Mayor Sheila Dixon’s pending resignation is a real tragedy both politically and personally.
We don’t know the details of the bargain she made with the judge and the prosecutors, although that will all come out shortly. My guess is that there will not be another trial and that she will fight to keep her pension. I predict that she may run again in the future.
It is hard to say what a Stephanie Rawlings-Blake administration will be like. The hope is that she will keep on some key personnel to make the transition easier for our city. However, rumors abound that Frederick Bealefeld’s tenure as police commissioner will be short under acting Mayor Rawlings-Blake. Many feel that the pending acting Mayor, along with her ally Governor Martin O’Malley, did want to see Bealefeld named commissioner, that they favored former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey. The commissioner believes that public safety comes first and that massive arrests are not the way to ensure the safety of the public. He is a tough, smart cop who needs the years ahead of him to turn the culture of the department around.
I have questioned Mayor Dixon about her integrity on my program on such issues as voting on the Board of Estimates to give contracts to Utech (a company that employed her sister), taking free tickets to an event at 1st Mariner Arena, and awarding a computer contract to her campaign manager–if you remember, a contract paid out in sums small enough to not have to be disclosed officially. But she was not indicted for any of those events. She was indicted for perjury because she did not disclose fur coats given to her by her boyfriend, albeit a contractor. She was found guilty of taking less than $600 in gift cards. What happened in the state prosecutor’s office that they could not indict her on issues of substance?!
The mayor has made some bad personal blunders. But I don’t think they merit her going to jail or having to resign. She should have apologized to this city, and the whole mess should have been a matter for an ethics hearing that could have forced her to repay the money and face the voters. I find using gift cards meant for poor children to be abhorrent, but it’s hardly an offense worthy of resignation.
Having said that I do not think Mayor Dixon should go to jail over these offenses, I want to add that I don’t think anyone else should, either. Thousands of people have languished in the Baltimore Detention Center for stealing far less than the mayor did. This should be a call to reform our entire justice system.
We will see what the administration of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake brings to us. More importantly, I hope we see the people of this city bring something to her, to force some creative thinking about the problems we face and to build our own dynamic future.