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    Time to Break Free: Baltimore Votes

    I’ve been vocal about the 2011 Mayoral Race in Baltimore. It’s an opportunity to break free of the machine and finally put the city first.

    But there’s a sorry timidity in Baltimore politics. Everyone agrees we need change. But too many are resigned to the way things have been, and whose “turn” it is. Who owes who favors. But this is a democracy, you say. Every vote counts, right?

    That’s not how things have been. In Baltimore, the fix has always been in. However, last year we started to see the machine creak. Upstart young candidate Bill Ferguson unseated 27-year incumbent George Della. Gregg Bernstein defeated long-time incumbent Pat Jessamy. Cynics would point out that Ferguson was adopted by a clique of developers, or that Jessamy ran a horrible, entitled campaign. But still, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

    There is other evidence of the decline and fall of the system. Ridiculous and incompetent Belinda Conaway filed a $21M suit against a blogger – which backfired. Now her challenger Nick Mosby has a real shot at upending the ludicrous and long-time Conaway “three bears” platform. And her father Frank appears more ridiculous every day.

    I want more for Baltimore. That’s why I’ve supported Otis Rolley in his campaign for mayor. I’m simply tired of business-as-usual in Baltimore.

    Specifically, I’m tired of developers being offered tax breaks in exchange for campaign contributions. I’m tired of city contractors being given lucrative no-bid contracts in exchange for campaign contributions. I’m tired of the same old tribe of corrupt, cynical power brokers doing what they have always done.

    A vote for Otis is a vote for new blood – and for entirely different people. Don’t kid yourself. When you vote, you’re not voting for policies or a platform. You’re voting for a power structure. You’re voting for a group of people.

    • Stephanie’s people: out-of-state contractors, developers, city contractors, democratic party operatives, county-based people with interests in the city, friends of her father’s, the Governor, the Governor’s brother, attorneys, KAGRO (the trade group that represents the Korean corner-grocers profiting from Baltimore’s food deserts), casino operators, scrap metal dealers, city employees. These people have either “paid to play” or are actively benefiting from the decline, fall, and eventual ruin of Baltimore – or want to have a finger on exactly how Baltimore is run.
    • Otis Rolley’s people: real citizens of Baltimore (rich and poor; more individual donations than any other candidate); tech people, urban farming people, entrepreneurs, designers, patrons of the arts, folks from ALL of Baltimore’s neighborhoods.
    • Catherine Pugh’s people: contacts from her work in Annapolis, aerospace contractors (?), some decent and concerned folks throughout Baltimore, a computer repair shop on Fayette street, Scott Donahoo (used car dealer).
    • Jody Landers’ people: folks primarily concerned with the property tax issue, strong base in NE Baltimore, realtors, and many individuals associated with real-estate issues and encouraging residency in the city. (Ed. note: this post previously made reference to Live Baltimore, on whose board of directors I serve. There was no intention to associate Live Baltimore with any candidate or agenda.) Not many others.

    I like and respect Jody Landers and Catherine Pugh. However, I had hoped that Jody would weigh his chances, drop out of the race, and back Otis. I, and others, asked him to do just that. And I think Catherine Pugh can do more for Baltimore by continuing to serve as a State Senator in Annapolis. She had nothing to lose by running for Mayor.

    The conventional wisdom (The Sun, with its one poll and its feeble, lackluster endorsement of Rawlings-Blake) says that the fix is in, and we should just accept our fate.

    There is one way that this race can end differently, and that is to turn out votes for Otis Rolley tomorrow.

    The same set of jaded old political pundits (Barry Rascovar, Frasier Smith, Matthew Crenson – I’m looking at you) who will tell you that the “race is in the bag” for Stephanie are the same ones who also predict that turnout will be atrociously low on Tuesday.

    Wonder why that would be? Maybe folks are tired of being told how to vote, and that races are over before they start.

    It’s true. The internet and social media are not the drivers of voting behavior in Baltimore yet. But the Ferguson, Bernstein, Mosby, Ramos, and Rolley candidacies have received a boost from discussion by “networked citizens” that is unprecedented in Baltimore. And that’s something that the Sun’s lone pollster and our 1980’s era political pundits seem incapable of understanding. And the sentiment on Twitter has been overwhelmingly in favor of Otis Rolley (with almost no mention of Sen. Pugh, and few positive comments for the Mayor.)

    It’s impossible to predict the outcome of tomorrow’s race. But know this: YOU can change it. You have a voice. Go vote. Get others to vote. Baltimore deserves that.

    And beyond tomorrow, there’s another truth: 5th most violent, the 6th dirtiest and the 7th most murderous is no longer good enough for Baltimore.

    To all those who say “stay the course,” please get out of the way. Baltimore deserves the best. We’re done waiting.


    Check out Tom Loveland’s insider view of this election (and accompanying post). The reality will surprise you.

    Otis Rolley delivers this powerful “closing argument” on why you should choose him as your next Mayor.

    Otis shows his deep love for Baltimore, and understanding of cities, at TEDxMidAtlantic 2010.

    • Anonymous

      I was with you until the implication that somehow Korean grocers and city employees is not quite the same group as the “real” citizens of Baltimore, particularly since Otis has spent quite a bit of time as a city employee. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Troy/741590524 David Troy

      Sorry, don’t mean to offend. I have nothing against city employees as a group, or against Koreans or Korean grocers. Just pointing out that a good number of Baltimore’s Korean grocers benefit from charging usurious prices to people who have no choices. And they endorse our current Mayor (through KAGRO). They are benefiting from the status quo. This is just a fact.

      There are some great city employees. However, they are generally not the ones that are giving to Stephanie. See: Paul Graziano.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Troy/741590524 David Troy

      Sorry, don’t mean to offend. I have nothing against city employees as a group, or against Koreans or Korean grocers. Just pointing out that a good number of Baltimore’s Korean grocers benefit from charging usurious prices to people who have no choices. And they endorse our current Mayor (through KAGRO). They are benefiting from the status quo. This is just a fact.

      There are some great city employees. However, they are generally not the ones that are giving to Stephanie. See: Paul Graziano.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Troy/741590524 David Troy

      Sorry, don’t mean to offend. I have nothing against city employees as a group, or against Koreans or Korean grocers. Just pointing out that a good number of Baltimore’s Korean grocers benefit from charging usurious prices to people who have no choices. And they endorse our current Mayor (through KAGRO). They are benefiting from the status quo. This is just a fact.

      There are some great city employees. However, they are generally not the ones that are giving to Stephanie. See: Paul Graziano.

    • http://www.landersformayor.com Jody Landers

      I told Otis prior to the filling deadline that I would not be dropping out of the race.  I also told him that his best chance of victory was to run for the Council President’s seat.   Otis has had four different jobs since he came to Baltimore 12 years ago.  He has never stayed anywhere long enough to really accomplish something.  I have been working for the betterment of Baltimore for approximately 40 years, in numerous professional, political and volunteer capacities.  I will match my record of service and accomplishment to all of the other candidates in this race.  I find it more than a little audacious for Otis and his supporters to think that he is only worthy candidate in the race.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Troy/741590524 David Troy

      I certainly appreciate the comments, Jody. As you know, I have deep respect for your many years of public service, and your personal commitment to making Baltimore better.

      My primary complaint is with the status quo, and with many of the people who have brought us to this point. You, Senator Pugh, and Otis Rolley all represent good, honest, and reasonable alternatives to the status quo.

      To your point, Otis did not want to run for City Council president because his goal is not to be a politician, or just to someday be Mayor. He’s concerned with trying to fix Baltimore now – today.

      Baltimore’s governmental structure puts an unusual amount of power in the executive and there is an opportunity to fix Baltimore now, from the executive level. Otis believes that we can’t really afford to wait.

      The enemy here is the status quo. A team consisting of you, Otis, and Sen. Pugh working in Annapolis working together on behalf of Baltimore, would be tremendously powerful.

      A candidate with Otis’ background also resonates with the experience of many of the city’s citizens. In a city that is two-thirds African American, it is reasonable and likely that many voters would identify with a candidate like Otis.

      I stand by my conviction that it is unfortunate that there are still three strong challengers to Ms. Rawlings-Blake in this race; or put another way, that our electoral process is so broken that we won’t be able to have a runoff in November that would allow the very strongest candidates to shine through.

      This all said, I am sure we’ll be working together on making Baltimore better going forward, and I’m looking forward to it.

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