Rolley to officially declare candidacy Wednesday
Former city planning director Otis Rolley plans to formally file as a candidate for mayor with the city's board of elections Wednesday.
"I know the next five months are going to be the toughest five months of my life, until I get elected, and then they'll all be tough," Rolley said this morning at an interview in his campaign headquarters in Hampden.
Rolley's schedule is packed with community meetings, church visits, small gatherings at homes, and fundraisers. He said he was undaunted by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's substantial fund raising lead, although he declined to say how much he currently had in his campaign account.
"We have a good finance committee. Things are pumping," he said. "I wouldn't be filing tomorrow and I wouldn't excited about filing tomorrow if I weren't doing very well."
Rolley said he has been garnering smaller sums from many donors, rather than receiving the big ticket donations from developers and business owners.
"How I'm running this campaign is how I'll run the city as mayor," Rolley said. "We are going to give Baltimore back to the people of Baltimore, and that's why some people are afraid of my campaign."
Rolley says he plans to cut property tax rates in half over eight years, grow small businesses and focus on the city's neighborhoods, not just the Downtown tourist areas. His slogan -- "Elevate Baltimore" -- a play on the Otis Elevator Company, is about "elevating expectations" for the city, he says.
"I can't pay twice the rate of my neighbors and get one third the service," said Rolley.
Rolley today criticized Rawlings-Blake's response to reports of the city housing authority refusing to pay nearly $12 million in lead paint damage settlements. Rawlings-Blake concurred with housing authority executive director Paul T. Graziano that paying the settlements would bar the $300 million entity from paying other obligations.
"The courts have made a determination that we need to pay and we have to pay," said Rolley. "This is more of the same, the city's leadership not taking responsibility. People were poisoned and the housing authority, as determined by a judge, was responsible."
Although the Housing Authority of Baltimore City is an independent agency, the mayor chooses the board of commissioners and Graziano serves as her housing commissioner.
State Sen. Catherine Pugh, another likely mayoral candidate, other state leaders and City Council members have joined the call for the housing authority to explain why it has not paid the settlements.
Barring any surprises, Rolley will be the first of a field of about half a dozen mayoral candidates to register. According to the city board of elections, no one else had officially filed a candidacy by Tuesday afternoon. Candidates have until early July to register.
Rolley has captured a lot of early press attention, and was the focus of cover story in the City Paper and a glowing profile in the Jewish Times. Last week, Tom Loveland, a member of Rawlings-Blake's transition committee who was appointed the city's Google Czar by the mayor, endorsed Rolley in a letter in the Baltimore Business Journal.
But Rawlings-Blake is likely to gather the big ticket endorsements. Rep. Elijah Cummings was slated to endorse her at an event at Mondawmin Mall last Friday, but had to cancel due to federal budget negotiations. She has a close relationship with Gov. Martin O'Malley and many politicos feel a deep loyalty to her father, the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings.
Yet Rolley professes that he can win by energizing communities and reaching out to residents through social networking.
"We're going to win this race. It's not crazy confidence, it's based on the pulse of the people," he said. "I feel the energy in the communities."