If I ran for Mayor of Baltimore, this would be why…

June 16, 2020 | Nestor Aparicio

We love Baltimore.

I grew up in a small rowhouse in Dundalk, right across from Eastpoint Mall. I took the No. 23 bus everywhere I went in the city as a kid. I have also been fortunate enough to visit cities all over the world.

I proudly call the Charm City my home.

After fulfilling a lifelong dream via my work as a small business owner and local entrepreneur in sports media, I’ve been trying to live my best life as a civic advocate at the beautiful Inner Harbor in my hometown for 17 years. I proposed to my wife Jennifer on Federal Hill in the spring of 2003, and she moved from New Hampshire that winter to begin our lives together in downtown Baltimore. In March 2014, Jenn was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

After watching #JennStrong battle for her life twice at Johns Hopkins over three years with cancer and survive two bone marrow transplants from 2014 through 2016, during the summer of 2018 we made a family decision to put our beautiful condo in the sky overlooking the water and Camden Yards on the market.

We love our building. We love our location. We love our amazing views in four directions from the sky. We believe our modern home is stunningly beautiful. And we absolutely love downtown life in Baltimore.

But after Jenn’s two cancer battles, we simply wanted to have a place somewhere else in the city with a balcony or an outdoor space to grow some plants and sit in the sun and have a morning coffee or an afternoon beer with fresh air. Maybe even a grill? The way we see so many others doing on their roof spaces downtown during this time of the year when the weather gets nice in the land of pleasant living. We also believed that someone else deserved to wake up here in this extraordinary condo and enjoy its inherent beauty and unmatched view.

We share our sunrise and sunset pictures regularly on social media because Baltimore is too beautiful to not share!

From where we live, we can easily see eight miles away on a clear day. Other than a little hilly topography, the entire city of Baltimore and all of its color and brilliance is visible from my window every day and night of our lives.

In the summer of 2018 when we went to list our home, my dear friend and one-time high school guidance counselor Don Mohler had been thrust via tragedy into the role of Baltimore County Executive after the sudden death of Kevin Kamenetz earlier that spring. I have been fortunate enough to experience a lifetime of Mohler’s character, integrity and the kind of competent people around him in local leadership and government. (Full disclosure: He was my 10th grade guidance counselor at Dundalk High School in 1982 and got me into my first journalism class!)

Knowing Don’s inherent strengths, I began asking sincere questions about what the caliber of the person running my municipality and our city was as we watched more murders and bad news and various threats of crime and sights of grime at the portals of downtown as we walked and drove the city on a daily basis during her recovery.

And this was three years after watching a giant fireball in the northeast sky after the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray, while every major news organization in the world descended on Baltimore.

The reputation – if not the reality – of our city, has changed.

I don’t like the narrative or the direction.

Quite simply, I’m here to do my very best to change that narrative.

I have done sports radio in Baltimore for three decades, and I have been working or living downtown virtually every day of my life since January 1984, when I began as an intern in the sports department of The News American. I then spent six years as a sports reporter and music critic at The Baltimore Evening Sun. The Orioles and Ravens and concerts and dinner and dancing and Little Italy and the Inner Harbor brought me downtown several times a week when I lived in White Marsh and my son went to Perry Hall High School at the turn of the century.

No one is more aware of the daily conditions or is more invested in the success of Baltimore City than me.

My whole life is here. The complete investment of my humanity and business and personal brand scream: BALTIMORE.

This is where I live. This is my home. I walk and drive through the city virtually every day.

Two years ago, after my wife and I had an unpleasant experience at dinner on a Saturday night in Fells Point – and by 21st century urban standards, it wasn’t violent or supremely threatening, but it was annoying enough to be unnecessary and unwelcoming on a block where I had my first legal beer 30 years ago.

I angrily wondered aloud: “Can our city be fixed?”

In my many journeys to urban environments like Detroit and Nashville and Cleveland and Charlotte and Indianapolis – cities that my work and love of Baltimore sports and music and food have taken me over many years – I have seen these downtown areas improving and growing and thriving. And then I’d come home to Baltimore and wonder, “Who is going to be the Mayor Schaefer of my youth to fix it and start growing our reputation, our reality and our economy?”

We have so many assets, so many great resources and good people here who care deeply about the future of Baltimore.

But WHO is going to be the leader in fixing it?

And HOW can it be fixed? What is the strategy, and where should we be deploying our resources for a 10-year modern Renaissance and American turnaround?

Do we even have a plan?

Where are the solutions and how can we possibly bring together this tragically divided community so that Baltimore can rightfully ascend to become the economic, artistic, safe, neighborly, educated “Charm City” that we have been striving for throughout my lifetime?

It was very clear to me long before I had ever heard about “Healthy Holly,” and long before the feds showed up at her door, that Catherine Pugh wasn’t really concerned about the bad experience I had trying to park my car and feed a parking meter on Broadway in Fells Point. I was just trying to have a romantic Italian dinner at a new local restaurant 12 blocks away from where she had fought for her life with cancer twice at Hopkins. That’s all we wanted to do that night. The Mayor didn’t care, and, quite frankly, neither did the two police officers on foot patrol that I summoned to the scene.

They said to me: “You must not be from around here, huh?”

I drove by a year later and that restaurant is gone. This is a tragedy.

A local entrepreneur with a dream, employing local people and paying taxes and trying to grow our economy in Fells Point, betting ON Baltimore with his or her present and future time, money and resources trying to make our city better is now gone and that opportunity and dream was wasted.

And as for our biggest personal investment in the city, the beautiful Inner Harbor condo in the sky that we listed two years ago? Well, we never had a credible buyer or offer on it. We really didn’t even have anyone legitimately interested in walking through it so we took it off the market.

This isn’t where any of us wants to be economically – or spiritually – in Baltimore.

And I’m not sure the current local government has the expertise, power, or fortitude to improve the situation over the next decade without a strategy and a group of new leaders to change the reality that will then change the narrative.

My bar is higher than this for Baltimore. Yours should be, too!

And given the measureable evidence of many other American cities that HAVE improved, it obviously CAN be fixed. Other cities have risen from far worse circumstances. Baltimore can do so as well. Believing that is essential to begin the journey to recovery.

So, then, if it can be fixed then the next question is: “How can it be fixed?”

What would need to happen for the citizens of Baltimore to create a 21st century Renaissance here? Our city desperately needs infrastructure investment and we need stronger neighborhoods that become a more attractive place over the next decade to build and incubate businesses that support the local economy and a financial ecosystem that creates industry and sustains jobs and commerce.

We all want a more livable city with more equity and opportunities for all of our citizens.

What if we finally faced and solved our problems with crime and poverty and transportation and opportunity that stem from systemic racism, redlining and a failure to educate and protect our children? These murders and gangs and drug wars that have been plaguing our city must end for it and the region to improve.

The recent Mayoral primary election on the Democratic side produced a winner who received less than 30% of the votes in his own party. There clearly is still no real consensus on solutions or even political candidates.

And like more than 110,000 people who voted in Baltimore City earlier this month, my candidate lost last week. There will be another 100,000 participating city residents in the November general election who are Republican, Independent, Green or Libertarian who have yet to be heard from about the future of the city. Together, they are all far too small and silent to even make a difference at the ballot.

So that is more than 200,000 voters who have never voted for Brandon Scott. Yet, because of history and the city’s makeup of Democratic voters and a hundred years of history and the less than 50,000 votes he received earlier this month, The Baltimore Sun and all others in the local TV media will refer to Scott as the undisputed winner of the November election every day until that destiny fulfills itself.

And yet Scott spent more nights during the ballot counting process behind than ahead. Over the weekend, Sheila Dixon wisely and classily conceded defeat. This is good for political progress in our city. And time will tell how the Jack Young transition to Brandon Scott goes during this summer of turmoil.

Our city bleeds, yet two of our last three mayors openly stole from the people of Baltimore. Both were convicted of those crimes. And one of them almost won another election with more than 40,000 votes! For the second time in four years!

This is simply unacceptable.

Brandon Scott knows this and has run on a platform of reform but will have so many pressing concerns – just the economics alone are staggering – in the aftermath of the pandemic and the loss of crucial revenue for the city.

All of this has left our municipality in a vulnerable position, financially, spiritually, and with an eye to the future of what Baltimore needs to be in the 21st century. And the seemingly unending local political corruption, along with incredible mismanagement and moral bankruptcy of the Donald J. Trump administration, has further made our country a divided mess.

And it’s not just a mess for some. It’s a mess for all of us. It’s a mess for African Americans, Latinos and all people of color. It’s a mess for white people. It’s a mess for short, tall, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim, Jews and Atheists. Our city is simply a mess.

The only way forward is together. We can’t govern only for the white L or the black butterfly.

The next mayor must govern for the entire City of the Baltimore that I love – and with a specific eye to a better city for our children. That must be our legacy!

We must solve crime.

We must end corruption.

We must focus on our children and the future.

My city may be a mess, but I’m not leaving. Far from it…

I’m staying.

And I’ve been “loud” the last two years on the radio and the internet and anywhere else that I need to defend Baltimore when the attacks come from folks who are alarmed at 300-plus murders and tell me they won’t come into my city or near my home for fear or reputation.

And I’m going to continue to roll up my sleeves to try to explore and attempt to provide solutions to the many problems of our city.

I had said many times over the last 18 months, that a Sheila Dixon victory would propel me into an opportunity to offer my service, my best wisdom and platform, the many relationships and people I have gathered on my journey, to serve the city I love and seek to heal, strengthen and improve.

#TogetherNes was the concept – my chance to activate the 100,000 of you who have followed my life at some point or come in contact with me through my life in Baltimore sports media and business.

My hometown has problems. Real problems. I will be outlining them, along with some hopeful, realistic solutions in the coming weeks and months as I earnestly hope to seek your support and assistance and ear from my media platform to create positive change for the city I love.

It is up to US as the citizens and anyone who calls Baltimore “home” to fix them.

That is why I am here. That is why you are here.

I don’t think we can make Baltimore better. I KNOW we can make Baltimore better.

We need better leadership and better ideas and more #TogetherNes.

I truly hope that Brandon Scott is the “visionary” answer if the son of Baltimore does indeed become our mayor for the next four years in November. I have spent time with him and like him. And he has done the real work of Baltimore with young folks, who are our future and are taking ownership in this city. You should definitely hear the hour of conversation we had at Baltimore Positive last fall as he kicked off his ambitious and incredible campaign to become Mayor of Baltimore.

His strengths and weaknesses will be become quite a part of civic debate in the coming months and years.

I live here. He will get my full support.

Eighteen months ago, I decided to take my airwaves – I have owned and operated WNST-AM 1570 for 20 years and have 168 hours per week of radio that is available (same as all of us for breathing) – and use that valuable radio time to open an honest conversation about the future of Baltimore.

I wanted to make a difference in my community, linking many folks I’ve collected, not only from our city but from the other counties as well – Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, Carroll, Howard – and tell another story of a Baltimore City that wants to make a comeback and get you back downtown.

After focusing solely on sports since I was 15 years old and dreaming of being a newspaper journalist, I find myself in my early 50s drawn to higher conversations about making the world a better place. In the aftermath of my wife’s incredible survival and my life experience as an entrepreneur and local business leader through my sports media platform, I want to make a difference.

I realized that making Baltimore better starts with the people who live here caring more, participating more, helping more and learning more. And, also asking better questions to smarter people to make better decisions.

And that’s what we are trying to do on Baltimore Positive.

In April 2019, on the same day we were about to launch the Baltimore Positive podcast and set to chat with Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger for our inaugural episode about ways to fix our city, Mayor Catherine Pugh had the FBI leaving her locked down home with boxes and search warrants.

I knew our leadership wasn’t good.

I just didn’t know it was this bad, this corrupt, or this incompetent.

Now, 14 months later we’ve had another primary election where a small part of our electorate has put forth Brandon Scott to be the face of Baltimore – and the voice and decision-maker in Baltimore for the next four years.

As a vested citizen, as a taxpayer, as a civic leader with a voice whose entire brand says: “Baltimore” on it, I will live with that result and do my best to make our city better. And hopefully do so with thousands of my fellow citizens trying to turn this great home of ours around in the coming years.

And the best I can do is offer my platform, and the next four years of my life, and being available around the clock to make a difference – even if I am not going to be the next Mayor of Baltimore.

For the record, I am against corruption of all kinds. And I hope that on November 3rd you are a part of removing the dishonorable and corrupt Donald J. Trump from the office of the presidency.

This is not about party. It is about decency. It is about vision. It is about building a Baltimore – and a country – that works for all of its citizens.

This election – amidst a pandemic and with a narcissistic, willfully ignorant fool running our country – is about the people of American hiring better people to serve them in government. I also strongly believed in this as I molded my future voice locally for a better country over the last 18 months.

These criminals and people of moral turpitude are the ones who have used political office to enrich themselves while wrecking our society – on both sides of the aisle, locally and nationally.

Quite frankly, it sickens me. The “same old, same old” just doesn’t work anymore.

A government without a soul or moral compass has greatly impacted all of our lives in recent years.

It’s why I’ve taken action to create the #TogetherNes platform and was strongly considering running as an INDEPENDENT candidate for Mayor of Baltimore in this election.

And I would be fiercely independent because we need better people in government – not puppets who act on behalf of wealthy donors and operate behind the shadow of PAC politics.

We need better leaders. We need more politicians who are honest and unafraid to put an end to the corruption and political games and systemic racism that have set Baltimore citizens back a generation. We need the kind of people who want to run hard for the people, instead of to their donors for re-election.

The corruption, the greed, the lack of care and concern for the greater good of “Baltimore” and all of our citizens as a whole, needs to end this November.

Baltimore can truly BE MORE with better leadership, using the best wisdom in the world to reboot a city that has fallen on hard times in reputation and reality. Every brick in this city is worth less until we fix it as a community. LET’S REALLY HAVE A VISION. LET’S NOT JUST STRIVE TO BE GREAT. LET’S BE A GREAT AMERICAN CITY AGAIN! WORKING TOGETHER, WE CAN DO THIS!

Together.

I want us to “reboot” the brand of Baltimore because I don’t believe the current situation can be sold to citizens inside the city, let alone in the surrounding counties and communities and the business world outside of Baltimore.

Without new a new vision from this new leadership, that can’t happen.

We can do better.

I turn 52 years old in October.

I believe my life and experience and ability to collect and unite people would serve the citizens better in the coming years, and I had a legitimate plan and platform to lift Baltimore that I will be sharing as part of Baltimore Positive this summer and beyond now that Sheila Dixon has been defeated.

We all agree Baltimore needs a new leader and a better leadership group.

Brandon Scott will be given his turn. We are all pulling for him and with him!

I hope every single neighborhood will have a seat at the table.

Let’s make it better. One citizen at a time…