Petty politics that hurts constituents

Sabotaging Rawlings: Black city senators harm their constituents by killing his racial-profile bill.

April 12, 2000

IT'S a classic case of a Pyrrhic victory: A few black city senators in Annapolis were so obsessed with punishing Del. Howard P. Rawlings for daring to question the effectiveness of black-run institutions that they have let their petty, personal vendetta harm their own constituents.

These city senators may have won the battle, but their constituents are losing the war.

Out of jealousy and personal pique, they defeated Mr. Rawlings' bill requiring detailed police record-keeping of raced-based traffic stops. The result was that no bill passed to shine a light on the discriminatory practice of police singling out black male drivers.

Who benefits from this punitive, vindictive action, led by Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV and Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden? No one. Who is harmed by their selfish actions? Black male drivers who live in their districts.

Mr. Rawlings has his detractors. He can be gruff and arrogant. Black city senators are especially jealous of the enormous power he wields as chairman of the House budget committee and as a key adviser to Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Fueling this feud has been Mr. Rawlings' tendency to confront black-run institutions he feels are underperforming. He was the driving force in overhauling the city's school system -- over the bitter objections of the Schmoke administration -- and demanding accountability. He led the charge to require performance audits of the troubled Prince George's County school system, too.

What set off the senators this time was Mr. Rawlings' demand for performance audits of Morgan State University, a historically black college that has been sheltered from criticism by protective black city senators.

Mr. Mitchell and Mr. McFadden have every right to criticize Mr. Rawlings. But it was irresponsible to do it by killing his racial-profiling bill. There were 61 co-sponsors of the bill in the House -- a strong indication the bill's importance. Playing political games with substantive legislation such as the racial profiling bill demeans the game-players. The electorate is ill-served by such hurtful actions. We expect better of elected leaders such as Mr. Mitchell and Mr. McFadden. They have let Baltimoreans down.

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