In the old Lowell Fulson blues standard, the singer declares, “I’m going to San Francisco if I have to crawl on my knees.”
But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is more likely to be whistling a happier tune while in “The City by the Bay” as she becomes the new face of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Yesterday the mayor departed for San Francisco, and on Monday, she’ll be named president of the organization at its summer meeting at the Hilton Union Square Hotel – the first Baltimorean and first African-American woman to hold that leadership position, according to USCM staff.
During her one-year term, Rawlings-Blake will act as the group’s spokeswoman, push before Congress its latest agenda (known as “Cities 3.0”), and appoint committee and task force members.
Rawlings-Blake has rarely spoken about her work at USCM except to say that she uses it to advocate for Baltimore and fix its problems.
She threw herself into the venerable organization after she became Baltimore’s mayor in 2010.
In short order, she ascended its ranks to become co-chair of its Water Council, second vice president and (currently) vice president. Under the organization’s rules, she automatically succeeds Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and becomes president at this weekend’s conference.
This is not her only position in the national limelight. In 2013, the mayor was named secretary of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The two offices have made her an up-and-coming figure in the Democratic Party and handed her a political forum to speak at out-of-town gatherings and participate in “Meet the Press” and cable talk shows.
A Whirlwind of Politics
Coming after two grueling months of Freddie Gray protests, a riot that required the Maryland National Guard to quell, a historic spike in homicides and a nasty public spate with the city’s police union – the mayor will enjoy five days (she returns to Baltimore on Tuesday) of talking policy before friendly audiences and rubbing shoulders with top politicians.
For example, this afternoon (5:15 p.m. East Coast time) President Obama will speak to the mayors at the grand ballroom of the Union Square Hotel.
Tomorrow morning, former U.S. Secretary of State and presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to address the assemblage of about 275 mayors.
Clinton will be followed on Sunday by former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who is also seeking the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2016.
There will also be scores of break-out meetings, awards ceremonies and receptions.
A sampling: “A Discussion on Music and Politics” by M.C. Hammer and Carlos Santana, a plenary session on educational reform, a mayors and police chiefs task force meeting, and awards given by mortgage-lender Wells Fargo for “neighborhood stabilization.”
Cost of Trip
The mayor’s big day is Monday, when she will be sworn in as the organization’s 73rd president and will deliver her inaugural address. (An advance text of her speech is not available.)
The cost of her five-day trip is $3,273.68, according to Board of Estimate records. Last week, the board unanimously approved the travel allocation.
Typically, a member of the mayor’s executive protection team accompanies her to out-of-town meetings. Those travel costs have not been disclosed.