A dispenser of hand sanitizer at his side, Brandon Scott stood outside City Hall for the first time as Baltimore’s mayor, addressing a small group of reporters positioned well away from the podium as a precaution against the dangers of Covid-19 that impacted him last week.
“I have hope, but I am not naive to the challenges we face,” Scott said, in outdoor remarks that followed a scaled-back ceremony inside City Hall in which he was sworn in as the 52nd mayor of Baltimore.
“We are in the midst of battling two public health emergencies – Covid-19 and the continued epidemic of gun violence,” he said, launching into his brief remarks.
Scott delivered them from inside a cordoned-off area whose perimeter was protected by police officers and bomb squad personnel accompanied by explosive sniffing dogs.
Across the plaza, an immense American flag was suspended from two fire trucks in front of the War Memorial Building, whose roof was a staging area for more armed security. The flag display was reportedly arranged by the outgoing mayor, Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
“You will not agree with everything I do, but I know you agree that the status quo cannot continue – and under my leadership, it will not,” he said, pledging “fresh thinking, transparency, professionalism, integrity and hard work.”
Unsafe and Dirty
Just a block or two from the event, the city’s basic pressing problems were on full display.
Two men warmed themselves on a steam grate, the people nearly ejected from an encampment under the Jones Falls Expressway huddled around their tents and trash blew around the strip of land alongside Guilford Avenue where a previous mayor succeeded in carrying out an encampment-razing.
Scott made a point of tempering his talk of “a new way forward.”
“Our city remains unsafe and dirty, despite the way we invest our public dollars in our budget,” he said.
He promised to “get back to the basics of safe neighborhoods, reliable trash and recycling collection, plowed roads, dependable public transit, clean and affordable water and most importantly a good education – all with a focus on equity.”
“I am not a savior”
Also on display was the dreadful epidemic of violence that Scott will now, as mayor, own. The night before, police reported the details of two more shootings, one of which, in the South Baltimore neighborhood of Brooklyn, left an unidentified male dead.
“Year-to-date homicides: 309,” the Baltimore Police Department press release noted last night.
“Our crime fighting strategies have not worked,” Scott said, promising to “address root causes” and “decline violence. . . all while acting with the urgency to address the violence we see on a day-to-day basis.”
“No one is coming to save us. We have the ability to save ourselves, but we can only do that together” – Mayor Scott.
“Gone are the days when we attempt to solely police our way out of our problems,” he said, vowing to tackle crime will still honoring the federal consent decree signed after the Justice Department documented unconstitutional stops, discrimination and other police misconduct.
The live audience gathered before him was a sliver of traditional swearing-in ceremonies. Present today, in addition to the media, were Scott’s parents, Alvin and Donna Scott, communications director Stefanie Mavronis, and chief of staff Michael Huber.
For a time, Councilman Robert Stokes stood on the periphery as well.
“I am not a savior for our city,” the 36-year-old Scott said. “No one is coming to save us. We have the ability to save ourselves, but we can only do that together.”