Whaddya Have To Do To Get Noticed In This Burg?

by A. Robert Kaufman
      It was a textbook example of how Baltimore’s Oligarchy (BO) was able to manipulate the electorate to focus all of its attention on the Big Three--made “big” by their big money--and away from any serious discussion of solutions to our city’s problems.

      Particularly in the last four to six weeks of the campaign, major media (the Sun, all of TV and radio) focused pretty much exclusively on the three or four establishment candidates.

      (Incidentally, throughout the entirety of the campaign, both the Baltimore Times and the East Baltimore Guide adamantly refused any mention of the Kaufman/Greene campaign!)

      The presumably “independent” polls conducted by Gonzales/Arscott were anything but impartial. They asked 627 registered Democratic voters in Baltimore City: “If the election were held tomorrow, which of the candidates would you pick?” Then, in alphabetical order, they offered: “Bell, Conaway, O’Malley, Stokes, other (!), undecided.”

      Anyone stumbling through Journalism 101 knows that to not list all of the 17 Democratic candidates was unscientific, prejudicial, and highly unprofessional.

      When queried, Gonzales/Arscott replied that it would have been too much bother to list the other 12 candidates.

      When I discovered this bit of skullduggery I immediately informed the entire local media. Many media personnel argued that such a poll was unfair but none aired my discovery. All used it to rationalize making me the invisible candidate for the vital last six weeks of the campaign.

      I didn’t watch much TV during this period, but I did notice a lot of people asking me if I was still running and complaining that they had not seen me at the TV-covered candidate forums.

      Then I began to check out the TV coverage and saw at least one channel’s (WMAR) camcorder pass the seated candidates and “cut” before showing Kaufman.

      WJZ headlined their campaign coverage with mock playing cards featuring the mugs of the same four suspects.

      The Sun covered my weekly press conferences up to the last 6 weeks of so. TV and radio covered none of them at all!


      When the City Wide Coalition announced my candidacy in early January, we did not expect to win. We did expect to hold the other candidates’ feet to the fire on our eleven-year effort to create a non-profit car and home insurance co-op, which could save Baltimore drivers and average of $300 the very first year (according to city-financed studies--challenged by no one!)

      Much to the disappointment of all--we were not able to get the insurance issue over the top. It was not so much the ability of Bell, O’Malley, and Stokes to dance around the issue as it was the failure of almost the entire media and the entire electorate, to make these guys ’fess up to a straight yes or no.

      To its everlasting shame, BUILD never even asked the candidates to take a stand on this issue. As a participant in their “forum,” they turned my microphone off when I challenged Bell on this issue. I was told that it was not a BUILD issue!

      Why in hell wasn’t it?

      The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, CPHA, and NAACP did no better on this issue--or on our crime/drug proposal.

      The Baptist Ministerial Conference held an overtly racist forum without inviting either O’Malley or myself--and no media reported on it, much less commented on it.

      The predominantly black 1199E hospital workers and ACORN(!) held a joint forum without Kaufman--the candidate most likely to win their endorsement had they trusted their members to make a truly democratic judgment.

      Considering the fact that we picked a fight with the entire insurance industry (representing the largest accumulation of private capital in the world) and considering the fact that we had to rely largely on a media owned by the very ruling class it is our publicly proclaimed desire to replace--with the American people--we didn’t do too bad.

      Sally Kearsley’s contribution of posters on buses and full page ads that actually said something, put us in a league that encouraged media attention. We want to thank Sally for her commitment to the ideals we share.

      During that time, we received the acceptance, if not always the active support, of what certainly seemed like the large majority of those folks we talked to--both individually and at forums.

      On a regular basis, paid as well as volunteer workers from the other camps would tell me how much they respect me for raising the issues and telling the truth.

      Even some of the talking heads wagged positive tongues about Kaufman’s being the only one raising issues and offering new solutions.

      The worst “criticism” I would receive was, “Kaufman, you’ll never be elected--you’re too honest.”

      Other candidates began picking up on our solutions. Bell endorsed the idea of a commuter tax. (So why hadn’t he moved on this while in the City Council?) In apparent desperation, he even began calling for “redistribution of wealth!” No kidding.

      O’Malley would use most of his limited forum time to tell us about his wife and children. This accomplished two things. It meant he didn’t have time to deal with issues and accusations about refusing to raise in City Council a resolution to demand that Mayor Schmoke let the car insurance co-op happen. It also pointed out that Stokes has no wife, and Bell has no children--nyah, nyah, nyah.


      To me, the most curious thing about this election is why Carl Stokes, despite several promises, never clearly got on board our car insurance co-op proposal. He could have hammered O’Malley and Bell into political oblivion with it. For a year the City Wide Coalition had begged the 19 gutless wonders in the City Council (including Bell and O’Malley) to introduce a resolution to urge Mayor Schmoke to let it happen. All it would take is a $300,000 short-term loan and a $9 million guarantee to satisfy the insurance commissioner to save city drivers close to $80 million collectively. It certainly wasn’t that Bell or O’Malley were too shy to embarrass Schmoke.

      All three of them were and are obviously in the pockets of the insurance industry.

      It appears that Stokes would rather lose the election than tangle with the insurance industry.

      We had very positive interviews in the Daily Record, The Jewish Times, The City Paper and lots of good stuff in The Chronicle, and an editorial in The Baltimore Alternative endorsed my candidacy. Columnists Gregory Kane, Michael Olesker, and Dan Rodricks wrote positive columns. Leonard Kerpelman’s interviews with me on Baltimore Cable Access were also of value.

      Even Time Magazine, in an otherwise horrible article, described me as “bold,” “socialist,” “intelligent.”

      Bottom line. Folks who didn’t like me didn’t vote for me. Folks who did like me didn’t vote for me either.

      O’Malley’s strategy was to win friends and appear honest. Our strategy was to offer solutions to the city’s problems--and let the chips fall where they will.

      O’Malley’’s malarkey won over our reason.

      That doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with our solutions. Truth crushed to earth shall rise again--even if those truths were self-destructively crushed by the naiveté of wishful-thinking voters.

      For the next four years, O’Malley has been given the mandate to get tougher on crime, ignore the car insurance co-op, ignore the commuter tax on incomes over $35,000. Instead voters appear to have given him license to ignore democratizing the school board, ignore opening the polls to vote for felons, immigrants, and 16-year olds, ignore the creation of a city-wide credit union, ignore having city-wide proportional representation at City Council elections, ignore eliminating publicly financed primaries, and ignore eliminating the need to register to vote, as they have done in Germany and elsewhere--along with other solutions only our candidacy offered.

      That is why I say--we ran a clean, honest campaign of viable solutions. We have good reason to stand proud.

      How are you standing, city voter?


      Real life goes on between elections. While it’s true that our problems have been created by those whose watch it has been for far too long--our ruling establishment--the upper crust--a bunch of crumbs held together by dough--they are nevertheless our problems to solve.

      We must hold the new mayor and City Council’s feet to the fire to implement our solutions that were so well received by so many folks.

      The City Wide Coalition needs your participation in this effort. Please call (410) 728-8611--while there is still time for you to be relevant.

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This story was published on November 3, 1999.