If we’re all really lucky and stay alive until, oh, the end of the current decade, maybe one day we’ll know by then who’s going to be the next mayor of Baltimore.
As this is written, Monday morning, June 8, we’re nearly a full week since people cast their ballots in the primary elections.
And they’re still counting those votes, and somehow there are thousands more to be counted, until we learn who won the Democratic mayoral primary — which in this Democratic-heavy city means becoming the next mayor.
One day, it looks like Sheila Dixon.
The next, it looks like Brandon Scott.
Tomorrow, it might look like the ghost of Theodore McKeldin.
We do know who the next mayor will not be. It definitely will not be the current mayor, Bernard C. “Jack” Young. He’s running fifth among six serious contenders.
As such, he did something gracious and realistic the other day. He conceded that he will not be the mayor once all the counting is done, whenever that day may be.
Young, by most accounts, is a pretty nice man. I know some people who have dealt with him over the years and say he followed through on every promise he ever made to them, large or small, as a city councilman or mayor. And he’s the incumbent mayor. You win the office, it’s usually yours as long as you want it.
So why was he rejected by so many voters? Young now seems likely rejected in favor of one of the following?
- Sheila Dixon, a woman with a criminal record, which is not only an embarrassment to her (or should be; nobody’s actually certain she’s embarrassed, judging by her public demeanor) but an embarrassment to the city.
- Brandon Scott, a young man whose passion and energy do not disguise the fact that he appears only recently to have graduated high school.
While they continue counting ballots in downtown Baltimore, can we say something sad but obvious? Baltimore’s a city that can’t seem to get out of its own way.
Its population, once approaching one million, now barely tops 600,000. Its public schools have turned out several generations of kids who have been cheated out of a serious education.
It’s a city with tens of thousands of drug traffickers, hundreds of whom are busy shooting and killing each other every year. There are thousands of vacant, abandoned buildings in every corner of town, and tens of thousands of people living below the poverty line.
We’re five years since the Freddie Gray street disturbances. Yet, unlike those who find inspiration in the current protests around the nation — believing they’ll lead to real changes in the criminal justice system — in Baltimore there’s still the traditional tension between police and minority citizens.
Last week, Mayor Young paid the price for all of this. He’s the stand-in for all the bad feelings, for the entire sense that the city’s coming undone, the sense that nobody’s really in charge who knows what they’re doing.
It’s not his fault. He got the job by accident. There was Dixon forced from office for her crimes, and then Stephanie Rawlings-Blake retiring after she was perceived sleepwalking through the Freddie Gray troubles, and then Catherine Pugh’s crimes.
Maybe the next mayor will begin to turn the city’s troubles around. Maybe one day we’ll even find out who that mayor will be,
if we’re lucky and live long enough for all the ballots to be counted.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, including “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).