I hit a pothole on Reisterstown Road the other day that rattled my car all the way to its glove box and loosened most of the fillings in my head. So naturally I thought of William Donald Schaefer. And Dominic (Mimi) DiPietro. And Donald Trump.
I thought of Schaefer because he found his essence in potholes. He wanted his Public Works people to track down every one of them and fill them up — because they were a measure of his government taking care of day-to-day essentials.
I thought of DiPietro because one long-ago day when Mimi was a city councilman out of Southeast Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood and Jimmy Carter was President of the United States, Carter had lunch here in Little Italy’s Chiapparelli’s Restaurant.
Among the invited guests at that intimate little lunch was Councilman DiPietro. He sat next to the president. And what did he say to the leader of the free world?
“Mister President,” declared Mimi, “you gotta do something about them potholes in Highlandtown.”
If only Donald Trump had been there that day, or any day, in order to hear such a plaintive cry. Because we now live in a time, perhaps 40 years later, where the potholes – in Baltimore, and all across America — are more plentiful, and the bridges and tunnels older and more vulnerable, and this president, despite all campaign talk about money for rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, is apparently too preoccupied with other matters to notice the country literally falling apart.
Remember his campaign promise? He was pledging $1 trillion to rebuild roads and bridges and tunnels. This would serve many purposes. It would make us safer as we moved about. It would create jobs – “millions” of jobs, Trump told us.
Also, it would give Trump a healing issue that transcends political ideology. Who doesn’t want more jobs? Who doesn’t want better roads?
Who doesn’t want something coming out of this White House that doesn’t divide us along party lines – the way a national rebuilding would?
And wasn’t this great rebuilding supposed to commence – in Trump’s labored phrase – “on Day One.”
But, as the New York Times reported the other day, “Infrastructure remains stuck near the rear of the legislative line…It awaits the resolution of tough negotiations over the budget, the debt ceiling, a tax overhaul, a new push to toughen immigration laws – and the enervating slog to enact a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.”
So keep watching out for those potholes, and keep hoping those bridges and tunnels hold out. And keep hoping the ghosts of William Donald Schaefer and Mimi DiPietro will whisper reminders in Donald Trump’s ear.
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