|A picture of the leadership of the city of Baltimore (from the State of the City address on 2-10-14)|
The move has caused concerns among African-American leaders in the department. Lloyd Carter, the deputy chief for recruitment, who would be reassigned under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's budget for the next fiscal year, said he believes his position and the small division built around it should be saved.
"They wanted to improve diversity in the department, and now there's no funding for it?" Carter said in an interview. "The department is no more diverse than it was."
Officials said the Fire Department is currently 32 percent black, a level it has maintained since at least 2011. The city population is 65 percent African-American.
The special division and two positions — created in 2011 as part of efforts to boost minority outreach — would be cut under the plan, and recruitment duties would be absorbed into other divisions, including the training academy, according to department officials.
Henry Burris, president of the Vulcan Blazers, an organization that advocates for black firefighters, said he is "strongly against" the plan. The organization had called — unsuccessfully — for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into what it described as "systemic discrimination in hiring, discipline and recruitment" in the department.
"If there is a cutback, it should not be in recruitment, because there is a lack of minorities in the Baltimore City Fire Department," he said. "The only way you will get that is if you have a dedicated crew out there recruiting city residents."
In 2004, the department faced criticism and outrage for hiring an all-white class of recruits. As a result, hiring methods changed and the department promised progress.
But by 2011, allegations of racism persisted, and Rawlings-Blake announced the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League would work with department leaders to increase minority outreach.
''We're looking to the future now,'' a beaming Mr. Schmoke told the wildly cheering crowd at the Fifth Regiment Armory early today. ''We're not looking to the past. We're looking to the future.''
A month later, at the inauguration ceremony at the Baltimore Arena, the mood was "electric," recalls Bill Cunningham, a former City Council member and longtime friend of Schmoke. "It was a new-day-is-dawning thing."
"It was generational, us vs. them," says Jody Landers, who was also on the council at the time. "It was like, 'It's our turn now.'"
That sentiment was shared by many African-Americans across the city. "We were looking for someone to encompass our hopes for the future, someone who would validate our own journey," the Rev. Arnold Howard of Enon Baptist Church says.
"He went into office with all that on him. He was the new savior. He was the one who would fulfill our dreams."
In a raucous, shoe-waving session, the Baltimore City Council threw out Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's status quo redistricting plan last night and replaced it with one that would create five councilmanic districts with black majorities and leave only one -- East Baltimore's 1st District -- with a white majority.
The plan, proposed by Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, was given preliminary approval on a 10-7 vote, with two council members abstaining. A final vote on the Stokes plan could come as early as Thursday.
Mr. Stokes said he proposed what amounted to wholesale revision of the mayor's plan for redrawing the lines of the city's six council districts because the Schmoke plan did not do enough to shake up the political machines that have kept the City Council predominantly white when Baltimore itself has a black majority.
Opponents were incensed, however, saying that it "raped" their neighborhoods and had been proposed before community leaders could express their views.
The argument was fierce and broke down largely along racial lines. At one point, Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, D-4th, took off her shoe and waved it in the faces of her white colleagues, saying, "You've been running things for the last 20 years -- now the shoe is on the other foot. See how you like it."
Mayor Schmoke learned about the proposal with most other council members at a luncheon yesterday and was angered by the lack of public notice, according to his spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman.
However, supporters of the proposal said they had made their concerns about increasing black populations in predominantly white districts known for the past two months.
"I'm disappointed in what Mayor Schmoke said about the proposal," said Councilman Lawrence A. Bell, D-4th. "Here we have an African-American mayor who got into office on the backs of black constituents [and] who says this plan is unfair and bad politics. That's outrageous."
"If this amendment passes, it's a rape of our communities," said Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, D-3rd, said of Mr. Stokes' plan. "I can't stand and let this go on. I made a commitment to put a black candidate on our ticket, but apparently that's not enough."
Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, D-5th, said Mr. Stokes' proposal had deeper goals. In supporting his plan, she said she hoped to empower black community groups and give them stronger voices for change.
But when Mr. Schmoke stopped by the Southwest Senior Center in a struggling, racially mixed neighborhood here last week, few people greeted him with encouragement as he tries for a third term. Instead, they spoke up about filthy, crime-ravaged streets and abandoned buildings.
They were polite enough to Mr. Schmoke, who dutifully jotted their complaints in a notebook. But once the Mayor was out of earshot, some past supporters said they would not vote for him again -- and the primary is next week.
"All the money is leaving the city; what do we do?" asked Fannie Fitzgerald, 67, a retired nurse who said that as a black woman she was proud to support Mr. Schmoke four years ago but is too discouraged to vote at all this year.
"There's an empty house next to mine. The bricks are falling down. It rains in there. And the drug dealers have taken over. This has been five years. What do we do?"
Most striking about Mr. Schmoke's campaign is that support from white voters is so thin that for the first time he has geared his campaign to blacks. His bumper stickers are red, black and green, the colors of the black liberation movement, and his slogan is "Makes Us Proud." The unmistakable appeal to blacks has infuriated some whites and even some blacks, who accuse Mr. Schmoke of stoking racial tensions.
"I'm not apologetic at all," Mr. Schmoke said. "For the majority population of this city, those colors have traditionally been symbols of pride and empowerment, not division."
On Sundays such as this, The Baltimore Times arrives. There are 32,000 copies printed each week, which are distributed through scores of the area's black churches, and through supermarkets and street boxes, and in this politically charged season its arrival tends to make the mayor of this city, Kurt L. Schmoke, duck for cover.
Consider these words, from a recent front-page editorial written by the Rev. Peter Bramble, 49-year-old pastor at West Baltimore's St. Katherine's Episcopal Church who owns the Times and makes it a kind of political extension of his pulpit:
"For the first time in his political life, Schmoke is wrapping himself in blackness -- African-American flag colors and symbols. He is even wearing kinte cloth ties! Now, is not that absolutely funny?
"It seems as though Larry Gibson, Schmoke's campaign manager, knows that only 'pride' could help him and his candidate against a woman, Mary Pat Clarke, who has made it her duty to deliver the goods when blacks have asked her favors over the years. Gibson knows that no honest Baltimorean can deny that Mary Pat Clarke delivers the goods. You ask her to do something in the community and it is done. . . .
No one, black or white, could take that record of service from her."
Consider these words, from another front-page editorial by Bramble:
"If Schmoke had a record of helping blacks to advance, Larry [Gibson] should have been using that record of success to convince blacks that a third term would be good for Baltimore in general and blacks in particular. Because there is no record in this area, they resort to 'black pride.' Can we take that to the bank?"
But Bramble's words are clearly provocative in a political season in which many Baltimoreans feel they're being asked to choose sides along racial lines. Consider:
* In the race for City Council president, the white candidate Joe DiBlasi, competing with three black opponents, candidly admits, not working hard in black districts because I'm not going to win [there]. Some might call it racist; I call it concession."
* In the race for mayor, representatives of 500 predominantly black churches back the mayor -- and back Joan Pratt, the black political novice who's running for comptroller against veteran legislator Julian Lapides, who is white.
* The interracial Fraternal Order of Police endorses Clarke for mayor, prompting the black Vanguard Justice Society not merely to back Schmoke but to angrily declare the FOP endorsement "an attempt to miseducate African-American members of the Police Department and the community." The mayor, attending the Vanguard press conference, says the endorsement "speaks for itself."
"I'm very black," Bramble was saying last week. "I promote everything black. But I have to be honest. This unity thing, there ++ has to be more than that. I can't lie. I can't say a white person who's been there has not been there.
Schmoke ran for his third term in 1995 against City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, a facile white populist in the Schaefer mold. Schmoke used red, black, and green for his campaign colors and "Makes Us Proud" for his campaign slogan. The city's white establishment reared back in horror. "You didn't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to see he was making a racial appeal," says one white Baltimore politician in a typically biting remark. The Sun endorsed Clarke, calling Schmoke "a sad disappointment." But Schmoke's racial ploy worked, and he trounced Clarke by 20 points. Even though Clarke outpolled Schmoke nine-to-one in many white sections of the city, Schmoke outpolled her nine-to-one in most of the black neighborhoods. As Elijah Cummings, a black Baltimore politician who now serves in the U.S. House of Representatives, told The Washington Post: Black voters saw Schmoke "as a home-grown man... They saw him as their son... We just did not want to be a New York and lose David Dinkins."
Yet, a historic shift in power was quietly ratified, as African-Americans captured all three of the top elected offices and a majority of council seats for the first time in Baltimore's history.
City Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, who made a name for himself with his aggressive anti-crime crusade, rose to the city's second-highest office by soundly defeating Republican Anthony D. Cobb to become council president.
Accountant Joan M. Pratt, a political novice who surprised many by beating a veteran state legislator in the primary race for comptroller, won over rival Republican accountant Christopher P. McShane.
What is this? A plantation? [Md., Baltimore Plan Overhaul Of City Schools; State's Move to Increase Funds, Control Criticized, Washington Post, 1-22-1996]:
In Baltimore, even some skeptics who are worried about the racial implications of a state takeover in a predominantly African American city seem willing to give it a try.
"Our schools are in serious trouble, and it doesn't make a great deal of difference to me under whose auspices we fix them," said Garland O. Williamson, an African American businessman who serves on the Greater Baltimore Committee, a regional business group.
But the proposal has triggered indignant responses from some Baltimoreans who suspect it would be underfunded and overly punitive, and from others who fear it would be overfunded and not tough enough.
"The city is looked at as a hole of poverty, and we're just throwing money down it.
It's obscene, the racial prejudice and stereotypes behind this," said the Rev. Roger J. Gench, of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church and a co-chairman of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, a church-based social-action group.
City Council member Kiefer J. Mitchell Jr. asked: "If we're going to do this, why have a mayor and City Council? Why don't we all resign? Why have a City of Baltimore if the state's going to run everything?"
Racial control. [Clergy, educators blast state plan to takeover city
schools, Baltimore Afro-American, 8-10-1996]:
Baltimore ministers and educators criticized as "outrageous" proposed state legislation that would restructure city schools under state control. But the community leaders stopped short of saying exactly what they were going to do about it.
At a Thursday press conference, Rev. John L. Wright, president of the United Baptist Missionary Convention of Maryland, refused to announce his group's position regarding the school system until Monday when clergy members convene.
He did, however, restate opposition to using casino gambling revenue to fund schools - an idea introduced by Mayor Kurt Schmoke.
"The people of this great state should know that the faith community will not sit idly by and watch as politicians make decisions that are not in the best interests of our children," he said. "This situation must be resolved before the beginning of the school year so that our children can begin the education process and our educators can begin to teach them."
Schmoke was also influenced by local politics. The most vocal opposition to the city-state partnership was from members of Baltimore’s powerful black clergy… These ministers jealously guarded black administrative control of the BCPS. The church community considered the proposal an “outrageous” state “takeover,” threatening the long tradition of black control of the BCPS. According to the Reverend Roger Gench… “racial prejudice and stereotypes [were] behind” the agreement.” (p. 180)
Black community leaders, parent groups, and black ministers from Baltimore were perhaps the loudest critics of the proposal, arguing that the African-American community was giving up its rights to influence school operations. Many of these community leaders opposed sharing power with white state officials. (p. 182)
In a city in which Schmoke won his final term by appealing to racial pride, O’Malley’s race quickly became controversial. "Racism," screamed some of the city’s black preachers. "An O’Malley victory is the worse thing that could happen to the city, it would tear the city apart," thundered Reverend Doug Miles. But both Bell and Stokes ran race-baiting campaigns so over the top that the two candidates self-destructed. [Lawrence] Bell’s supporters sent out white-hate fliers endorsing O’Malley—fliers that many thought the Bell campaign itself had produced. The candidate, surrounding himself with menacing Nation of Islam bodyguards, called for black voters to "vote for someone who looks like you." In the campaign’s waning days, he even brought in those old warhorses of urban disaster, Marion and Cora Barry, to rally support. [Carl] Stokes played the race card too, though not quite so crudely. He came across as the same kind of well-meaning but ineffectual politician as Schmoke, insisting that New York’s policing success was "nonsense"—"a license to hunt minorities." "I don’t need to go to New York for new ideas," he exclaimed to campaign crowds.
But one thing is obvious: the collapse of Baltimore can not be described in 'color-blind' terminology.
It's a byproduct of black control.