Here is a statement on the Baltimore riots of the last days of April 2015 from Lorenzo Gaztañaga, deeply concerned, politically active citizen of Baltimore and Maryland, candidate for Baltimore Mayor 2016, Libertarian.
I came to Baltimore in June of 1963. I graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School in 1968, left Baltimore in 1970 and returned with my wife, Susan, in 1984 and settled here, where most of my family was and my friends from school. Living on Calvert Street in the late sixties, we experienced the riots of 1968. I certainly hoped that nothing like that would happen again. Sadly, it did.
Over the decades, Baltimore dwindled from a metropolis of almost 1 million people to a little over 600,000. Vast portions of Baltimore’s population are unemployed, in need of assistance, yet the government of the City of Baltimore has insisted on inflicting on this same population snack taxes, bottle taxes, and a continuing high property tax. Anyone of small means in the most economically depressed areas of the city finds the process of starting a legitimate business daunting, if not impossible. Baltimore laws and regulations are not aimed to encourage the most economically disadvantaged to find a way out of their situation, but rather the encouragement is aimed at helping the already large and well-off come and do business—not that many outside of hotels and restaurants actually do come.
One very legitimate complaint in the aftermath of our most recent riots is that our police department is heavily staffed by out of towners, people who, outside of their jobs and paychecks, don’t have a real stake in the community and don’t know the people in the community that they police. This is a serious matter, but one that won’t be resolved by merely making a law insisting that people who work in the police department have to live within city limits. This is not to say that an individual from out of town cannot be a perfectly good, professional police officer in Baltimore City. The situation, however, is severely lopsided and the results can be dire, at the very least in perception, which is serious enough, if not in reality.
How dire? Neck injuries during arrests are not necessarily unusual. The fact that young Baltimore men run and scatter off when they see police rather than stick around, since they are potentially the victims of automatic suspicion. Incidents that are well known of young men being stopped and having their pants dropped by police right in the middle of the sidewalk. This is bad enough. The role of the police is to protect and serve. If they are protecting anybody, then who is it? And what does that uncivilized, probably illegal behavior do to the honest, upright police officers currently serving on the force? Nothing good, certainly. Let’s be clear about one thing. This riot in Baltimore was not a race riot. It was a violent reaction to both perceived and concrete abuses of authority, specifically by representatives of the police department.
How can we help improve this situation?
- For one, better schools through actual school choice policies. Baltimore spends more than $17,000 per student per year, but the student achievement is the lowest in Maryland, lower than even some poor rural counties.
- Lower the property tax, currently more than twice as high as any Maryland county.
- Eliminate the short sighted and rapacious little taxes to death mentioned above.
- Put the thousands and thousands of units of housing stock on the market with a serious dollar house program.
Instead of doing serious work to make Baltimore City a welcoming place for the people who already live here at economic disadvantage so they can use their talents to create small businesses in their own neighborhoods, the clear appearance is that the actions of our Mayor evoke the image of Emperor Nero playing his favorite stringed instruments while Rome burned and bled. And let’s make this clear, this mayor, elected by less than 30% of potential voters—a civic disease in itself—is the mayor of intensely powerful special interests who care nothing about the citizens of Baltimore. The economically disadvantaged people of Baltimore do not need another government program, heavy in bureaucracy, pomposity and waste, yet doing little of whatever it is that it’s supposed to be doing.
In addition to that, the national policies insisting on the so-called War on Drugs for decades has been a war on the economically disadvantaged who, whether guilty or not, become the likely targets of an overcharged police department that, not without reason, in many cases feels under attack. This deadly national policy adds to the pain, destruction and corruption of places like Baltimore, and it doesn’t have to be. The dependent on drug abuse need medical assistance, counseling, healing for their souls and spirits, which is the real cause for why they end up where they end up. Every young Baltimorean that ends up arrested and in the criminal justice system because of violations of drug war laws and statutes for the most part quickly becomes the fodder of a jail system that’s really a college for crime.
Baltimore has been my home two thirds of my life or more. I cry when I see what happened. I’m deeply, deeply disturbed when I see the business of Baltimore City governing the same as usual with every indication of living out the dictum that insanity is doing the same wrong thing over and over again believing that eventually you’ll get it right. Baltimore has it within itself to be a peaceful, civil and prosperous place from the inside out. We need to pursue policies in this city that will open the door and get out of the way to let this happen.
God bless you.
With deeply felt sentiments towards my city,
Candidate for Mayor 2016