By Denise Koch

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As Baltimore enters the new year, the city’s new mayor will face a number of challenges, not the least of which are the dual crises of COVID-19 and crime.

Brandon Scott, 36, was sworn in earlier this month, taking over from Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

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WJZ’s Denise Koch sat down with Scott to understand his priorities and vision for the city in 2021.

WJZ’s Denise Koch: I guess my first question to you is: Why in the world would anyone want to be mayor of the city of Baltimore in 2020?

Mayor Brandon Scott: “Well, why not? And who better to be mayor than someone who has grown up in Baltimore and understands that, that crisis, right? That epidemic of gun violence, Denise, that has existed every year that I’ve taken breath, right?”

Scott: “When I was a child, I was looked at as subhuman by my own city government. When I saw my first shooting before my 10th birthday, when I’ve lost friends.”

Scott: “We had to make a decision early that we were going to accept that that was how life had to be or you could do something to change it, and I clearly chose that I thought I could be a part of the change. I’ve known since I was a child that I wanted to serve the city of Baltimore. there is nothing else that I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Koch: So, people who talk about the two Baltimores: you know what they’re talking about, right?

Scott: “Absolutely… I always tell folks, we have two Baltimores: the Baltimore that everyone knows and loves — Camden yards, the Harbor, Harbor East, Roland Park — and then the forgotten Baltimore. I grew up in the forgotten Baltimore so it’s different for me.”

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CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

Koch: At a certain point, almost all issues, do they not, come down to that fundamental point that if you don’t have enough to survive in your daily life, it creates all the other problems the city’s facing?

Scott: “There’s no difference, Denise, really from me and some of the people I grew up and went to Malcolm X Primary and Dr. King Elementary School in Park Heights other than they were coming to school hungry, their parents weren’t there. Their parents were dealing with substance abuse issues or were in prison, right? That’s why folks always hear me talk about yes, we will focus on the immediacy of violence, violent actors and guns, but we also have to deal with the complete picture, and the complete picture means providing opportunities for people to provide for their families through education.”

Koch: There are people sitting at home tonight who have lost their jobs. They have lost people they love. This is a very dark time and there are a lot of people hurting right now. As mayor, what can you say to give people a sense of hope?

Scott: “The first thing I say, Denise, is that I feel their pain. I know that we all, all of us, have struggled through this year of 2020 with this pandemic and really it’s exacerbated things that have existed in our city for a long time. But what I want the residents of Baltimore to hear and hear very clearly is that we are Baltimore. Whenever we are counted out, we always come back… What I see right now in the midst of all this despair is hope… When we see the community groups that are working and partnering with the city to help feed people, when we see folks who are keeping their employees on even though it’s struggling, that’s the hope. You can see the hope in the eyes of the people, and we will unlock that hope to make Baltimore a better place in 2021 and beyond.”

Koch: And you believe that next year will be better than this year?

Scott: “I know that next year will be better than this year.”

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.