Landers: Rawlings-Blake lacks Schaefer's personal touch

May 03, 2011

I completely agree with the heading statement of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's recent op-ed ("What would Schaefer do?" May 1) — "Baltimore needs to muster some of the late mayor's sense of urgency." Baltimore also needs a mayor who knows how to exercise leadership and deftly apply the levers of power and persuasion in order to make it happen.

I honestly do not know what Mr. Schaefer would do to address these various situations, even though I had the benefit of serving as a community-based mayor's representative under Mayor Schaefer, and of serving as a member of the Baltimore City Council during his last term in the mayor's office. However, I do know what I would do in these situations, and it is decidedly different than the tack that Mayor Rawlings-Blake has chosen. I am not referring to the pros and cons of the specific projects that the mayor cites in her commentary. What I am referencing is her characterization and approach to the people and organizations that she claims are blocking the city's progress by bringing "frivolous lawsuits" and "acting out of self interest."

The mayor says she is willing to "discuss compromise and to address concerns and differences," but in the very next sentence she states that she "will not allow anyone to stand in the way of Baltimore's greater progress." This is hardly the language or tactics that one would employ if she were serious about seeking a dialogue and compromise.

If the mayor is truly serious about seeking a discussion and compromise, then the first thing she has to do is to stop publicly criticizing the parties with whom she would compromise and ridiculing their positions as being completely self-serving, in the media and on the op-ed pages of The Sun. I know from experience that issuing a public pronouncement in the media or via text messaging or Twitter is not the way to engage people in a serious discussion. And publicly ridiculing the motives of someone else is most certainly not the way to signal that one is open to compromise. The way to do it is to call them on the phone or meet with them in person and to start the conversation by listening to what they have to say.

In attempting to invoke the "Do It Now" spirit of Mayor Schaefer, Mayor Rawlings-Blake has completely overlooked the personal touch that makes relationships and meaningful compromise possible. Actually, Mayor Schaefer was not very well disposed to compromise, and his temper and invective could be biting, but he never would have used the op-ed page to castigate his antagonists — instead he would get them on the phone, or see them in person, or he would come knocking on their door if necessary, just to make certain they knew exactly how he felt about the situation or issue at hand. I am not suggesting that Mayor Rawlings-Blake resort to such antics, but if she is serious about seeking to dialogue, then a different and more productive approach is clearly warranted.

Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, Baltimore

The writer is a candidate for mayor.

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