New Politics in the Second

August 20, 1991

The Second District, which includes Mount Vernon, Bolton Hill, Charles Village, Homewood and street after street of row houses in lesser-known areas, was where Baltimore's new politics had its birth. That Vietnam war era reform movement launched some notable political careers, including Mary Pat Clarke's. It also forged the city's first genuine political alliance between white liberals and ascending black clubs.

Now, two decades later, Second District politics is at a crossroads. Personal rivalries and political schisms have replaced the youthful idealism of the 1970s. Even the black-and-white coalition is in danger of coming unglued as egos challenge politics by principles, quota and formula.

A case in point is a current squabble in the district. The New Democratic Club-2 endorsed incumbent Councilmen Anthony Ambridge and Carl Stokes on the condition that they in turn support Paula Johnson Branch for the seat being vacated by Jacqueline McLean, who is running for city comptroller. Amid charges that the whole NDC-2 endorsement process was rigged, Mr. Stokes refused, opting to work for a protege.

This kind of in-fighting has upset a great many residents. They are muttering that NDC-2 has forsaken its reformist past and become just another old-boy, old-girl network. We share that disenchantment and feel the time has come for another fundamental overhaul in the Second District.

This change should begin Sept. 12 with two extraordinary candidates. One is Bea Gaddy, who is known throughout the region for her years of unselfish volunteer work for the poor and the homeless. The other is Dr. Peter Beilenson, a public health physician who works every day with such problems as drugs, AIDS and teen-age pregnancy.

The Sun is convinced that Bea Gaddy and Peter Beilenson would provide qualities that the district and the City Council urgently need. They are not political hacks but citizens concerned about the human side of a big-city government that too often allows the poor and downtrodden to fall between the cracks or entangles them in bureaucratic red-tape. Their expertise and insights would prove invaluable in monitoring the work of municipal agencies and making them more effective.

Councilman Ambridge would complement this team because of his advocacy of such varied causes as gun control and regional cooperation.

The new politics of the Second District must be based on criteria far broader than club allegiance. Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, the Second has been gravitating toward the exclusionary politics of the past. The Sun believes that by nominating Peter Beilenson, Bea Gaddy and Anthony Ambridge, voters can end that dangerous trend and advance the interests of all people in the district.

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