Two out-of-towners start at high profile city posts today

McKenzie of Boston and Burkeen of Miami recruited to run economic development and parks departments.

brenda mckenzie

Brenda McKenzie at City Hall last month when her appointment was announced.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Today is the first day on the job for two high-level appointees of the Rawlings-Blake administration.

Brenda McKenzie will assume the presidency of the Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC), the city’s economic development arm, and Ernest W. Burkeen Jr. will become director of the Department of Recreation and Parks.

McKenzie, 45, hails from Boston where she was economic development director for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. She replaces M.J. “Jay” Brodie, who retired last February.

Burkeen, 64, of Miami, will be the latest in a line of rec and parks directors, most with brief tenures. Gregory Bayor left the post last April after less than two years on the job.

Here, here and here are more on their backgrounds and the issues that face each agency.

Other Recent Appointments

McKenzie and Burkeen join other out-of-towners who have been appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in 2012.

They include Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts (former Oakland, Calif., police chief); Christopher Tonjes, Chief Information Officer and director of the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (formerly CIO of the District of Columbia library system), Ronnie E. Charles, director of the Department of Human Resources (formerly with the city of Suffolk, Va.), and Harry E. Black, director of Finance (formerly an aide to ex-Richmond, Va., Mayor L. Douglas Wilder).

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  • Pedestrian Error

    I do see a somewhat unfortunate trend here. It’s probably common among struggling “second tier” cities. We bring in out-of-town talent in hopes that some of the success of healthier cities will rub off. This may not be entirely the city’s fault, as many of the most talented locals may have gotten fed up with the city and left for greener pastures and the out-of-towners are easier to lure because they don’t quite realize what a mess they’re getting into.

    What I’m more concerned about, however, is the percentage of city employees at all levels (at least among professionals such as planners and engineers and department heads who are making decisions about the city’s built environment) who reside in the suburbs instead of in Baltimore. Regardless of where they come from, if decision makers live their daily lives in a suburban, car-oriented lifestyle, they lose track of what makes the city a special place that is worth preserving. Because they spend an hour or more a day in a car on city and county streets or highways trying to get somewhere quickly, they lose empathy with the people who live their daily lives in city neighborhoods. What we get is a city that progressively loses character as it is engineered to look and operate more and more like the suburbs its predominantly white, middle to upper-middle class, suburban professional and technical staff lives in. Suburban attitudes from city staff have been obvious in the handling of recent issues such as the Patterson Park parking plan.

    If we can get carpetbaggers to move to Baltimore, make the city their home, and participate in the civic life of Baltimore City, I will take people from Boston or Miami every day and twice on Sunday over professionals who grew up in Timonium and now drive in every day from Bel Air.

    • Arabella_Woodhope

       @Pedestrian Error:It won’t make much difference if they move to prosperous city neighborhoods and drive their luxury cars back and forth from work. To truly understand the experience of city living, these “carpetbaggers” need to commute via the MTA. Without a fully functioning public transportation system, Baltimore has no choice other than to imperfectly emulate the automobile addicted suburbs.

  • Pedestrian Error

    By the way, I have no idea where these two new employees plan to live. I’d be very interested to know.

  • trueheart4life

    Thanks Pedestrian Error for your on-the-mark comments. While our Mayor seems to be transforming organizational leadership with out-of-towners who will absolutely be loyal to her, not the citizens, she needs to take this moment to look at every agency, especially Transportation.  A reliable and efficient transportation system for Baltimore City can NOT depend on decisions of state government transportation officials to meet the needs of our underserved residents, who most often do not possess a driver’s license.  Instead our local transporation department should be leading the discussion and planning about an urban transportation model like no other outside of NY and DC.  It’s time our Mayor steps up to deliver quality programming and services to the residents, as the timing is right considering our weak economy of the past few years appears to be recovering.  

    • Arabella_Woodhope

      According to the 2000 Census, Baltimore ranks #6 in persons without a car, at around 35%. A robust public transportation system might mean the City doesn’t have to sell its historic soul to have out of town developers build yet another parking garage. Who knows, if the experience of riding the MTA were a little more efficient and a bit more pleasant, maybe people wouldn’t be so desperate to buy a car and drive it out to the burbs without looking back.

  • cwals99

    Regarding transportation, Johns Hopkins has a study that looks at how the poor move.  Why this is important to Hopkins is that when you move the poor out of the urban center where all of the public transportation access is the best, and you place them out at the periphery of the city one must calculate how to move the working class into the city to work while making sure they cannot come back to the city other times.  That is what the new development person will see in transportation.

    Washington DC and New York are perfecting this with the parking costs and the transit fares.  To ride the subway for the day in either city you pay $15-20 for an all-day pass at the minimum.  Parking is $20 a day at the mimumum.  Even the commuter train to DC at $14 round trip is only during the week….on the weekend it goes to $50-60. This is designed not for cost of operation, but to keep the systems free of lower-class people.  That is towards what Baltimore City Council is working.

    So as these development plans that only sell homes and not rent, or that set aside 17 slots for underserved families like the Lexington plan, people should be aware that as you are moved further from the city center as they are doing now, you will not have a way to get back on public transportation in most cases.  They will also determine where you live by how they set up the routes.  Having a private company like Veola making these decisions assured that transportation will be dictated by profit not by people’s need.

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