Once upon a time, Baltimore was thriving…

Anybody remember Mayor William Donald Schaefer?  Tom Peters does…


Baltimore has gotten a lot of attention this week … with Pres. Trump indelicately singling the city out as a poster child of inner-city blight and political malfeasance.

It wasn’t always so.

We lived in suburban Baltimore County for 10 years … starting in 1990.

The city had its issues, but they seemed to be under control.


“Excellence” guru Tom Peters credits the leadership of a William Donald Schaefer.

click to view



Schaefer was a 4-term mayor of Baltimore four terms as mayor, serving 1971 to 1987. Then, voters promoted him to the governor’s mansion where he served the 2-term maximum — 1987 to 1995.

Schaefer was known for his attention to detail.

He’d ride around the tough parts of town (in a plain car driven by a police officer) … taking notes on things that need fixing, and ordering them fixed immediately.

In one story, Schaffer spotted some pot holes.

He immediately called the head of the public works department:

“There are some pot holes at 44th and Elm … get them fixed.”

They were fixed (pronto), but on a subsequent drive-through of a different area, Schaeffer noted another patch of pot holes.

“There are more pot holes … and, this time, I’m not going to tell you where they are. Get them fixed!”

The dept. of public works scrambled to fix every pot hole that they could find.

Peters highlighted Schaefer in his 1985 book “Passion for Excellence” — a follow-on to the classic “The Pursuit of Excellence”.

He cited Schaeffer for his leadership: his attention to detail, his determination for action, and his ability to get the community to be proud and involved … and have some fun.

For example, Schaefer escalated the pot hole initiative with a program that gave citizens the opportunity to “buy” pot holes … kinda like how organizations these days sponsor patches of highways for litter control.

Peter’s 2-minute video  brings the program to life … there’s an inspirational lesson to be learned, so it’s worth viewing.


Of course, Baltimore’s current challenges make pot holes seem pretty trivial.

But, imagine a mega-initiative to clean-up the inner city — haul away the garbage (and maybe some of the rats).

Hire Baltimore’s notorious squeegee boys (and other unemployed residents) to attack the problem.

It wouldn’t fix all of Baltimore’s problems, but it would be a conspicuous step forward.

The money is there to do the job.

All it needs is some constructive leadership.

Maybe that’s too much to ask.


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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2 Responses to “Once upon a time, Baltimore was thriving…”

  1. Mike Gehringer Says:

    In today’s world, why would someone want to LEAD when the example, as seen with President Trump, is that it is easier to ‘lead from behind’ or ‘criticize from the peanut gallery’.

  2. Did Trump spur a Baltimore clean-up? | The Homa Files Says:

    […] Last week — following Trump’s tweet calling out Baltimore — we reminded readers that:  Once upon a time, Baltimore was thriving… […]

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