How Black Cities Are Not Being Served by Black Leadership

By on April 3, 2017

(Atlanta Black star) What are Black elected officials doing to help their Black constituents? What is the purpose and value of Black power if there are Black faces in high places in city government, yet the old systems of institutional racism remain in place and the economic conditions of Black people do not improve?

The most recent events in Baltimore raise these questions. Last Friday, Catherine Pugh, the city’s new mayor, vetoed a measure passed by the City Council that would have doubled the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. The move comes as other cities increase their minimum wage, in the face of a growing national movement for a $15 minimum wage and successful efforts in cities such as New York, the District of Columbia, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the state of California itself. In keeping with Martin Luther King’s fight for economic and racial justice immediately before his assassination, when he supported striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Black Lives Matter has joined the national Fight for $15 movement, as AP reported.

In a press conference, Pugh elaborated on her reasons for vetoing the wage hike, citing the need to “take into consideration all of the needs of all the people of Baltimore.”
“I’ve had conversations with every single county executive, my cohorts in various jurisdictions … and all of them said, ‘You know, Catherine, if you push for the bill or sign the bill that’s before you, probably we would benefit. But we are rooting for you and we think the fight should continue at the state level,’” Pugh said. “So, I believe it is in the best interests of the city that we follow the state, that we are on an increase currently … which, again I reiterate, will take place this July 1, 2017, and then again in 2018.

“So, for those reasons and the economic impact that I think this will have on the city, making us the hole in the donut, it is not appropriate at this time that I would sign this bill. So, I am vetoing this bill,” she said.

The Pugh administration, whose decision was met with praise from business interests and feelings of disappointment and betrayal from unions and community people, claims the policy change would have cost the city $116 million over seven years, as The Baltimore Sun reported. The city faces a $130-million shortfall for the public schools, a $20 million deficit and new obligations because of the police consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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