Baltimore elections focus on inequality

BALTIMORE, Md. – A recent “Tour of Shame” of some of Baltimore’s poorest, working-class, and racially oppressed neighborhoods spotlighted the extent of the economic devastation that has been visited on large sections of this city.

Organized by the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN), the tour visited neighborhoods like Rosemont and Southwest Baltimore with their dilapidated and boarded-up houses, vacant lots, and piled-up trash. Organizers charged that Mayor Martin O’Malley and many incumbent members of the City Council have neglected the city’s neighborhoods, catering instead to the wealthy business interests at the city’s Inner Harbor.

Sultan Shakir, an ACORN organizer in Baltimore, said, “The incumbent members of the City Council are giving themselves raises … while in these neighborhoods people are being laid off from their jobs and left with no visible means of supporting themselves and their families.” Shakir noted that the mayor and the council have voted to close schools and libraries in poor, working-class and minority neighborhoods. At the same time, he said, they are financing the expansion of libraries and other facilities in wealthier parts of the city.

These glaring inequalities are fueling an electoral fightback, the first round of which will be fought on primary election day, Sept. 9, one of the earliest in the nation.

Carl Stokes is running for president of the City Council against the incumbent, Sheila Dixon. Stokes is African American, as is almost 70 percent of the people of Baltimore, and is focusing his campaign on the needs of the working class and poor.

Wendy Foy, an ACORN board member and candidate for City Council from the 9th District, is opposing the incumbent, Agnes Welsh. Foy told the World, “I’m running for City Council because I am dedicated to changing our community. I’m dedicated to getting rid of vacant, boarded-up houses, which endanger nearby houses and are used by drug dealers.”

Addressing the bigger economic forces at work, Foy said, “I’m opposed to the laying off of city workers and other workers in this city. I’m opposed to paying them a mere minimum wage instead of a real living wage, while the CEOs of major corporations receive salaries into the billions every year.”

Charlie Metz is running for City Council in the 10th District. He told the World, “I am sick and tired of services being provided only for the wealthy, privileged few. The working-class citizens in the poor, minority neighborhood have really been forgotten.”

Willie Ray, president of Baltimore ACORN, is from Park Heights in Northwest Baltimore. Ray noted that the present mayor and many City Council members are getting big campaign contributions from big business interests in the city. He told the World, “We, the working people of Baltimore, both Black and white, don’t have that kind of money, but we have rights.”

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