Mayor junketing as Baltimore struggles

August 05, 2010

I was thoroughly annoyed to read Julie Scharper's piece in the Maryland Politics section ("Rawlings-Blake in China, India for leadership program," Aug. 4) about Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake being unable to attend the vigil for Milton Hill because she was on a junket with the Aspen Institute.

This summer has been really violent in Baltimore, and the last two weeks have been particularly bloody. I could not think of a worse time for the leader of my city to go on an international trip. While I appreciate and support self development and continuing education for everyone, now is not the time.

The mayor should not be investing her time in political training for young leaders while the city is under attack. According to its website, the program "seeks to enhance our democracy by identifying and bringing together the nation's most promising young political leaders to explore the underlying values and principles of western democracy, the relationship between individuals and their community, and the responsibilities of public leadership." This is not the time to study democracy or political science. It is the time for leadership and results oriented active steps to make the city safer.

Ms. Rawlings-Blake has been mayor for six months, during which time she has traveled to Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, and now Beijing and New Delhi. All of these are great cities, worthy of a trip by our mayor, just not now.

How did any of these trips make our city safer? I could stomach it if she were going to learn how to reduce the murder rate in our city or gain insight on how to combat the gang problem. But political science and leadership training? Come on.

Lives, young and old, black and white, are being snuffed out across our city. The violence is out of control, and I, for one, would appreciate it if our mayor would stay home and do something about it. And by the way, don't insult my intelligence by saying the trip is not on the taxpayers' dime. While the flight, conference, room and board for the mayor may have been covered by the Aspen Institute, I'm certain they did not cover the cost of her entourage and security team. Furthermore, every day my mayor is away from the business of making the city safer has a very high cost to all tax payers.

Kisha Thomas, Baltimore

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