Michael Steele is making numerous headlines today for his apology to Rush Limbaugh. Locally, he is also making headlines after being called out by Baltimore School's CEO Andres Alonso at a public forum which also featured Governor Martin O'Malley last night at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore. Alonso demanded an apology from Steele for promises he made to that school in the past, which he never kept.
Our reporter Melody Simmons was there. Click the podcast player to hear her recording of Alonso's remarks on Steele, and also on Governor O'Malley.
I hate watching this happen. It is no small matter for a sitting Mayor to be indicted.
I have known Sheila Dixon for over thirty years. We are not close friends. We have not been in a private social setting together in 32 years. We met when we were both counselors and teachers at Baltimore Prep, a program at Westside Shopping Center for street kids who had just come out of prison or had been kicked out of school, whose lives were on the corner instead of the classroom. Sheila was committed to those kids. She didn’t take any stuff from them and she knew every game they could play, because she came from the same streets that they did. Baltimore Prep is also where she met Mark Smith, who later became her husband, with whom she raised her nephew Juan Dixon and his brother. The boys’ parents had died from heroin addiction. Sheila and Mark saw those boys to manhood. This is the Sheila Dixon I know.
I knew her a little in the intervening years. I remember when she was first elected to the city council. I remember when she banged her shoe on the table exclaiming it was our turn now. She was committed to working class black folks. She lived and knew their pain, joys and struggles. A lot of white journalists, politicians and others thought she hated white people. I don’t know what her innermost thoughts about race were, but I can say that anyone who came up in a certain way who was from a certain place had historical reasons to have a mistrust of white people. Whatever she thought then, however, she has grown from that place, as did William Donald Schaeffer from his place of not caring about Black folks before he became Mayor. She bleeds working class blue in her veins. That is the Sheila Dixon I know.
So, these indictments are just tragic. If they are true, they show stupidity and sheer greed.
As I wrote last week, the only difference between the actions of our city officials and indicted power developers, and goings on in Congress between politicians and corrupt corporate leaders, is the thin but sturdy line of legality.
Politicians are always doing favors for the powerful and their friends. It is part of human existence. Nevertheless, it was not the fur coats that bought Ron Lipscomb city contracts, but rather all of his city and corporate contacts.
I am not excusing anything here. If Sheila and others broke their sacred trust with us, they have to leave elected office at the very least. It cannot be tolerated.
The worst offence would be if she actually took gift certificates that were intended for poor families and children to enjoy Christmas. I hope that even if the bribery and malfeasance indictments are true, that stealing from street kids and poor families is not true. That could break a city’s heart.
That would not be the Sheila Dixon I know. Soon we will know whether she broke the law. If she did, then the court will decide her fate. If she is exonerated, she could become one of our greatest Mayors. If not, she will become one of our greatest disappointments and tragedies.
It is such a beautiful, unseasonably cool August morning, crisp, cool and a tad cloudy. I picked up the Sunday papers on my way back in from walking our dog, Charley. I opened the Times, put it down and glanced at the front page of the Sun, below the fold on the right hand side. “Community in shock over Harford man’s drug charges … Ecologist, decades long teacher revered by residents.”
My gut told me this was not some heroin dealing, gun toting, cocaine smuggling outlaw swaggering through the
A sixty-two-year-old man who spent his life teaching kids about nature, our environment and love of life. He smokes marijuana and it appears as if he might consume some psilocybin mushrooms sometimes. He must really be an evil man. Pretty soon, all the kids in Harford will be smoking dope, dropping acid, snorting cocaine, having sex and god knows what else. Known as Ranger Bob to all the kids, why, if there ever was a contrived name, Ranger Bob is it. Look, he even has a beard and plays Santa Clause on his Christmas tree farm. That’s how he snares all those kids. The devil in disguise. You think he is really teaching about the earth, nature and our history, respecting life and the planet we live on...
OK, enough with the sarcasm, but this is just madness. I don’t think anyone should go to jail, or have their home or children threatened with seizure, or livelihood taken away from them for smoking, growing or even selling marijuana. Most Americans who are 62 and lived through the counter culture world of hippies, slogged through a rice paddy in
Most people I know, at some point in their lives, smoked dope. There is a reason why we call it dope. So, most of us don’t do it anymore. Most of us don’t get drunk anymore. We have more important things to deal with then people’s personal behaviors.
People should not go to jail for using marijuana. We should legalize it, tax it and let it be. Grow hemp so we can stop cutting down trees for paper, and let marijuana bloom like we grow tobacco for cigarettes and hops for beer and barley for whiskey. Many Indian reservations want the chance to grow hemp for industrial uses. It could help our environment, create new jobs and new industries.
Every 45 seconds someone is arrested on a marijuana charge, and most of those for mere possession. In 2003, the last statistics I could find, there was an all time high (no pun intended) of 755,186 with 88 percent of those arrests were for possession, not the manufacture or distribution, of marijuana. The cost in imprisonment of these offenders’ amounts is conservatively $1.2 billion each year. If you are arrested for growing over 100 marijuana plants you go to jail for a minimum of five years. That is longer than for manslaughter or for grant theft auto. Conservatively, it costs $1.5 billion a year to incarcerate these folks. If you add in law enforcement and courts along with imprisonment, it may be as high as $15 billion a year. We could have spent that money to build new schools, to open homeless shelters or veterans' hospitals, to preserve the environment or even to fund anti-drug programs in schools.
Harvard Economist Dr. Jeffrey Alan Miron produced a highly acclaimed study, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition," which was endorsed by hundreds of economists, including conservative leaders like
Dr. Milton Friedman of the Hoover Institute, Dr. George Akerlof of the University of California at Berkeley, and Dr. Vernon Smith of George Mason University. He concludes that “replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of legal regulation would save approximately $7.7 billion in government expenditures on prohibition enforcement -- $2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels for a combined savings of $10 to 14 billion dollars."
Everyone has statistics. This argument has been going on for a long time. The bottom line is that chasing down pot smokers is a waste of our time, energy and money. People should have the right to have as they wish, consume what they want and pursue their pleasures as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others, harm our children or the environment.
Bob Chance, by all accounts from the former Mayor of Bel Air to the head of their county library, is a good soul who loves children and a defender of our environment who loves teaching. He should not have his life destroyed because he likes to smoke pot on his own time. He should be able to wake up on this unseasonably cool August morning not worrying about going to jail or losing his beloved farm.
We're pleased to bring you a special guest blog today by CEM contributor Lea Gilmore.