A few odds and ends:
I hope the Occupy Baltimore folks manage to attract a few more people to their encampment downtown before the cold weather sets in. They have an excellent point: that the vast majority of citizens of Baltimore are living paycheck to paycheck–or worse, hand-to-mouth–while the city’s assets are carved up by a very small cadre of politically connected tycoons. Harbor East is a perfect example: the city collects very little tax on that land, which is worth far north of $100 million, because it allowed millions in tax breaks and Payments in Lieu of Taxes and loan guarantees and other come-alongs to developers to induce them to do what they were going to do anyway: develop the waterfront.
• The waterfront is perhaps Baltimore’s biggest asset, and the city has mismanaged it for generations. If the city were collecting a fair tax on waterfront property, we could have the cash to pay for decent schools.
• It’s no wonder that many voters are disgusted, and no wonder that many voters stayed home for September’s city primary. Among the three major mayoral contenders were two career politicians and a man who, when he was the city’s Director of Planning, tried to push one too many badly financed, ill-conceived and oversized developments down voters’ throats (ahem, the Icon).
• I’m betting that the turnout is even lower on November 8, except in the 13th District, where Shannon Sneed, who lost a heartbreaker to incumbent Warren Branch by 43 votes, is carrying on an active write-in campaign.
• Speaking of elections, can we hold the city election and the state election at the same time? Better still, can we hold city, state and federal at the same time? It would save money—but even better, it would keep politicians from taking a free whack at higher office, knowing they can return to City Hall or the State House if they lose.
Constituents deserve the full attention of their elected officials, and they don’t get that when the elected official is off campaigning for another office.
Aligning the elections would create some churn in various offices, something we desperately need. We need fewer career pols at City Hall and more firebrands.
• On the other hand, I’m not in favor of term limits. No one should be automatically limited to a specific number of terms, because that’s akin to telling the voters for whom they may vote.
• Exception: the executive office. The President of the United States, the Governor of Maryland, and yea, verily, even unto the Mayor of Baltimore, should be limited to two terms. Period. I don’t care if it’s the second coming of William Donald Schaefer, two terms.
• If you count up the iffy deals that Schaefer made–deals like Harbor East and the Pulaski incinerator–they came after his second term.
• I would definitely welcome a second party to Baltimore politics. We need a strong Republican party to keep the Democrats honest. I wish the GOP wasn’t presently so dominated by the fire-breathing evangelists and Ayn Randys at the right edge of the party—it limits the appeal of a party that normally has good ideas to bring to a discussion.
• I mean discussion, not ultimatum. Recently, the United States is being governed by ultimatum, and we need to talk more and consider longer.
• And now for something completely different, but somehow related: can we please go back to calling “Harvest Festivals” what they really are—Halloween parties? Honestly, dressing up like the Joker and extorting candy from strangers isn’t going to turn the kid into a career criminal, and seeing a kid dressed as a blood-dripping zombie isn’t going to scar a child for life. And stop offering pencils for Trick or Treat. Kids don’t want pencils. They have pencils at home. They want Milk Duds. And Snickers.
• No trick-or-treating after the age of 30. That’s it.