Q&A with Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

FROM SUN MAGAZINE

  • 43, Mayor of Baltimore  Much of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's tenure is built on goals and plans a decade away.  The public won't be able to judge her long-term success in attracting 10,000 new families, cutting property taxes by nearly a quarter or fixing the city's dismal financial outlook until years from now.  As such, it would be tempting to view such plans with cynicism -- a calculated attempt to stall accountability -- if the mayor didn't sound so earnest when talking about them.  "My dad often said a true leader makes himself vulnerable," said Rawlings-Blake of her late father, Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings. "And I do not want to know that I was a part of Baltimore's history when we knew we could have changed the city to put us on the right path and didn't do anything."  That means Rawlings-Blake is making a lot of tough decisions to combat a looming financial meltdown: Overhauling pensions (unpopular with unions), imposing new fees (unpopular with residents) to fund infrastructure improvements and help cut property taxes, and asking firefighters to work longer hours (unpopular with, you know, firefighters), among other initiatives she describes as "bold reforms."  In short: She's telling a cash-strapped city it needs to take its medicine.  "You're not going to make everybody happy, and you have to be OK with that," Rawlings-Blake said of the changes she's imposing in city government. "You have to do what you know is right, even if people are shouting at you when you're picking up a prescription at CVS or trying to go out to eat."  While getting some grief at home, Rawlings-Blake's approach to governance has helped gain her national admirers. This year, she was named secretary of the Democratic National Committee and second vice president at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he sees Rawlings-Blake as a "rising star" in the Democratic Party.  "When it comes to improving Baltimore, she's as serious as a heart attack," he said.  -- Luke Broadwater
43, Mayor of Baltimore Much of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun…)
July 22, 2013|By Luke Broadwater | The Baltimore Sun

What's the hardest lesson you've learned so far?
"To be OK with making myself vulnerable in order to make the change that I know is important."

What's a fact about yourself that will surprise people?
"I get my makeup tips from RuPaul. I watch his 'Drag Race' show in freeze frame so I can get good tips."

What do you do to relax?
"I love hanging out with my family and friends and going out to dinner, since I don't relish cooking at all. I particularly enjoy when I get to hang out with my mom and my daughter, the three of us."

Your (other) dream job would be …
"I have my dream job, but if I wasn't mayor or an attorney I'd like to work with the Center for Urban Families. They help transform lives and I would love to teach the life skills that lead to success."

What's on your play list?
" 'Love on Top,' by Beyonce. Michael Jackson, 'Can You Feel It?' Old school Doug E. Fresh, 'The Show.' And I have to add the cup song (Anna Kendrick's 'Cups'), because that's what my daughter listens to."

What is your favorite book?
"I don't have an all-time favorite, but the first one I downloaded from the Enoch Pratt Free Library was 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.' That was powerful."

What's your favorite vacation destination?
"I like a staycation. Coldspring pool, cheese fries, with my family."

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