A few notes on the mayor's State of the City address

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave her annual "State of the City" address today. It was a speech like the others she's given since 2011. There's a template for these things: highlight accomplishments, draw clear lines of cause and effect, cheerlead. She did these things, reading from a three-ring binder from a text with the word "Draft" stamped on every page.

She looked good doing it too. The mayor is a polished, expertly assembled person. A professional. A rising star in her chosen field.

There were only a few things I boxed in my notebook for further inquiry. I'll report back later after making those inquiries. For now, the things that struck me as I listened.

  1. Fitch raised the city's debt rating to AA; Moody's did something like that. The mayor lauded this early on as "the highest combined rating in more than 15 years." Bond ratings matter a lot. But why is this a huge applause line?

  2. The mayor says she doubled the budget of the Office of Inspector General. That is the watchdog office that is supposed to root out corruption and waste. O'Malley set it up, but he structured it—deliberately—so that the I.G. would answer to him. It is still that way: The I.G. can go after anything and anyone but the mayor and their inner circle. Why ramp it up now? What will it he do with all that extra funding?

  3. The mayor proposes to sell "a few downtown garages" to fund new recreation centers. This is something she proposed last summer. Seems like it's worth a hard, skeptical look.

  4. "We will implement the findings of our heroin treatment task force . . . to be released this summer." This initiative was announced last fall. One wonders what yet another task force can tell us about what is needed to curb heroin addiction, 10 years after Bupenorphine came into widespread use. I circled this one because she waited for the applause, and people hesitated.

  5. "We are creating jobs . . . more than 12,000 since I came into office." More jobs is good. But the mayor came into office near the bottom of one of the hardest recessions the country has ever seen. What would a normal number of new jobs look like? How did the city's job creation do in comparison to the state of Maryland? The nation as a whole?

  6. She is "proud to announce that this spring, we will be opening a new regional skills training center in Park Heights." How well do these centers fare at getting people actual family-supporting, full-time jobs?

The city really is better off than it was in 2010—and in 2000, too, if the murder rate is any indication. The mayor says she is "growing Baltimore" and means to "keep that momentum going." If true, this is great news. But the city's population gain as of 2013 looks to be well within the margin for error of the estimate. The 2014 numbers have not yet appeared. Here's hoping they're up a little.

Click here for more from Edward Ericson Jr. or email Edward at eericson@citypaper.com


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