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Saturday, June 10, 2023

“The State of Our City is Strong,” Strongly Troubled

Mayor Brandon Scott delivered his third State of the City address Monday evening, April 17, 2023 at the new Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center in Cherry Hill. Apparently, Mr. Scott’s choice of venue spoke to an example of his accomplishments.  

The mayor ticked off several other examples of City Hall’s achievements, touting reduced unemployment, an expanded tax base, new small businesses, increased hotel occupancy, retrieving illegal guns and abating vacant abandoned properties among his ‘successes,’ proclaiming, “BALTIMORE. IS. BACK.”

Is Baltimore back, or is Baltimore going backward? We’re currently number two among the twenty most murderous cities in the country.

Any good news is welcome news; however, our city will never live to its full potential unless we confront dire truths about our condition and circumstances. Baltimore is certainly a strong city for withstanding the daunting issues confronting us that siphon too much of our vitality and resources.

At this writing, Baltimore City has experienced 83 murders this year as of April 19, one murder every 31 hours and 15 minutes, twenty-four-seven, since January 1. Assigning blame away from himself for the city’s gun violence crisis, Mr. Scott declared: “Baltimoreans elected me because we were approaching public safety in a way that was not producing results.”

During a Q&A with The Baltimore Times, Brandon Scott was eager to share that he had been vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee, eighteen days after becoming City Council president in 2019. He told us: “I have a bigger platform to demand from the agencies and administrative leadership in Baltimore, a comprehensive gun violence reduction strategy.” We could use that now, Mr. Mayor.

At the time, I made this statement to Mr. Scott: “Since Ms. Mosby took office in January 2015, these are the stats: 2015, 344 murders, 241 unsolved; 2016, 318 murders, 195 unsolved; 2017, 343 murders, 167 unsolved; 2018, 309 murders, 175 unsolved. Including 2019 numbers there could be as many as 800 unapprehended murderers on Baltimore streets, years prior to 2015 notwithstanding.”

The mayor’s speech Monday night did not include an acknowledgment that the low murder clearance rate in Baltimore strongly suggests that an inordinate amount of the city’s gun violence may be perpetrated by uncaught serial offenders.  

I also mentioned to the future mayor that “research shows roughly 10,000 ex-offenders return to Baltimore streets annually with a recidivism rate of about 40 percent over 36 months. There appears a symbiotic relationship has developed between ex-offenders and urban street culture. The prison culture appears to have infiltrated the streets.”

One of the consequences of the miseducation of tens of thousands of youths, particularly in neighborhoods of high-density deprivation, is that illicit narcotics can become the default economy of the community, backed by guns, because jobs, resources and services don’t much exist. 

Eighty-five percent of incarcerated youth confronting the correctional system are functionally illiterate, a trend that is roughly equal to unincarcerated youth participating in the school system. Data released by the Maryland Department of Education for 2023 identifies Baltimore City public school students’ math proficiency at 7% and reading proficiency at 16%. According to the Warnock Foundation: “70% of students who do not read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up on WELFARE or in JAIL. In Baltimore, 7 out of 10 students are at RISK!!”

Shouldn’t Brandon Scott have addressed the state of violence consuming Baltimore’s children? Grim statistics from the 2023 Gun Violence Archive reports that 40 of Baltimore’s children and adolescents have been wounded by gunfire and six killed between January 1 and April 16. “Black children and teens are 17 times more likely than white children and teens of the same age to die by gun homicide,” according to everytownresearch.org/.

“We are making constant strides towards building a safer Baltimore,” Mayor Scott extolled during his State of the City. That can’t happen until the data that defines the true condition of the city’s health is addressed. The details are in the data. The data determines the response. We didn’t hear a plan of action Monday night that gave us the urgent facts about the threats to our city by the numbers, and in plain English, about how the city intends to tackle that.

The Baltimore Times responded in an editorial to a comment former Mayor Jack Young made in 2018. Researching Baltimore murders to Mr. Young’s high school graduation year, 1975, added up to 11,554 killings. Add 2019 through 2022, and Baltimore has seen 12,910 murders, 1 murder every 32.5 hours, twenty-four-seven, for 48 straight years.

Unfortunately, these truths pose the mayor’s new rec center as just another possible crime scene.

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