Tuesday, July 30, 2019

From Charm City to Harm City

From Charm City to Harm City
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 30, 2019

Once again, racial invective has been invoked in an effort to tarnish President Donald Trump while ignoring similar comments made by Senator Bernie Sanders (S-VT).

Less than a week ago, in a reply to Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings (D), who made disparaging comments about the living conditions of asylum seekers on the Southern border, Trump told Cummings to focus his attention on his home district. “Cummings’ District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place…. No human being would want to live there,” said Trump.

The so-called mainstream media was apoplectic falling all over themselves to call Trump and his comments racist as quickly as possible.

Let’s rewind to December 8, 2015 and a speech given by Sanders in Baltimore. “The fact of the matter is that America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood [West Baltimore] would not think you’re in a wealthy nation. You would think that you’re in a third world country.”

The reaction from the same media? Crickets.

Facts are not racist. Trump and Sanders are correct in their assessment both in 2015 and in 2019. Sadly, the state of affairs in “Charm City” has been in a constant state of decline, deteriorating steadily for decades.

Even former mayor Catherine Pugh (2016-19), during a walking tour in September 2018, condemned parts of her own city. “What the hell? We should just take all this shit down,” she said regarding the dilapidated and boarded up buildings and row houses in East Baltimore.  “You can smell the rats. Oh my G-d, you can smell the dead animals.” While absolutely correct, nothing changed during her scandal-ridden administration ending with her resignation in May of this year due to her pushing a series of children’s books in exchange for city contracts.

Were Pugh’s comments racist? What about the myriad reports by PBS, The Baltimore Sun, and The New York Times? All racist? No. None of the comments or reports are racist.

Sanders’ visit to Baltimore came on the heels of the April 19, 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a West Baltimore resident who died from spinal cord injuries while in police custody. His death sparked a spate of violence, looting, and rioting in the city, that among other repercussions, included shutting down public schools, the playing of a Baltimore Orioles baseball game in a fan-free Camden Yards, as well as moving a home weekend series against the Rays to their home in Tampa.



The Baltimore mayor at the time, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, against whom I had run for a City Council seat in 1999, handled the unrest in a most unprofessional manner, actually giving the thugs and miscreants open season to “destroy” their own neighborhoods. 

“We also give those who wished to destroy, space to do that,” said Rawlings-Blake. Rawlings-Blake opted not to seek reelection in 2016. She assumed the mayor’s office, as president of the city council, following the resignation of Sheila Dixon after her conviction for embezzlement. 

So, two of the last three mayors resigned due to scandals and the third surrendered the city to the animals.

Baltimore is a blue collar town - either the southern most northern city, or the northern most southern city - with character - the home of Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key penned the poem that would become the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, during the War of 1812. Some of the pride of Baltimore include, but are certainly not limited to, Cab Calloway, Frederick Douglass, Dashiell Hammett, Billie Holiday, Johns Hopkins, Al Kaline, Eli Lilly, Thurgood Marshall, Jim McKay, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Post, Pam Shriver, and David Simon.

However, those famous folks were and are not in a position to turn around a city that has been slumping for decades and under constant Democrat control. The last Republican mayor of Baltimore was Theodore McKelden (1963-67) and the last time a Republican was elected to the city council was 1939. When one party rule goes unchecked for decades, complacency, carelessness, and corruption sets in. When President Trump makes remarks some call incendiary, while others, who make similar comments that go unnoticed, people are simply looking for a scapegoat. Trump has been in office two and a half years - he is most certainly not remotely responsible for the strife that has befallen Baltimore.

The drugs, crime, single-parent families, virtually non-existent academic success in a minority-majority run city - mayor, city council, police chief - is a state of insanity - continuing to mishandle things the same way for decades, yet expecting change and improvements.

I started visiting Charm City in the mid-1980s while in college at the University of Maryland, and moved there in the late-1990s to take a teaching position at a middle school - ranked the worst in the entire state of Maryland. There were at least three pregnancies in the one year I taught at this particular school. One rookie teacher went home to Missouri for Christmas-New Year’s break and never returned. I had 40 students in a class, and rest assured there were not 40 seats or textbooks in the classroom. The so-called history textbook only went so far as to have Jimmy Carter as the most recent president. More than 90 percent of the students received “free” lunch and there were no after school activities.

This scenario played out in most schools throughout the city, and this was nearly two decades before Freddie Gray. Gray was and is merely a symptom of the larger microcosm of drugs, murder, and no education plaguing this city for generations. I used to enjoy attending concerts at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, going to Orioles games at Camden Yards, taking in the sites at Federal Hill, Fells Point, the Inner Harbor, most of which today, just aren’t as safe as they once were. Restaurants on Charles Street, the home of Johns Hopkins University, and in Little Italy are not as attractive due to the increased level of unrest in the city, and these are the areas that used to attract tourists in droves. This is not hyperbole, nor is it racist.

The murder rate in Baltimore is 56 per 100,000. Detroit is closest behind Baltimore at 40 per 100,000. There were 344 homicides in 2015, 318 in 2016, 342 in 2017, and 309 last year with a projected greater than 300 for the fifth year in a row. Baltimore is a deadlier killing field than Chicago, in the news regularly for its slayings. Baltimore is just under 40 miles away from Washington, DC, but it may as well be 4,000 miles with the lack of attention it gets.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, who spent more than 30 years as a pediatric neuro-surgeon at Johns Hopkins, reported that 65 percent of the children in Baltimore live within single-parent families, trends that have been worsening for decades, and are statistically worse in black communities as compared to white, Hispanic, and Asian communities. Pointing this out, and what the real solutions are, only get people labeled racist.

Project Baltimore reported that in 13 of 39 city high schools there were zero students proficient in math - zero - let that sink in for a minute. In six more schools, only one percent tested proficient. In roughly half the schools, 3,804 students attempted the exam, with a mere, a tragic, 14 proficient in math. Not 14 percent, just 14 actual students. With numbers this low, it’s no wonder the poverty rate in Baltimore is 22 percent. Once again, identifying the problem and the potential solutions, gets one tagged with the Scarlet R.

Sadly, Baltimore is not an anomaly. See also Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, and St. Louis, just to mention a few. Progress begins with education and it starts at home - preferably in a two-parent home with married parents who at the very least graduated high school. Those factors will give every child a head start, said Carson, who also added that in this era of no judgments, again, gets people labeled an -ist or -phobe when pointing out what should be the obvious.

It’s long overdue for people to roll up their sleeves, put aside the partisan bickering, name calling, and face reality - the past 60 years have been a dismal failure and calling people racist for pointing out the facts helps no one, least of all the children - the most vulnerable of all. Virtually the entire public school system is corrupted by incompetent so-called leaders, teachers’ unions whose main goal is to indoctrinate students while protecting the worst of their constituencies hiding behind tenure - a system that shields bad teachers while hurting students, condemning the next generation to living life as if it were an episode of The Wire or my favorite, Homicide: Life on the Street.

Like Trump; dislike Trump. Either way he was correct with what he said about Cummings’ district - specifically Baltimore, and Cummings is too smart to disagree, but he has to play the same political game. People can stand in opposite corners calling each other racists, but it will accomplish nothing, other than getting more corrupt politicians richer while cities like Baltimore continue to fester and stink of urban rot, decay, and failing schools. 

And, yes, I did actually put my money where my mouth is and ran for the city council in Baltimore in 1999 - beyond a fool’s errand. In a city, at the time, with eight percent registered Republicans, needless to say, I did not win. Like the City of Baltimore, not every story has a happy ending.

 Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.


  1. Heed your own advice, you've literally provided not a single suggestion that would aid the inner city residents of Baltimore, instead, you jumped to a knee jerk defense of Trump. Weird how you racist idiots have ignored attacks on anyone but a black federal representative, why not talk to the GOP governor? You're exactly what I'd expect from a pedophilic racist GOP whiner. Sit down and shut up, unless you want to contribute...Then again, you're a know nothing Republican shill, you'll never actually help society, you're too stupid, evil and shameless too. Easier to be a pedophilic racist pig.

  2. Dear Mr. Horn,

    I find it very interesting that you said nothing in your article about charter schools in Baltimore. My oldest daughter, now 19, was in the first 1st grade class of the Green School of Baltimore, a school that has been open for approximately 13 years now. Many charter schools followed the Green School in the following years. And Baltimore is the only place that I know where liberals, conservatives, and educators all support the charter school movement.

    My daughter went on to attend middle school at the Design School of Baltimore, founded by Catherine Pugh, and then the Bard High School and Early College, sponsored by Bard College in New York state, both modeled as Charter Schools (Yes I am very disappointed in Ms Pugh for her political corruption, but she was instrumental in creating a vocational-oriented school out of a dilapidated old shoe factory near the Greenmount Cemetery).

    My daughter is about start her sophomore year at one of the top liberal arts colleges in the state of Indiana. Almost of all her classmates at Bard HS attend top-notch colleges and universities throughout out the east coast. (My daughter was the only white girl in her class, so yes, believe it or not, African American students from Baltimore can and do get accepted in great colleges and universities).

    However, I am sure that pointing these facts out would not serve your purpose of trying to gain cheap political points.

    I would also note that your suggest that no one in Baltimore would vote for a Republican mayor has a lot to do with the fact that the Republican party completely writes off Baltimore, as well as most other cities, spending no money nor recruiting any viable candidates. So really the GOP strategy for the cities is a 'twofer" - don't waste time running viable candidates and then point your finger at the stupid people in the urban areas who keep voting for Democrats.

    If the voters in blue MD can elect a GOP governor, then it's just possible that the people of Baltimore would elect a GOP mayor if given the right choices.

    You are smart enough to know that Cummings district includes only part of Baltimore city, while 2/3rds of his district is in wealthy Howard county and white Baltimore county. So why doesn't Trump attack the white Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger or John Sarbanes, whose districts also include Baltimore City for the conditions of the city? Again, a fact that you convienently neglect to mention so to make it appear that Cummings is the sole Congressional representative of Baltimore City.

    Of course your article highlights that looting and rioting that occurred after the death of Freddie Gray, but failed to mention the legions of Baltimore residents out in the streets the following day cleaning up the trash and residual of the riot.

    My councilman in Baltimore is Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer. Maybe you should learn a thing or two about Yitzy before you condemn a fellow Jew to the trash heap of corrupt Baltimore City politicians.

    I've lived in Baltimore for 20 years, and to say that the venues you mentioned, (Little Italy, the Inner Harbor, etc.) are not as safe today as they were in the 1990's is absurd. Yes, the murder rate have ticked up since the Freddie Gray riots, but the city was much more dirtier and dangerous in the 1990's. Harbor East didn't exist back then, nor did the redevelopment that has occurred just north of the Johns Hopkins Hospital (to name just a few new developments).

    Finally, I find it interesting comments on your article published in the "Federalist" elicited so many racist comments for a topic that you go out of your way to claim is in no way racist:

    Just a couple examples:

    "The horror in Baltimore is that almost the entire city government in charge of this fiasco is also black!."

    "Pointing out the obvious, the last three mayors of this disaster area were black females"

    Yeah, nothing racist to see here


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