Walden wants to cut taxes, con­sol­i­date depart­ments

Re­pub­li­can would seek more con­trol over schools

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger

Alan Walden smokes a cigar as he dis­trib­utes gold-and-black fliers ad­ver­tis­ing his un­der­dog may­oral cam­paign on a driz­zly Sun­day af­ter­noon in Fells Point.

The 80-year-old Re­pub­li­can seek­ing to lead staunchly Demo­cratic Bal­ti­more is at a street fes­ti­val, jaw­ing about im­prov­ing pub­lic tran­sit and cut­ting prop­erty taxes. A ’90s alt-rock an­them hums in the back­ground.

“I’m an un­apolo­getic Bal­ti­more booster,” Walden tells Paul Arnest and his wife, Tracy Miller, in a voice honed over a half cen­tury in broad­cast­ing. “I got into [this cam­paign] be­cause I re­ally care. I be­lieve I can win. I am com­pet­i­tive,” said Alan Walden, the Re­pub­li­can can­di­date for Bal­ti­more mayor.

The cou­ple is from Tow­son and can’t vote for him. But they rec­og­nize Walden from his days on WBAL ra­dio and are happy to talk. Af­ter about five min­utes, the trio reaches con­sen­sus: Bal­ti­more needs a “healthy two-party sys­tem.”

Trans­lat­ing such sen­ti­ment into votes on Nov. 8 is Walden’s chal­lenge.

No Re­pub­li­can may­oral can­di­date in Bal­ti­more has gar­nered even a third of gen­eral elec­tion votes over the past 30

years, but Walden ar­gues he can win. He faces Demo­cratic state Sen. Cather­ine E. Pugh, Green Party nom­i­nee Joshua Har­ris and sev­eral write-in can­di­dates, in­clud­ing for­mer Mayor Sheila Dixon.

“I didn’t get into this cam­paign any more than Bernie San­ders did to be the old white guy chal­leng­ing the es­tab­lish­ment,” Walden said, ref­er­enc­ing the Demo­crat who chal­lenged Hil­lary Clin­ton in the pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.

“I got into it be­cause I re­ally care. I be­lieve I can win. I am com­pet­i­tive.”

Walden said he reached a point in his life that just talk­ing about the is­sues fac­ing Bal­ti­more did not feel like enough. If elected, he said his first ac­tion would be to for­give all out­stand­ing park­ing vi­o­la­tions. He called it a ges­ture to demon­strate his de­sire to of­fer the city a clean slate.

He wants to take greater con­trol over Bal­ti­more schools, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing more ro­bust skills train­ing for stu­dents and cut­ting down on the num­ber of ad­min­is­tra­tors by re­struc­tur­ing the sys­tem into pri­mary and sec­ondary schools, elim­i­nat­ing most mid­dle schools.

He says he would con­sol­i­date “vir­tu­ally all” of the city’s more than 50 agen­cies and cut the city’s prop­erty tax rate to un­der $2 for ev­ery $100 of as­sessed value, bring­ing it more in line with neigh­bor­ing ju­ris­dic­tions. Cur­rently, the ef­fec­tive tax rate on owne­roc­cu­pied homes is $2.12.

Walden also says he would fo­cus on ways the com­mu­nity can “stop treat­ing the Po­lice Depart­ment like an oc­cu­py­ing army.” “They are guardians of the city,” he said. His main cam­paign strat­egy is to show up, at­tend­ing as many fo­rums and events as he can. His cam­paign sched­ule listed a happy hour, block par­ties, me­dia in­ter­views and com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tion meet­ings with stops in Lo­cust Point, Mount Wash­ing­ton, Ten Hills, Pig­town and else­where.

He has about $6,300 in what he called a “shoe­string” cam­paign ac­count, ac­cord­ing to his lat­est fi­nance re­port. By com­par­i­son, Pugh re­ported about $300,000 on hand. Har­ris has about $1,000.

Walden has paid for ra­dio ad­ver­tise­ments, yard signs and hundreds of post­card-sized fliers. The lit­er­a­ture calls for “more user-friendly mass tran­sit,” “more job-ori­ented pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion” and “a business-friendly ad­min­is­tra­tion that re­de­fines Bal­ti­more as the great place it is to live, work and visit.”

“If you’re a Bal­ti­more city voter, pay at­ten­tion, an­a­lyze what I am say­ing and re­mem­ber the fol­low­ing: It is un­rea­son­able to ex­pect the same peo­ple, do­ing the same thing in the same way, to pro­duce a dif­fer­ent out­come,” he said.

Joe Clus­ter, direc­tor of the Mary­land Re­pub­li­can Party, said Walden is one of the best Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates for Bal­ti­more mayor in re­cent mem­ory. Clus­ter said Walden would be a force in City Hall, break­ing up the monopoly Democrats have held for more than 50 years.

Dick Fair­banks, a 77-year-old re­tired fed­eral in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial from Bal­ti­more’s Ten Hills neigh­bor­hood, said Walden has his vote in Novem­ber. Walden’s in­tegrity sets him apart, he said.

“He would de­mand ac­count­abil­ity and hon­esty. That is in short sup­ply,” said Fair­banks, who vol­un­teers for the cam­paign.

Matthew Cren­son, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the Johns Hop­kins

Alan Walden

Age: 80 Job: Re­tired WBAL news an­chor Ex­pe­ri­ence: Not pre­vi­ously elected to of­fice Ed­u­ca­tion: At­tended Brook­lyn Col­lege in New York City Home: Cross Keys Fam­ily: Mar­ried 37 years. Two chil­dren, one grand­child. Univer­sity, said Walden’s chance of win­ning is slight. Theodore R. McKeldin was the last Re­pub­li­can elected Bal­ti­more mayor, in 1963.

Walden re­ceived about 3,100 votes in April’s Re­pub­li­can pri­mary. Pugh won more than 48,700 votes in the Demo­cratic con­test, fol­lowed by roughly 46,300 for Dixon.

In the last may­oral elec­tion in 2011, Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake, who did not seek re-elec­tion, re­ceived about 40,000 votes. Her Re­pub­li­can chal­lenger had 6,100. The clos­est the GOP came to win­ning the city’s top elected of­fice in re­cent decades was in 1991, when Mayor Kurt Schmoke’s chal­lenger, Sa­muel A. Cu­lotta, took 28 per­cent of the vote.

Though Walden’s cam­paign faces long odds, Cren­son said the cru­sade is good for the city.

“There is some­body out there who is go­ing to raise is­sues that are not nor­mally go­ing to be dis­cussed,” Cren­son said. “This whole elec­tion cy­cle has been pretty sleepy. Cather­ine Pugh is fond of say­ing she will take the city ‘for­ward, not back­ward,’ but for­ward to what?”

Walden, who lives in Cross Keys with his wife of 37 years, Jean­nie, said his time manag­ing em­ploy­ees and bud­gets for ra­dio news di­vi­sions gave him the ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence needed to run the city. He said two decades on Bal­ti­more ra­dio have given him a knowl­edge of the city’s his­tory and en­trenched prob­lems that fur­ther qual­ify him.

In ra­dio, Walden worked as an an­chor, news direc­tor and for­eign correspondent, among other po­si­tions. He is per­haps best known for his “Walden Pon­der­ings,” a broad­cast es­say fea­ture on WBALra­dio that ran for 18 years.

A na­tive of Brook­lyn, N.Y., who moved to Bal­ti­more in 1988, Walden said he is an “un­var­nished pa­triot” who wants to con­front to­day’s po­lit­i­cally cor­rect cul­ture that he thinks has “reached the point of ab­sur­dity.” For in­stance, he prefers the term “il­le­gal alien” to “un­doc­u­mented worker.”

Walden, who served in the U.S. Army and the Army Re­serve, said he is a “his­to­rian by av­o­ca­tion.”

Walden was di­ag­nosed with can­cer in late May and un­der­went an eight-hour surgery to re­move his prostate and blad­der in July. He said he is can­cer-free and re­quires no fur­ther treat­ment.

He has never be­fore run for, nor held, elected of­fice.

As a Re­pub­li­can, Walden tried to dis­as­so­ci­ate him­self from his party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, Don­ald Trump. He often re­peats vari­a­tions of the same thought: “There are Repub­li­cans and there are Repub­li­cans. I don’t equate my­self with any other Re­pub­li­can, state or na­tional. I ama Con­sti­tu­tional con­ser­va­tive. I am not a right-wing nut job.”

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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