‘Let’s Make Millionaires’

by Scott Loughrey
       Quick: What local politician said the following in criticism of Kurt Schmoke? “The reason why there is support for mayors like Marion Barry in Washington, D.C., is that it is very clear he created black millionaires. We’re not aware of any black millionaires that Schmoke created while in office.”
       Many people know that politician to be Del. Howard “Pete” Rawlings, whose support for Martin O’Malley was pivotal in O’Malley’s mayoral election. One can assume that in exchange for his support, O’Malley is going to help some blacks become millionaires.
       Now, what local newspaper quoted Rawlings without further comment? It also criticized Schmoke by saying “The ultimate losers in the blame game [by those who expected more from Kurt Schmoke] played in skyscraper offices are the citizens of Baltimore. Corporate involvement in public schools has waned...” Let’s skip for now a discussion of how any corporate involvement in schools could possibly be a good thing.
       Was it the Sun? The Baltimore Business Journal? No, it’s the City Paper (CP), which calls itself “Baltimore’s Free Alternative Weekly.” The article was “The End,” written by Michael Anft and Molly Rath (CP, 12/1/1999).
       Does anyone see the problem here? If you’re an ‘Alternative Weekly’, shouldn’t you be in opposition to something? And, isn’t the strength of your opposition a determination of your worth?
       As the only daily newspaper in town, the Sun is economically advantaged to remain the most vital to the business community. Occasionally (particularly in the weekend Perspective section, which they know people are reading) there are items in it which appeal to non-business concerns such as environmentalism and the plight of labor. However, any honest study of the Sun overall would have to conclude it is a business-oriented publication from the front page on through the Dilbert cartoons, in the opinion pages and in the news stories it chooses to cover. Its reason for being is to bring a product (you) to its business advertisers.
       As a result, if we were to consider the CP truly ‘Alternative,’ we would expect to frequently read viewpoints in it that the Sun rarely expresses.
       Here the subject is how Mayor O’Malley should manage the city. From the right we can almost always rely on the Sun’s daily drumbeat for an economic plan centered on more largesse for the Inner Harbor.
       However, representing the left we’ve got an ‘Alternative Weekly’ likewise singing praise for trickle-down economics. The City Paper article also resembled the Sun by chastising Schmoke for not heeding the viewpoints expressed by the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), a business group.
       If one can stay asleep reading one of their reports you’ll learn that one of the positive trends emerging in Baltimore is “a resurgence of commerce in downtown Baltimore that is spreading outward from the Inner Harbor to both the east and the west...” (GBC Report, 8/12/99).
       Support for Inner Harbor development is always high on the agenda of the local business press. While the Disneyland effect is certainly spreading, particularly along the east near the Sylvan Learning Center, this does not seem to be an economic approach that is benefiting nearby neighborhoods. There is little reason to believe that CP’s implied endorsement for the new Mayor to direct even more wealth to those who frequent “skyscraper boxes” will work any differently than it currently has.
       Consider the Inner Harbor’s effects today. While granting that Federal Hill is doing pretty well, we certainly can’t say the same about Sowebo, Pig Town or the projects in western Fells Point. There are some places in these areas which appear to this writer to have Third-World characteristics.
       If statistics were available regarding these neighborhoods they would likely show that half of the families residing there are living beneath the poverty line. If the City Paper wants to be considered ‘Alternative’ they would passionately argue that Mayor O’Malley should try to save troubled neighborhoods by putting the needs of people in dire need at the forefront of his agenda. It would point out the national trends regarding economic inequality and conclude that the more impoverished the neighborhood the more likely that everyone living in it is getting poorer. With only a single business daily (the Sun) and an ‘Alternative Weekly’ (CP) that increasingly resembles it in tone, how long can the concept of Baltimore continue to appeal to new people?
       Until more viewpoints can be heard, people willing to put in a little time to help Baltimore improve can do so by agitating these corporate media outlets via periodic letters, calls and faxes. We can speak out when the only economic policies being expressed are certain to bring this city nearer to the Third World.

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This story was published on January 5, 2000.