Hope and Promise - Observations From South Baltimore

Senator Della Calls Rawlings 'The Turning Point in O'Malley's Campaign'

By Thom LaCosta

    Delegate Brian McHale, District 47A, summed it all nicely at Wednesday's meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club when he said "There is a great feeling of hope and promise in Baltimore City." McHale's comments prefaced a speech by State Delegate Pete Rawlings, the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. Rawlings is an African American who declared his support for O'Malley in the recent mayoral election. Hope and promise don't come without some medicine, though.

    Rawlings came prepared with a diagnosis, and prescriptions -- based on a renewed emphasis by state officials on accountability of governmental agencies and sub-divisions. He cited fiscal actions by the state in the area of education and the criminal justice system that forces those programs to develop accountability,


    As part of the accountability process, the state can now take over the operations of schools that have declined. Rawlings indicated that in Baltimore City, 83 of 180 schools could be taken over by the state, based on their performance. "We have identified these schools as failing. We require that the school system take that in conjunction with the state to develop school improvement plans. We have given these schools three to five years to make changes. One of the alternatives is to identify vendors who can take over these schools. So, several of these schools are going to be taken over and changed fundamentally, because part of the change, if it is going to work, is to nullify the union contract."

    In a similar spirit, state lawmakers withheld funding from Baltimore's court system until it presented and implemented a detailed plan to improve the city's court system is implemented. Rawlings explained that the state had held back funds from the court system in the city because the legislature was "not completely satisfied with the progress being made. It is criminal when alleged criminals with violent records are out on the street because we can't charge them because of a breakdown in our criminal justice system. There is a new day, we cut them, the first time in their history that a general assembly has cut the budget of a judicial system of this magnitude."


    Rawlings offered the opinion that there would be a very good rapport between Mayor O'Malley and Governor Parris Glendening -- "O'Malley is the consummate politician. He has very good critical and intuitive skills, which are important because he's a young man ." Rawlings commented that O'Malley has a sense of the peoples' priorities and recognizes that "if you're going to turn the city around and stop a thousand people from leaving very month you are going to have to do something about public safety. People have to be confident that when they are in the city they are safe." The delegate observed "It is outrageous that over the last ten years 3000 people have been murdered in this city."


    On the issue of raises for state workers, Rawlings stated "Our workers deserve a well-negotiated and fiscally responsible pay increase. But we have also been demanding pay for performance. In fact, this year, a low income worker, who is at the lower grade, will get, if they are a superior performer, a 13 or 14 per cent pay increase."


    State Senator George W. Della capped off the Rawlings part of the meeting with a series of thank you statements for the delegate:


    Della and McHale are moving Stonewall into a new era. No longer a "Good Ole Bhoy's Club", there's a move to encourage non-members of the club to attend meetings -- not only for the obvious camaraderie, but especially to hear from and question elected and appointed officials who have an impact on the daily lives of citizens. Long viewed as an influential organization in Democratic Politics -- reportedly one of the oldest political clubs in existence in Maryland -- Stonewall may be a new venue at an old address for officials to "spread the word."

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