Apr 23, 2001
April 17 was Baltimore's annual Taxpayer Night, at which about 100 city residents came to protest high taxes and a city budget that does not meet their needs. It's a tradition in Baltimore: once a year, the mayor and other city officials listen to their "constituents."
This year, about half the protesters were city workers whose jobs are being threatened. The mayor has proposed that the city might save some money by laying off 150 people from the Department of Public Works and then farming out these services to private companies.
But 100 people is nothing in a city of 650,000. And the mayor knows that 100 people won't prevent him from doing what mayors traditionally do after the speeches are over –forget it ever happened. Of course, the union leaders cannot be faulted just because the turn-out was low. The problem is, what was done which might have brought more people out?
There was no campaign made in city offices and other workplaces to bring people out.
A really large, angry demonstration that wouldn't fit in any meeting rooms or halls –that's when mayors start to listen to residents. City workers and residents crowding city government chambers can get a lot of attention from officials –and very quickly.
But demonstrations like this would embarrass the mayor. And, just like in many cities which are strongholds of the Democratic Party, the union leaders view the mayor as their pal. Yet this administration, like the previous ones, has presided over endless cuts in city services and rises in city taxes. The recession is not even here yet, according to the media, but the mayor is already proposing more layoffs and cutbacks and tax increases.
The system of profit-before-anything has been catastrophic for U.S. cities. No administration anywhere, neither Democratic or Republican, is ready to force the rich ones who make the mess to clean it up. In every city, officials want ordinary working people, and especially the poorest ones, to pay the price for how capitalism works.
One city worker who spoke on April 17 was cheered when he made a suggestion to save some money: "Let's eliminate five deputy mayors at a cost of $600,000."
That's a beginning. But there's a lot more money to be had –from the people who caused the problem. But we won't get it just by politely asking, hat in hand.