Friday, September 10, 2010
TIme for Change
So voting time has come.
Just a little over two months ago I didn't expect the city to be in this position. Whatever happens, the city owes Gregg Bernstein its gratitude for opening up debate and offering a real choice on such a crucial office as State's Attorney. The campaign forced Jessamy to respond to issues in a very illuminating way, confirming much of what insiders have known for a long time.
Sheryl Lansey filed to run for State's Attorney, too, and I heard her speak at the University of Baltimore debate. She's a mature, educated, thoughtful, woman, but the more she spoke the more it was obvious that she couldn't begin to run the State's Attorney's office. It would be like me applying for school superintendent. I may have my opinions on education, but that doesn't qualify me to run the schools.
But Bernstein, he's another story. He's intimately familiar with the issues and challenges, he's a top trial attorney, and when he talks it's obvious to those inside the system that he knows his stuff. How effective will he be at accomplishing his goals? Well, we always take a chance on that when we elect someone. But we have Pat Jessamy's actual record to tell us that it's time to try someone new.
So here's my summary of the reasons for change:
1. Jessamy exhibits a personal lack of trial skill and judgment. A prosecutor who thinks she has to subject the victim of a robbery to cross-examination at a preliminary hearing, even when she has a videotape of the robbery, is clueless. A prosecutor who pursues an announced policy of not prosecuting single witness cases, instead of evaluating each case individually, is likewise clueless. Not to mention dangerous to public safety.
2. Jessamy rejects accountability. In her own words: "I don't do conviction rates..." "I don't accept blame." She cannot even say what she could do better. All of us can do better, but not Jessamy.
3. Jessamy ignored her own, state-funded program to focus attention on repeat violent offenders, the War Room. She can't tell us what happened to the cases of those offenders. She contends that to do so would be "smoke and mirrors."
4. Jessamy fights with the police through her spokesperson, Margaret T. Burns. Burns takes pathological delight in torturing the police by tossing all blame their way. Jessamy expressed surprise, which stuck me as genuine, that Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld supports Bernstein. Another sign of how clueless and insulated Jessamy is from what happens in her office.
5. If Jessamy is re-elected, the blame game and tension will become even more unbearable, as Burns will exact revenge. She loves that stuff, I've seen it first hand. And maybe the best police commissioner we've had in a while will retire to find a less thankless job.
Jessamy pretends that her conflicts with the police are about protecting citizens from police. Ironically, if she worked with the police she could be much more effective at reigning in bad practices than she is now. Ultimately, however, the State's Attorney has no power to protect citizens from police, other than to prosecute bad cops (something Jessamy can boast little success at doing.) Her conflicts are really about excusing her own failings.
6. Jessamy raised images of the pre-civil rights 1950s, essentially asking black voters to vote for her because she is black. (And we, black and white, don't need any commentators or professors to interpret for us what she was doing. It was clear.)
Jessamy and the even more overt Frank Conaway ("They are trying to steal a seat from us") are attempting to inject fear that black voters would lose all power if a white person comes to office. The power isn't in the office, it's in the vote. City residents, who are predominately African American, voted in white O'Malley for mayor, then black Dixon and Rawlings-Blake. Their power didn't go anywhere. And if Bernstein fails them, they can kick him out.
Candidates like Jessamy and Conaway are phonies. It isn't about racial pride. It's about keeping their own butts in office. Jessamy's act is old and undistinguished, and the most she can offer now is racial fear. If her record supported her re-election, she wouldn't even have needed to go there.
For all these reasons, its time for change. It's time for Gregg Bernstein.