Formed in 2000, Baltimore City’s growing Green Party has roughly 1,000 residents registered. Emanuel McCray is the Green Party’s mayoral candidate in the 2016 race. As the party’s name suggests, ecological sustainability is a key focus, but just as important are social and economic justice issues. In their words, Green Party members are grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters, and regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics. This is Emanuel McCray’s second run for mayor, and below he shares what makes this year’s bid unique, and why he’s excited to throw his hat into Baltimore’s ring of mayoral candidates.
Born in Baltimore, Emanuel McCray attended Randallstown High School. He spent ten years in the Active Reserves with two tours in Iraq and Bosnia. McCray is a single father of four children, and he currently works as a leadership organizer for United Workers focusing on the non-profit’s housing campaign. McCray works on the ground in Baltimore to build a larger and more coordinated presence to address the housing issues many residents face in Baltimore. You can often find Emanuel McCray walking the 9th and 13th districts as he says, “building numbers and drawing power.”
What’s one experience from your past that best prepared you to be mayor?
Back in June 2010, I was employed as an hourly worker at the Inner Harbor’s ESPN Zone. The restaurant, which was owned by Disney, decided to close all the restaurants without informing the employees ahead of time. With the help of the human rights organization United Workers, some of us organized and filed a lawsuit to get a decent severance. Though it took a few years, we ended up winning our lawsuit. That experience opened my eyes to how some in corporate America feel about their employees. The company fought hard to keep the money that they owed us. I also learned that regular people can make a change by coming together and fighting for the little guys.
Baltimore’s mayoral race is chock-full of candidates. How do you plan to stand out?
I am not worried about the numbers because I think will stand out because I’m the only Green Party candidate. Though Baltimore is a big city, it’s a small enough town for the Green Party to accomplish effective grassroots campaigning in the right areas, and upset a big party candidate. I think my platform — fair housing, paid sick leave, investing in people and jobs — speaks to the people of Baltimore. Because the Green Party is funded by citizens, not corporations or national parties, I’m not tainted, and I don’t have to sell-out and ignore voters if I am elected. I think many politicians have to pay back their funders, and the everyday people lose out.
You seem pretty busy with raising four kids, running for mayor, and working as a community organizer. What do you do for fun?
I love music, and I am a DJ. I am also an event planner.
Baltimore saw record violence last year. How can we curb the bloodshed?
To curb the bloodshed in Baltimore we need to invest in our people by providing more quality-paying jobs, more affordable and permanent housing options, more recreation centers, better public services, and by giving ex-offenders a fighting chance to survive when they finish doing their time. It won’t happen overnight, but my plan invests in our people, not profit.
How would you support the environment given you are the Green Party candidate?
I would do everything that a mayor can to stop the development of the Curtis Bay trash incinerator. Building a 90-acre trash burning facility for refuse, plastics and tires from outside Baltimore City is unfair development for Curtis Bay, and just brings toxic pollution right into the community. Through the Free Your Voice community organizing, we’ve focused on highlighting green energy and sustainable jobs into Curtis Bay.
The unrest that followed Freddie Gray’s funeral showed mayoral leadership includes the ability to navigate a crisis. What is the most important thing for a mayor do in that situation? What would you have done differently if you were mayor on April 27?
It’s real simple. Instead of hiding behind City Hall and talking on the news, I would have been calm and would have been proactive and gone out to the affected areas to speak personally to the protestors and rioters. Mayors must personally reach out to hurting communities. I would have left City Hall and visited Pennsylvania and North Avenues to speak to the protestors. My focus would have been to calm them down, and get the situation as peaceful as possible. I think one problem is that many city residents don’t relate to the current leaders. Baltimore City’s leadership needs a turnover, and we need leaders who are from the poor and working class, and who understand why the people reacted the way they did last April. The leaders in Baltimore City government need to be able to relate to Baltimore City residents.
Post-riots, there is talk of doubling down on efforts to address issues related to race, poverty, education and community-police relations. What is the first step you would take as mayor to “rebuild” Baltimore?
My vision for Baltimore is that people’s lives matter over private businesses’ profits. I learned that Baltimore City gets over $65 million a year in bonds. As mayor, I want to invest at least $20 million and bring businesses into impoverished areas – businesses that can provide quality jobs at a living wage, and bring more permanent, affordable housing, better schools, and efforts to help clean up our city.