that luxury “might have been a poor choice of words,” But argued that it was a worse judgment call to schedule the forum on National Night Out.
“It’s a national night where the community comes together with police to take back our streets and to show that we want safer communities…Is not one member of his congregation a member of community association?...National Night Out I spend in the communities.”
Rawlings Blake, who has a commanding fund raising lead over her opponents, is scheduled to attend three more forums--August 25th, 29th and 30th--before the September 13 primary.
I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Waverly for 88.1, WYPR.
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