By Justice Stanley and Ana Hall-DeFoor
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writers
Baltimore voters are divided over the candidacy of former mayor Sheila Dixon, with some saying they do not trust her while others say she should be given a second chance, according to interviews that were conducted over the past week.
Gina Blair, who has lived in Baltimore for the past two years, summed up why she is not voting for Dixon with one word: “Integrity.” Blair and other residents who were interviewed said they cannot look past the scandal that forced Dixon to resign five years ago.
Dixon was convicted of embezzlement in December 2009 for allegedly stealing gift cards that were to be given to families living in poverty. One month later, she pled guilty in a perjury case and resigned as mayor in 2010.
As a result of her sentence, Dixon was not able to hold a city or state position within two years of her conviction. She was also ordered to complete 500 hours of community service and had to pay $45,000 to charity.
Dixon is now running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor to replace Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who announced earlier this month that she would not seek re-election. However, residents who were interviewed said the scandal continues to impact her reputation.
Baltimore resident Daphne Jones took to social media to voice her opinion about Dixon directly on the campaign’s Facebook page.
Jones wrote: “WASTED time on LYING PUBLIC OFFICIALS? WHAT HV U DONE 4 ABANDON HOUSES in West Balto? (NOTHING)& YOU LEFT A MESS… THANKS FOR NOTHING AGAIN!!!!!”
Other residents, however, have put the offense behind them and are ready to move on with Dixon as mayor.
“I plan to vote for Sheila, because in spite of her short-coming, she managed to make some positive in-roads for the citizens of urban Baltimore,” said Ivy Moses, 66. “She deserves to complete what she started.”
A number of Baltimore residents said they are still unsure of who they will vote for but have not completely ruled out Dixon.
“I do believe her scandal will weigh heavily on her voters’ decisions” said Ta’Von Vinson, 25, a lifelong Baltimore resident. “It is definitely something that should not be forgotten and we will have to hear what her reasoning is for the future if she was to be re-elected.”
Despite the scandal, Dixon has been credited with several accomplishments. During her first year as mayor, Baltimore City’s homicide rate dropped to the lowest it had been in 20 years. The city also saw major improvements in the standardized test results of high school students in 2008.
“I can say that when she was in office, the school system was in great shape,” Vinson said.
During an interview with WJZ, Dixon said that she plans to make Baltimore “cleaner, greener, healthier and safer.”
“She is more in favor for the people of Baltimore,” said Raymond Pope, 68. “She is a politician and an administrator. You have to know how to please the people and run the city.”
Dixon has used social media to outline her top priorities if she is elected as mayor. At the top of her list is lowering the crime rate, finding a compromising solution to the illegal dirt bike races, improving public transportation, bringing businesses to West Baltimore and fostering a mutually respectful relationship between police and the community.
Diniqua Davis, a working single mother, explained what she thinks Baltimore needs from its mayor.
“You need child care and supplement programs so the kids won’t be out here playing in the street, getting into trouble, stuff like that,” Davis said.
Davis said Baltimore students at all levels also need more afterschool programs and extracurricular activities for 11th and 12th grade kids who are trying to figure out how to pay for college.
“She should really hit point so these kids won’t be out here getting murdered over nothing,” Davis said.
According to the state board of elections 2016 candidate listing Dixon already has six opponents, including several prominent Democrats. The Democrats running for mayor are Richard Black, Mark Clifton, Mike Maraziti, Catherine E. Pugh, Carl Stokes and Calvin Allen Young III.
Primary election day for the Baltimore mayoral race is April 26, 2016.