Ben Cardin and the Real Baltimore Scandal
Yes, Baltimore has the sixth highest crime rate of any city in America. But did you know that Maryland is the richest state in America? Taken together, these two facts constitute a true scandal, one that shames every political leader of the state.
There must be action, and there must be Accountability. Did you know that one of the most powerful politicians in the state is from Baltimore and that he has been in political office for a half-century, since 1968? His name is Ben Cardin. Our Senator. The man I am seeking to replace in the "Ben or Jerry" primary. With early voting in ten days, Maryland voters need to ask, "Does Ben Cardin deserve yet another six years, or is 50 years enough?"
I am calling for "A Marshall Plan for a New Baltimore." The Marshall Plan, after World War II, was the remarkable American effort that rebuilt Western Europe after the devastation of World War II. The challenge in Baltimore is even more daunting, because the problems go much deeper than bombed out cities and economic collapse: chronic unemployment, dysfunctional schools, crime, policing, drugs, family, poverty, racism.
Let's not pretend. No one really knows how to fix this. I don't, and you don't. Honesty about the limits of our knowledge is, in fact, a good starting point. Rather than be dogmatic, we need to become a learning society. As in science, we need to be willing to experiment, to evaluate and to learn from failure.
Here is what I propose:
- Build on The March For Our Lives. Bring high school students into the process every step of the way.
- Convene a Summit For a New Baltimore. Bring together officials at the federal, state, and local level, with social scientists, parents, police, teachers, community leaders, business leaders and young people. We will share ideas and develop a program and a planning structure. Collectively, we will make the most fundamental decision: We will get this done.
- Start with neighborhoods and with home ownership. Enact laws that promote ownership by encouraging landlords to sell to tenants. We need an urban extension service to help low-income families take charge of their own neighborhoods, streets and schools. Provide people with the help they need, not just financial, but technical and administrative.
- Focus on beautification. Once ownership is achieved, I believe we should leap-frog economic brackets and go straight to beautification. Home owners transform their public/private space in ways like painting their own houses or planting flowering cherry trees on their blocks. There is nothing like a bit of beauty to lift the spirit and release energy.
- Let's experiment with an idea I put forward at the National Mall: Free sleep-away camp for the entire summer for every child from the inner city. For older youth: training in how to be a camp counselor. They would start as CIT's (counselors-in-training). Under the mentorship of experienced counselors, they would learn how to take responsibility, help and protect younger children, and become arts and crafts instructors, lifeguards, basketball coaches, and more. Such a program would ensure every child’s safety during the summer, as well as an opportunity for leadership development, an expanded worldview, and a transformed sense of self.
This is just a start, merely scratching the surface without covering other critical areas of my plan, including guaranteed employment, education, and health care. Building a decent society is a huge challenge. But if we are determined and work together, we can get this done.