David Tufaro, a Baltimore attorney and developer who once ran as a Republican for mayor, says he doesn’t see or hear hate expressed for the city as I do, a subject I addressed in Sunday’s column. How ironic.
While not hateful, Mr. Tufaro’s recent letter to the editor of The Sun certainly qualifies as a harshly negative dig at the city. He said “the city is dying,” — like the lyrics from that old Randy Newman song — apparently because the central business district is hurting from pandemic abandonment and vacancies while some high-profile businesses move to Harbor East. That kind of hyperbole — “the city is dying” — is what we’ve grown used to in recent years as people reach for extreme language to express their frustration and anger. It’s not accurate and it’s not helpful. That kind of rhetoric builds on what I often hear and see in social media — a kind of dystopian view of Baltimore that fits the Trumpian assertion that the place is unlivable, full of rats and incompetent Democrats.
So I found it a bit ironic when I received Mr. Tufaro’s email in which he claimed to be unaware that some people disparage Baltimore with hostile comments, particularly in social media. I soon discovered the reason: Mr. Tufaro does not follow social media.
“You may receive hate mail regarding Baltimore City,” Mr. Tufaro wrote. “But I do not see that in the public realm at all. I do not read it. I do not hear it. I do hear a lot of frustration about the status of the City, and the fact that it does not have to be that way if we had the right kind of leadership. So I am surprised to see the tone of your column. I wonder whether what you see is because of private communications you receive that may overwhelmingly be biased in the direction of hate and dislike of the City, as a result of being a columnist. Maybe that is the nature of social media which seems to accommodate hate and intolerance from all directions. I do not generally participate in any of the various social media platforms. I did briefly during the recent tax reduction petition campaign . I joined Next Door Roland Park to educate about the benefits of the tax reduction. For a while, it was a healthy dialogue of questions and answers, but it then devolved into unprovoked hateful comments from a small handful of people – 4 or 5 people, I would say. I eventually unsubscribed.”
There you go: Mr. Tufaro seems to make my point.
Certainly, being a newspaper columnist who writes about public issues, I get more mail than Mr. Tufaro might, and some of the content most definitely qualifies as hateful or hostile commentary about the city. As I wrote in the column, I always have received letters from readers, going back to 1979, when I started writing a column for The Evening Sun. However, it was not until recent years — and more so during Trump times— that I received letters expressing absolute disgust with the city. These letters are always sarcastic, often profane and racist, and frequently gleeful about the city’s struggles with violence, the loss of population and the failings of the city schools. I have no doubt that the letter writers, who generally know the city only from what they see in television news, would agree with Mr. Tufaro that “the city is dying.”
As for Mr. Tufaro not being connected to social media: Well, good for him. He’s sheltered from the storm of harsh comments about the city that follows every posting on Twitter or Facebook about the continuing gun violence or some other problem or issue. A recent Facebook post by a Baltimore anchorman prompted a round of city hate, with numerous users boasting that they would never set foot here again. Yes, it gets pretty bad out there, and it’s not helpful.
Certainly, there’s plenty to complain about, plenty to worry about. But it makes no sense for people who live in the Baltimore region to express glee at their central city’s problems and condemn it with comments. I’m certain that a lot of this is partisan and emanates from the MAGA cesspool of derision and cynicism.
Mr. Tufaro, who has pulled off some excellent redevelopment projects, never struck me as a MAGA type of Republican. He’s been an active citizen and business leader here for decades. The Sun endorsed him for mayor in 1999. He lost, of course. Republicans have not won a citywide office since 1963. Republicans are vastly outnumbered by Democrats in Baltimore. More importantly, Republicans have shown no interest in urban policy and plight for half a century or more. Mr. Tufaro deserves credit for being a Republican who cares about a city. He just should lay off the extreme language and stay away from the MAGA cliff.