The long view

September 12, 2007

As mayor, Sheila Dixon should be looking forward now. She can afford to stop taking it "one day at a time"; her first-place finish in yesterday's Democratic primary gave her that. And while Ms. Dixon does have a Republican challenger, the last time voters elected a mayor from the GOP was 1963 and Birmingham was erupting, political bosses ruled City Hall, and Ms. Dixon was 10 years old.

The issues most on Baltimore voters' minds today - crime, schools, housing - are complex problems that deserve urgent attention, but also sound thinking and comprehensive solutions that involve every strata of the city.

When Ms. Dixon talks about her vision of a neighborhood school - a hub of the community that's open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and hosts students, after-school programs and civic meetings - it suggests that she understands that improving the education of Baltimore's youngsters is related to reducing crime, supporting families and rebuilding neighborhoods. Creating those kinds of inner-city schools won't happen overnight, but in four years, a mayor with the right ideas and partners to implement them could usher in a system transformed.

It's the same with reducing crime. An innovative, take-charge police commissioner alone won't cut the murder rate, but a coordinated, united effort that employs the expertise of the city's criminal justice partners, the strengths of communities and help from businesses could begin to drive that number down in a tangible way.

Ms. Dixon is the interim mayor in name only now, and her defeat of Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. and five other candidates puts her in a largely unassailable position to govern. She needs to engage the new schools superintendent, Andres Alonso, on issues where she can have an impact, whether at the Board of Estimates or the State House. Their relationship should be one of trust, not suspicion, and mutual respect for their appropriate roles. Ms. Dixon has said she doesn't want to run the city schools, but she can use her position to help change a culture and bureaucracy that have undermined children's success.

To challenge the status quo, whether it's failing schools, derelict housing or a thriving drug trade, will require not only the leadership of the mayor but the involvement of the City Council. Regardless of who wins the hard-fought race for council president, the council must serve as a check on the mayor's power and not devolve into a chamber of caterwauling critics. Instead, it should offer up its own solutions for the city's most pressing needs.

In 1963, this paper endorsed a City Hall team, headed by Theodore R. McKeldin, because "it would bring to bear on the city's problems a first-rate combination of experience, energy and conscience." That seems appropriate today.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.