Source:  The Baltimore Sun Sunspot

                A new office, a new life
                    Nearly three months into the job, Martin O'Malley finds that, for the
                    most part, it's good to be the mayor.

                    SHORTLY AFTER Martin O'Malley was elected mayor, he opened
                    the desk drawer in his office and discovered a note from his
                    predecessor, Kurt L. Schmoke.

                    The note said: "Please remember the truth set forward in Psalm 127:
                    'Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.'"

                    O'Malley was puzzled and per plexed by Schmoke's message, with its
                    deep, foreboding overtones. Baltimore's new mayor prefers a more
                    optimistic message: "God helps those who help themselves."

                    The mayor's office has changed since this former councilman took
                    over in December. Sunshine pours through office windows that
                    Schmoke kept shuttered, and music plays softly in the background as
                    O'Malley goes about the business of being mayor.

                    While Schmoke was stiff and formal, O'Malley is loose and candid.
                    Bal timore's new mayor clearly enjoys the Robert Kennedy look --
                    shirt collar un buttoned, tie pulled loose and shirt sleeves rolled up.

                    Recently, O'Malley rankled mem bers of Maryland's judiciary by
                    urging state lawmakers to withhold almost $9 million in state funding
                    for the city courts until the judges cooperate more on reform efforts.

                    In the late afternoon of a grueling work day filled with meetings and
                    city business, O'Malley spoke with Perspective Editor Mike Adams
                    about the mayor's crusade to make the city safer and about how being
                    mayor has changed his life.

                    Look five years into the future. Your first term has ended.
                    What will people say about you? What would you want them to

                    I'd want them to say I tackled problems head on, that I did not
                    sugarcoat anything, that I told people the truth and that I woke up the
                    city and got us to face our biggest problem, which is the double
                    standard of justice that exists around drug trafficking, these open-air
                    drug markets and the death and the violence that is bringing us down
                    as a people and a city.

                    I hope that five years from now, people will look back on my
                    administration and say that's when we came together as a city and
                    turned it around and started growing again. And it all began with
                    recognizing that 300 homicides a year is not acceptable.

                    Recently, I spoke to one of the top Democrats in the mayor's
                    race, and he's convinced that he lost because city residents --
                    black and white -- were fed up with Kurt Schmoke and did not
                    want to elect another black mayor. Do you think that's an
                    accurate assessment?

                    No, I don't think that's an accurate assessment. I don't think people
                    were making their decision in this last election based primarily on race
                    or skin color.

                    I think what people wanted was a change, and I think people wanted a
                    candidate who could articulate a message of change and reform that
                    held public safety up as the No. 1 target.

                    I think people were looking for a change from the last 12 years. But I
                    don't think it was primarily race based. I think that if perhaps one of
                    the other candidates had been articulating that message of change and
                    reform, there would not have been enough oxygen for my candidacy
                    that late in the game. But the fact is, neither of them was.

                    What do you see as the problem with 12 years of Kurt Schmoke

                    I think we had a real self-defeating attitude toward public safety and
                    what law enforcement and human beings can do about public safety.
                    In high school, the Jesuits taught me that expectations become
                    behavior. We were expected not to be able to do anything about drug
                    violence until drugs were legalized. And we failed, because we were
                    expecting to fail.

                    Mayor Schmoke and his wife could not have been kinder to me and
                    Katie [O'Malley's wife] during the whole transition process. We had
                    some knockdown drag-outs [when O'Malley was a councilman], but
                    he was always a gentleman, and I have a great deal of respect for
                    him, and I think he believes sincerely that when he started advocating
                    for medicalization or decriminalization or whatever it was, I think he
                    believed sincerely that that was the way to go. But as New York, and
                    Boston and New Orleans started showing [with tougher policing], that
                    wasn't the way to go, but we just couldn't let go of that.

                    I think we stuck too doggedly to [drug decriminalization], and it made
                    us miss the economic wave that was lifting every other city in recent

                    I think [Schmoke] had a limited view of what government was capable
                    of accomplishing.

                   Recently, you urged legislators to withhold money for the city
                    courts until judges unclog what you call a "dysfunctional"
                    system. What, if any, reaction have you gotten?

                    People are totally with me -- and the judges are coming around. [The
                    interview occurred before O'Malley and Chief Judge Martha F. Rasin
                    exchanged harsh words over how to fix the city's beleaguered justice
                    system.] We've had a fair amount of progress in this last year on this
                    criminal justice reform issue. We've had more progress in the last year
                    than we've had in the last 10 years, probably. And we had more
                    progress in the seven days leading up to that hearing than we had in
                    the last year. I served notice that I'm not going to be pulling the rug out
                    from under our Police Department, telling them that they need to back
                    off because the courts are clogged with cases.

                    There is a constitutional, fair and just way to deal with large numbers
                    of cases. And the judges have been resisting those changes for three
                    years. What we're advocating is to simply have the judges operate an
                    arraignment court over at Central Booking so that we can shake out
                    half of these cases that wind up getting pled out anyway, so that we
                    can shake them out with fair dispositions, so our state courts have
                    more room on the dockets so they can focus on the repeat violent
                    offenses and the gun offenses.

                    Our new Police Department is going to be putting together packets on
                    every gun case right at intake so that the prosecutor has the certified
                    records that they need to make the demand for minimum mandatory

                    We're also turning over the charging function to the state's attorney so
                    that she can be involved right up front.

                    I think the greatest evidence of the dysfunction came last spring when
                    the legislature first held up the funds when a couple of people accused
                    of murder went gleefully skipping across Calvert Street, because our
                    affectionate and compassionate system could not find time to try their

                    I didn't get elected to make friends with judges, I got elected to save
                    lives and reduce homicides and to restore some justice to this city on a
                    whole range of issues.

                    New York's vigorous brand of policing works because the
                    cases are processed quickly. What you want to do here, have a
                    very efficient police department, won't work without
                    streamlining the courts, correct?

                    In Baltimore City, serious cases crumble over time. The defense bar
                    knows that if you want to do what's in your client's best interest in
                    Baltimore City, you drag out the case as long as possible, and it
                    crumbles under its own weight. We can arrest and arrest and arrest,
                    but if they're not going to focus on that repeat number of violent
                    offenders, we're not going to show results.

                    Describe a typical day in the life of Mayor Martin O'Malley?

                    We haven't settled into the typical yet. It's not unusual for me to have
                    eight, 10, 12 meetings during the course of a day, a press conference
                    or press announcement or something, a ton of phone calls to return,
                    and a ton of paper that I never seem to get through.

                    Today, I had a meeting with the city solicitor and others at 8:15 [a.m.]
                    before the Board of Estimates meeting. Then there was an impromtu
                    press conference after the meeting. Then there were four or five
                    people who each wanted to speak to me for one minute, so after that,
                    a half-hour was done -- that's how long it took to speak to the people
                    who just wanted one minute. Then I walked to a senior staff meeting,
                    and after that there were other meetings.

                    How has your personal life changed since you became mayor?

                    Time management has become really, really difficult. It wasn't easy
                    before. I'm still learning this job.

                    I remember when I was first elected to the council, it took me about a
                    year to figure out which things I needed to attend to be really effective
                    and which things I really did not need to attend. I'm struggling with that
                    balance right now.

                    It has also changed my life because there is no more anonymity. Just
                    going to the grocery store takes twice the time, even walking down the
                    street takes twice the time. Just getting out of the convenience store
                    with a cup of coffee for the road takes twice as long. Everything takes
                    more time.

                    There's a degree of anonymity as a council person. Just walking from
                    point A to point B, you rarely get stopped as a council person. You get
                    stopped every 10 feet when you're mayor. . . .

                    Obviously, as mayor, you have less time to spend with your

                    Yeah, my poor family is getting short shrift right now, and I need to
                    find a way to fix that. I'm not doing too well on that score right now,
                    and home is not happy. My kids [Grace, Tara and William] are 8 and 7
                    and 2, and for them there is no distinction between quality time and
                    nonquality time; it's just time. And time equals love, and if you're not
                    there, it's because you care about other things. . . .

                   Has the job brought you any unexpected joys or frustrations?

                    The unexpected frustration has been how many of my closest friends
                    feel like I have forgotten about them.

                    It's an interesting phenomenon. If you don't stay in touch with your
                    closest friends, they start to imagine that somehow you've grown
                    closer to other people. You're far more suspect after being elected to
                    an important political position like this. People start to question things,
                    and they see subplots and ulterior motives in the absence of

                    I was expessing that frustration to [William Donald] Schaefer, and he
                    said, "You know, you don't have time to stay in touch with all of them,
                    with all your friends -- and you never will." And I said, "Yeah, I
                    know."And he said, "Yeah, but you've got to find the time or make the
                    time to do it." . . .

                    Unexpected joys? I run into them all the time with people coming up to
                    me on the streets or sending me kind letters.

                    A lot of people have a lot of hopes pinned on this administration in
                    terms of turning the city around, especially some of our harder-hit

                    So, in the times when you're feeling like the world is in your way, and
                    nobody is with you, just when you feel that way, someone, a little old
                   lady, will come up and tap you on the shoulder and say, "I'm so glad
                    you're mayor,' or something like that."

                    You seem to enjoy people.

                    Yeah, I do. It's a funny thing, I'm a bit of an introvert, but I really do
                    enjoy people, and I don't run away from a crowd. But I'm also happy
                    by myself just plucking away at a guitar, too.

                    There's a tremendous energy in the city.

                    Truthfully, there are times when I don't feel like going out. There's
                    nothing more I'd enjoy than going home instead of to a speaking thing,
                    but when I do go out, there is a certain energy that pumps you up and
                    makes you realize that there are a lot of people who want to help you.

                   Do you feel that energy when you're speaking?

                    Oh, yes, definitely. Each audience has its own personality.

                   How much of you is shaped by your Roman Catholic

                    Who's to sort it out? It's all kind of one and the same -- family, faith,
                    church and school. It was all sort of one and the same, part of an
                    integrated system that I grew up in. I think it had a big impact. One of
                    the things the Jesuits drummed into your head is that you have to be a
                    man for others.

                    What really determines whether one has made the most of their
                    relatively short time on the planet is how many other lives they've
                    touched and what you've done for other people.

                    Are you guided by a set of principles that make you who you

                    I hope so. A friend of mine said, just when I was starting to skirt
                    around the edge of this pool before jumping in, I said to him, "I'm
                    thinking very seriously about running for mayor," and he said, "Make
                    sure you spend some time alone, so you can sort out your convictions
                    from your ambitions. Because when the going gets rough, it's not your
                    ambition that's going to sustain you. It will be your convictions." And it
                    was good advice.

                    I believe very firmly that one person can make a difference. And I
                    believe that each of us has an obligation to try. And I think that all of
                    us have a lot to give.

                   Originally published on Feb 27 2000