Unused Potential in the Fifth

August 23, 1991

Only an unforeseen political earthquake could topple the Fifth District incumbents. Thus the question is what can be done to make Councilwomen Vera P. Hall, Iris G. Reeves and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector more responsive to the constituents and the concerns of a huge district that rings the city from Frederick Avenue to York Road.

Mrs. Reeves seldom has fulfilled expectations since she succeeded her late husband, Councilman Norman V. A. Reeves, eight years ago. As a social worker and a former staff specialist in the school system, she has the background. Yet she has failed to make the council's education committee, which she heads, the kind of watchdog it should be in a city plagued by troubled schools and underperforming students.

Her failure is the failure of the whole Fifth District delegation because the three councilwomen insist on being a "team." When they appear together, each speaks to enforce and defend the others. Unlike all other candidates who answered The Sun's questionnaires individually, the Fifth District incumbents submitted joint responses; when they were told they would have to be interviewed separately, they lost all interest.

As a team, the whole delegation bears collective responsibility for such actions as Mrs. Spector's brazen advocacy of several special-interest bills of dubious value for the district. An example is the Green Spring Dairy controversy where Mrs. Spector championed the interests of a Baltimore County developer over the interests of her constituents. After the deal was completed, the community involved in that dispute was conveniently transferred out of the Fifth District during redistricting.

Five challengers have filed against the incumbents. Only Isaiah C. Fletcher Sr. and Michael E. Johnson are viable candidates.

As a former panelist on WJZ-TV's "Square-Off," Mr. Fletcher has some name recognition even among those voters who have forgotten his struggles for equal rights at Bethlehem Steel. Long active in Republican politics, he is making his first try as a Democrat. A man of many intriguing ideas, he is weakened because of his involvement in the messy affairs of the Park Heights Community Corp., which are currently under an official probe.

Mr. Johnson campaigns from a narrow base in the lower Park Heights corridor. His is an eloquent voice for a poor area where many feel they are overlooked by their elected representatives. His campaign has been disorganized. But as he matures, we hope he will stay in politics.

The Sun reluctantly endorses Democratic incumbents Hall, Reeves and Spector. We urge them to serve their big and diverse district better.

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