Former Baltimore mayoral candidate Zulieka Baysmore on Monday joined a burgeoning tax boycott over rising crime and declining quality of life in the city, and she upped the ante by threatening a petition to oust Mayor Brandon Scott.
More than 30 small business owners from Baltimore‘s Fell’s Point neighborhood signed an open letter last week demanding city leaders address what they called a culture of lawlessness in the city or else they would withhold tax payments.
“Our taxes help to pay their salaries,” Mrs. Baysmore announced in a statement. “All three pillars of government need to get on top of this city’s violent crime. It has been promises broken again by this administration and the prosecutor’s office.”
Mrs. Baysmore later told The Washington Times that she was prepared to start the petition drive “if the issues are not addressed.”
She didn’t give a deadline for Mr. Scott to act.
Removing a Baltimore mayor with a petition wouldn’t be easy. Mrs. Baysmore and city residents would have to convince the city council to go along with it.
The city charter provides for the removal of the mayor by a three-fourths vote of the city council after a verified petition is signed by at least 20% of qualified voters. The petition would have to charge the mayor with “incompetency, misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty, or felony or misdemeanor in office,” according to the charter.
The city’s inspector general can also bring the charges.
A mayor has not been removed from office in this way in modern history.
Still, the mounting threats against Mr. Scott underscore the turmoil in Baltimore, which mirrors rising lawlessness in cities across the country.
The Fell’s Point business owners addressed their letter to Mr. Scott, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby and Councilman Zeke Cohen.
Mrs. Baysmore, who lost in the 2020 Republican mayoral primary, said she has taken calls from business owners and grassroots organizers throughout the city since the letter was published.
The call to action is, in large part, a response to progressive policies Mrs. Mosby’s office enacted in March 2020 aimed at decreasing arrests for low-level offenses such as drug possession, prostitution and open container violations.
“Today, America’s war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore,” Mrs. Mosby said in March following a one-year review of the policies. “We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero-tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction. We will develop sustainable solutions and allow our public health partners to do their part to address mental health and substance use disorder.”
Mr. Scott and Mr. Harrison applauded the policies following the one-year review.
But Mrs. Baysmore, along with the letter writers, say that the administration’s neglect for prosecuting small crimes has led to an increase in more serious crimes.
“Mayor Scott and Police Commissioner Harrison always talk about only the same small actors around town committing the Violent Acts,” Mrs. Baysmore said. “Well, the Actors are all over Baltimore City now still committing Crimes. The money is pouring into the city; let see if they can use what they have and be smart with getting on top of the Crime. Let us see if Mosby will do her job and prosecute - no more deals, but let every one of the perpetrators of violence go through the process of a trial and let Justice take its course.”
The business owners said the city’s failure to prosecute small crimes portend deeper issues for the city if left unaddressed.
“Fell’s Point is one of the crown jewels of Baltimore,” they said in the letter. “But if there is a cautionary tale in the decline of the Inner Harbor and Baltimore‘s Downtown is that where small issues go unchecked, it is only a matter of time before deeper problems take root and a neighborhood collapses.”
The threat to withhold tax payments followed two shootings in Fells Point, a popular waterfront tourism and nightlife spot near the city’s Inner Harbor. Three people were shot on June 6, which police said were likely connected.
Mr. Scott agreed to hold a town hall last week in response to the letter but did not attend himself. Baltimore‘s deputy mayor and police commissioner committed to stricter enforcement at the town hall. Mr. Scott told the local press that he was unable to attend the event due to a previously scheduled commitment.
A separate gun-related incident, which the police described as a “discharging,” occurred over the weekend despite a heightened police presence in the area. One person was injured in the incident.
Baltimore‘s homicide rate was up 17% year over year, according to figures reported in May by The Baltimore Sun.
Mr. Scott‘s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.