Sunday, June 28, 2015

Maryland's Governor Plays Racial Politics With Public Transportation

Let's get one thing out of the way at the top of this conversation.  Governor Larry Hogan announced this week that he has a form of cancer, for which he will be receiving treatment while continuing to handle as much of his official duties as possible.  As one family man to another, and as someone who believes in treating everyone decently whether they agree with you or not, I wish the governor well in his battle for his health.  Nothing I say subsequently changes or should detract from that fact.

Which is just as well.  Because I find the Governor's subsequent decisions regarding the fates of the Red Line and Purple Line transit projects to be appalling.

Hogan has decided to pull the plug entirely on the Red Line, arguing that the project does not justify its expense.  Miraculously, however, he has decided to continue with the Purple Line, provided that certain financial conditions are met--not the least of which is greater financial support from Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, the two jurisdictions where the line will be located.

Hogan could just as easily imposed similar conditions on the construction of the Red Line, allowing it to move forward and contribute to the rebuilding and revitalization of Baltimore neighborhoods. Doing so, in the aftermath of the post-Freddie Gray riots, would have been a symbol of hope to a city that could badly use all the hope it can get.  Doing so would have demonstrated the Republican Governor's ability to rise above party politics, and do the right thing when it comes to the redevelopment of a largely Democratic city.  That, after all, is the brand of politics the Governor committed himself to when he campaigned and won last year's election.

Instead, Hogan is playing the race card in an amazingly ugly way.  With an eye on re-election, he uses the prospect of the Purple Line to entice voters from the largely white Washington suburbs, while using the withdrawal of support for the Red Line as a means for punishing a predominantly black city, and its Mayor, whom he blames for the lack of police response that allowed the riots to spread and shut down the city.

As I have said on previous occasions, I hold no brief for Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  The Mayor is a reverse-racist of the first magnitude, as those who have had personal dealings with her (my wife included) can easily attest.  No one who knows her family history should be surprised by that; her late father, state Delegate Howard Rawlings, played the race card with rhetoric that was as ugly as his tactics.  No doubt Hogan, in his riot-related dealings with Madame Mayor, picked up on that fact and reacted badly to it.

But to react so badly that you would deliberately take an action to punish an entire city amounts to a dereliction of duty--and a betrayal of the Governor's oath of office and public commitment to rise above party politics.  And Baltimore has been punished enough--first by white racism, and then by black racism.  Racism is racism.  It doesn't matter who is being oppressed for their skin color; no one should be oppressed for that reason.  Rawlings-Blake will, thankfully, not be mayor one day. When that happens, Baltimore may yet get a decent mayor.  But he or she will needlessly have to start from scratch to build public support for the mass transit Baltimore desperately needs.

For the sake of a few votes in the next election, Larry Hogan is playing the most craven game of racial politics that can be imagined.  Wish the Governor well in his fight for his health.  But pray that, along the way, there is some sort of healing for his soul--something that leads him to put aside his issues with Baltimore's current mayor, and do the right thing for the city's people, black and white.

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