Tures: Bashing Baltimore, missing out on the real problems

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2019

John Tures
Political science professor at LaGrange College

After Congressman Elijah Cummings criticized the condition of detention facilities for migrants and applicants for asylum, President Donald Trump tweeted his own criticism of Baltimore, painting a dire picture of the district, calling it “rat-infested.”  I examine the evidence about the Maryland city, and what perhaps President Trump should have focused upon there.  And, by way of a flight cancellation and surprise rerouting, I spent a day in Baltimore as I wrote this column

Congressman Cummings has been critical of President Trump’s border policy.  So Trump responded by communicating “Rep, [sic] Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bull. His district is considered the Worst in the USA. Cummings’ District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.  If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.”  He then doubled down, writing “Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there.”

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Nevertheless, Daily Record Business Reporter Tim Curtis revealed last year “Baltimore is one of the best cities for recent graduates, according to a ranking from OnlineDegrees.com.”  Curtis added “The ranking credited Baltimore with high wages, particularly for workers with bachelor’s degrees, and high potential job growth in the education and health services, professional and business services, government, and trade, transportation and utilities sectors.  Some of the city’s other top perks included “some of the nation’s best seafood, being close to all the boating and sailing you can handle, and being a short drive away from the nation’s capital.”

That’s a lot closer to the Baltimore I know.  While at the University of Delaware, my wife and I drove down to Baltimore for 5k charity runs and walks, Ft. McHenry to the Star-Spangled Banner reenactment, and walked through the neighborhoods to catch a Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards in Cal Ripken Jr.’s final season.  The waterfront was nice too.  If I wasn’t writing a dissertation, I would have gone there more often.

We’ve also returned, to catch up with colleagues from the old days, as well as see one of my students who settled there with his significant other.  And yes, while riding the train with my son earlier today, I could see both sides of Baltimore.  Sure you can take a picture of a blighted building with trash in every single Democrat and GOP District, and it proves nothing.  That’s what a Baltimore Republican told me in the airport.  Even he didn’t appreciate Trump’s words.

Careercast.com rated Baltimore the fifth best spot to find work, the second best in tech and biopharmaceutical jobs, according to Forbes Magazine.  It ranks among the best for commuting, walking and public transportation.  It’s number two for minority entrepreneurs, and has some of the best hospitals in the country, according to Health Grades and US News and World Report, getting a top ten score for art.  The U.S. Census gave a strong rating to the port, especially for auto shipments.

There are categories where Baltimore is in need of improvement.  The National Resources Defense Council rated the city fifth in toxic air pollution from power plants, so those should be cleaned up.  And taxes are too high, as the Tax Foundation rated the city in the top 15 for worst tax climate for doing business, income tax rate, unemployment insurance tax rate, and property tax rate.  Citizens are upset about the treatment of a suspect in police custody, and doing little to investigate this case.  Trump’s critique missed all of these pressing problems, which are not under direct control by the House of Representatives.