Rolley opens campaign HQ in Hampden
Scores of supporters of Otis Rolley, the former city planning director who is challenging Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for mayor, packed into his campaign headquarters -- a three-story row house on The Avenue in Hampden last night.
"It's a race not just to be mayor, but for the heart and soul of Baltimore," Rolley said in brief speech.
"I love Baltimore. You love Baltimore. Let's translate that love into action," he said. "You don't love Baltimore when you overtax... You don't love Baltimore when you cut the services [people need most.]"
He is running on a platform of lowering property rates, growing neighborhoods and boosting small businesses. Last week, he criticized Rawlings-Blake's budget for cutting funds to recreation and parks and libraries while increasing spending to attract tourism.
Rolley, who served directed the planning department when Martin O'Malley was mayor and was Sheila Dixon's chief of staff for one year, declared it was a "new era for Baltimore."
"It's an end to the old boy's club," he said.
About 60-80 supporters trooped through the campaign headquarters throughout the evening, including entrepreneur Brian LeGette, who founded 180s earmuffs and met Rolley at a leadership training class about a decade ago.
"At the moment we met, I said, 'You're going to be mayor,'" LeGette recalled telling Rolley.
"He has the conviction and passion to overcome a difficult political landscape," said LeGette. "His compass is pointing in the right direction and that's what this city needs."
Entrepreneur Dave Troy, one of Rolley's most vocal supporters, called the campaign headquarters location in Hampden, a historically predominantly white neighborhood, "an inspired choice."
"If we think of Baltimore as one city, we can get past all the things that have divided us in the past," he said. And, he added, that Hampden's mix of small shops and restaurants represented "the kind of thriving main street Otis would like to see replicated throughout the city."
Many attendees said that they had never met Otis before, but had grown interested in his campaign and wanted to see him in person.
"He's got new energy and new ideas," said Gerald Hill, a caseworker from Upper Park Heights. "I like the direction he's heading for the city."
In an interview, Rolley praised the diversity of the crowd. "If Baltimore is going to move forward, this is what it needs to look like-- black and white, old and young."
Rolley's wife, Charline Rolley, the head of community outreach for Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, his mother, a city Recreation and Parks employee, and his three young children wove through the crowd.
In his closing remarks, Rolley encouraged supporters to donate -- Rawlings-Blake has an overwhelming fundraising lead -- and rallied them for "war."
"Eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we go to war," he said.