If you think the problem in Baltimore is all about execution—and not planning or policy, Patrick Gutierrez is your candidate.
A non-politician in his first run for public office, Gutierrez wants to apply the management skills he learned as a roving Bank of America executive to the problems of Baltimore City's government. "Others come in with a plan to fix [problems]," Gutierrez says, sipping coffee at the Hamilton Bakery. "That's foolish."
As a turn-around specialist, Gutierrez says he can get employees to buy-in, and to help make the plans that will move the city forward. "This is not 'my plan—do it,' this is your plan, that you worked on," he says.
Gutierrez says he would begin his administration with a "listening tour" in City Hall, hiring a team of people to analyze the feedback from thousands of city workers so that, while longer-term plans are being worked out, urgent problems are tackled immediately: "did someone just mention sex-for-repairs?" he asks, referring to the recent lawsuit where two dozen public housing residents sued the Housing Authority alleging that that its workers demanded sex in exchange for maintenance. "That needs immediate attention."
Gutierrez contrasts his method to Carl Stokes, who tells forum audiences that he would immediately ask for all department heads' resignations. "That's foolish," Gutierrez says. "It always makes my job easier if everyone stays."
Gutierrez talks about turning around a Bank of America operation in Baltimore that handled payments. But that job involved only 100 workers. He says he could scale up, though he has no illusion that it would be easy.
He says it would take his whole first term, but that doing so would pay huge dividends in the future. And that not doing so means continued failure.
"My goal is to stabilize city government," he says.
Gutierrez's model for this is Michael Bloomberg, New York City's mayor from 2002 through 2013—not that he'd want to gentrify Baltimore like that. "We don't need to become like New York," he says. "We just need to become a better Baltimore."
To do that? Tech, Gutierrez says: "We could be the Silicon Valley of the East Coast."
As befits a corporate-trained technocrat, Gutierrez wants to hire people who are good with analytics but, he says, his people will be connected to the real work, not just numbers on a screen. "We call it 'management by walking around,'" Gutierrez says. "MBWA."
Other issues Gutierrez says he'll focus on: financial audits (If the City Comptroller won't get off the mark "I'll call in PricewaterhouseCoopers," he says); opening up public housing services to public companies (which is actually already underway as part of a controversial program called RAD); and reforming the police department to get the bad cops out and get the most out of the good ones (he likes to note that the city's Police Explorers Program, a supposed pipeline into the department for city youth, has not given the department a new recruit since 1996).
"We have a $3 billion budget," Gutierrez says. "Let's say, ultra-conservatively, we can achieve five percent savings by cutting waste. I know it's more than that, but ultra-conservatively. That's $600 million over four years. Think of what we could do with that money."
With just $30,000 or so in his campaign, Gutierrez knows he's an underdog. He wrote and performed a reggae-infused rap song, hoping to get his name out there (radio hasn't played it). "If people know about me and they choose not to vote for me, that's fine," he says. "I can accept that. But if they don't know about my message…"
He's canvassing door to door, using the power of his salesmanship to win converts. He's especially proud of what he did last week in Edmondson Village. "When we went in there there were four Sheila Dixon signs," he relates with glee, pulling out his phone to display photos. "After two days, we had 22 signs." And so no one will think his people just posted them without asking, he scrolls through the photos, one by one, each depicting himself and a resident standing with his sign, smiling.