Listening to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, it becomes abundantly clear that he is a young, energetic, enthusiastic and motivated public servant who governs from the heart. A heart that has a love for a city that he has known all of his life. A city that he knows can be better.
Unfortunately, everything is not great in Baltimore. Far too frequently we are seeing scenes of the mayor in the middle of the night, showing up at crime scenes where there are multiple victims.
It has become increasingly frustrating for him and police command. So he clocks into work every day, all day, tackling some of the city's fiercest problems.
The 37-year-old has nothing to lose. That's why he runs his city with the speed and energy of an Olympic sprinter. He talked to us exclusively over several days.
"A couple of weeks ago the commissioner called me about two in the morning and he said, 'It sounds like you are wide awake'" Scott said. "I said, 'Actually, I just laid down.' I am consistently thinking, What can I improve? What can I do?"
Scott is decidedly different from his predecessors, having grown up in Northwest Baltimore and seeing some of its challenges first hand. And he's reminded of that by the people who saw him change from a boy to a man.
"It's different, being a teenage Black kid when that stuff is happening," Scott said. "It's different when you had that gun in your face, when you had to duck the bullets, when you lost friends, people that were your age, throughout that."
He said these experiences in the city are what separates him from its previous mayors.
"That understanding, some of that pain, that suffering separates me from the folks before me," Scott said. "Because I know that I don't want other young people to experience what I can feel my heart every night."
Many people look at crime in cities like Baltimore and say, "Why can't they fix it?"
For far too long, the sole solution has been policing, the mayor said.
"We know what doesn't work. We know the years when they went out and arrested anybody who looked like you and I, who was breathing while Black, who was outside was arrested for anything. That didn't make the city safer. We didn't become a safer city."
Scott said treating substance abuse and behavioral health, providing better educational opportunities, and repairing neighborhoods must be part of the solution.
He also noted the problem of gun violence does not start and end Baltimore, citing statistics that 60% of the firearms recovered by Baltimore police came from out of state. When you include Maryland jurisdictions outside the city, the number is 84%.
Young Baltimoreans know the city has issues, but they also know the city is more than that, the mayor said. Scott shares his own story with young people, telling them he knows what it's like to be counted out.
"I'll tell them that people told me that I wouldn't be able to go to college and then that I wouldn't be able to be elected. That I should never run for mayor, because people from my neighborhood where I grew up just could not accomplish that. I should settle for being able to just have a working job, right? And I tell them, look where I am now."
When Scott took control of the city he was immediately saddled with handling the COVID-19 crisis, demonstrations on the streets for Black Lives Matter, and the insurmountable problem of crime. They are all issues that have not gone away, but he believes that if they are to be fixed, it is up to him.
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