I arrive for coffee with Catherine Pugh the other day just as she says goodbye to a city councilman with whom she’s spent the past hour. City Council — big deal. Pugh says she’s got a meeting coming up with Michael Bloomberg, who doesn’t even live in the city of Baltimore but keeps putting his money here.
In less than two weeks, it’s widely expected that Pugh will be elected the next mayor of Baltimore. She says she’s meeting with every member of the council, even before she takes office.
This is a nice gesture. It tells these council members that Pugh thinks they’re important, even when Baltimore’s entire modern history says they are municipal afterthoughts. This is a city where the mayor all but monopolizes real power.
Except, of course, for money.
The city of Baltimore is perennially broke, and its mayor is reduced each winter to treks down to Annapolis to beg for alms. Such begging is increasingly met with grunts from all those who feel the future of Maryland belongs increasingly to the D.C. suburbs.
Michael Bloomberg, of course, arrives here from New York. But as a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, he has shown generosity that takes the breath away.
He is a multi-billionaire, as everybody knows. He built a financial information company and then branched into a media business with offices around the world. Unlike some other billionaires who wish mainly to cross-fertilize their money, Bloomberg likes to give away lots of his.
He recently gave $300 million to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health. This is the largest donation ever made to the school. Over the years, Bloomberg has given a reported $1.5 billion to Hopkins institutions.
The newest donation will fund faculty positions and research aimed at such challenges as drug addiction and gun violence.
There are two encouraging aspects to this money: first, that such problems are finally seen as public health matters and not merely as criminal issues; and second, that the money won’t stay strictly on the Hopkins campus.
The goal is to involve community groups with faculty members and researchers. Information flows out of neighborhoods, and back into them.
From 200 miles away in the city of New York, Michael Bloomberg offers support that sometimes seems smarter, and certainly more generous, than our state legislature and City Council combined.
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