Dixon stresses crime issue

Campaign adwatch

August 22, 2007|By John Fritze

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is striking back at her leading opponent, City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., in the latest television advertisement of the mayor's race. The 30-second ad is Dixon's third and is the seventh overall in the race.

What the ad says: Slightly fuzzy pictures of Mitchell appear on the screen - one from his own recent political ad and one in which he appears to be much younger. A male narrator says: "For Keiffer Mitchell it's been 12 long years of talk on the City Council and not much action. But Mitchell did vote against a budget that fully funded crime fighting and police officer raises. It's true. Keiffer Mitchell voted against an 8 percent raise for the police officers he now says he wants to help."

As the music shifts to a more uplifting key, the camera switches to full-color pictures of Dixon looking mayoral - talking with police officers and walking through a neighborhood. "It's Sheila Dixon who has a real plan to fight crime, with more police and community partnerships that help fight crime before it happens."

The facts: Mitchell has served on the council for 12 years, but the reality is that individual council members - even the body as a whole - have little power over citywide issues. Dixon, it should be noted, served on the same council herself for almost 20 years.

Mitchell did vote against the 2002 fiscal year budget (the vote was taken in the summer of 2001) and that budget did set aside $10.6 million for police salary increases - as well as other money for the department. But that budget also called for layoffs of 177 city janitors and security personnel as well as a 20 percent income tax increase. The city was planning to outsource, or privatize, those positions. At the time, Mitchell said, "I have a problem with this budget because these are people that we know. ... You cannot experiment with privatization on the backs of people who can least afford it."

Dixon's campaign said the analysis is fair because it documents that Mitchell, when faced with a tough budget decision, decided against police funding. The budget was approved that year on a 13-5 vote. Dixon supported it.

The ad says Dixon has "a real crime plan," but the administration has been hard to pin down on that point. The mayor has promoted several programs - some federally funded, others long in existence - though many of them are limited in scope. The mayor has talked about "striking a balance" between community policing and the zero-tolerance approach employed by her predecessor, Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The ad suggests Dixon is in favor of more police, which has not previously been a centerpiece of her crime platform. Dixon is calling for the police department to increase its recruitment goal from 240 to 300 new officers and to enlarge each academy class from 40 to 50 trainees.

Analysis: Dixon's decision to go after Mitchell in such a forceful way is something of a surprise, given that many believe she is the leading candidate. It is possible the mayor believes Mitchell's more negative approach in recent days is having some effect, or it could be a preemptive strike to widen Dixon's lead. Whichever, if both camps ramp up their negative television attacks, it could be a long three weeks for voters (and even longer for those TV addicts who live outside the city limits).

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