From Sen. J.B. Jennings:
Baltimore – Time For A New Plan
Like many of you, I watched Baltimore City erupt into madness on live television April 27th. The City became an orgy of angry crowds rioting, torching property and vehicles, looting and destroying. It was obvious that additional manpower and reinforcements were needed to restore order. After this mayhem continued on for several hours, Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake finally requested assistance from the State of Maryland. Within 30 seconds of the request being made, Governor Hogan signed an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency and ordered the Maryland National Guard to activation and pulled resources from Police Departments from all over the State.
The National Guard, led by Major General Linda Singh, was quickly organized and had “boots on the ground” within 3 hours. In all, 3,000 Army and Air National Guard members from every corner of the state put their lives on hold to secure peace in Baltimore. Without any hesitation, they donned their uniforms, hugged their families, and reported for duty. I am proud to have been one of those called.
As a member of the Air National Guard, I knew I could be activated to deal with natural disasters in Maryland, such as a hurricane or a blizzard, but I never thought I would be deployed to deal with rioting in Baltimore, a city I love. Though the city is often criticized and debased, I have always been proud to say I am from Baltimore. It is a beautiful city that has undergone significant rebirth in areas like Federal Hill, Canton, and Harbor East, but unfortunately some neighborhoods still need help.
While we saw the tragic result of that need unfold on TV last week, we also saw the hopeful side of the City. As I stood with my fellow National Guard members, I witnessed firsthand a family with young children who gave us ice water from a wagon they were pulling with a sign on it that read, “Thank you for protecting our city” and then again from a mother and daughter who were shaking the hand of every police officer, soldier and airman they saw. Signs of support were displayed on balconies, and many people thanked us personally as they walked by.
We must move forward and begin the process of building a better Baltimore. If we have the will, we can do it. During the riots, we saw that will in the community leaders who put themselves between the rioters and the police trying to squelch the anger. We saw these same community leaders put themselves between the rioters and businesses to try prevent looting and restore peace. Elected officials like Senator Catherine Pugh and Congressman Elijah Cummings spent every night trying to get people to obey the curfew and get off the streets so peace could be brought back to the communities. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that we have the people with the determination to make Baltimore better.
Now that I have returned home to my family, I have had time to reflect on the causes of last week’s rapid deterioration of civil order. Although the death of Freddie Gray in police custody ignited the protest, the roots of that ailment lie in the deplorable economic conditions in West Baltimore, and are reflected by its nearly 40% unemployment rate. Some say poverty is the most violent crime of all.
Maryland taxpayers pump millions of dollars every year into programs designed to lift these communities out of poverty. These programs are not working. To achieve a goal, a plan must be devised, executed and evaluated. If the evaluation shows the plan is failing, then a new plan must be devised, executed and evaluated. It’s time to devise a new plan.
We can step up and make the changes that must be made, or we can continue to pour money into a well that has no bottom and pay for programs that get no results. The choice is ours.
Senator J.B. Jennings