For the first time in many years, the City Council primary election in Baltimore's 4th District will not be the arena for lively political competition. The incumbent council members -- Lawrence Bell, Sheila Dixon and Agnes Welch -- face only weak opposition from little-known challengers. The situation is a far cry from the days when candidates named Mitchell, Murphy, Welcome and Adams made the 4th District one of the city's more fertile subdivisions for innovative ideas.
Yet the relative quiescence of the district this year may also reflect an unaccustomed consensus concerning the effectiveness of the incumbents. Bell and Dixon, both newcomers to the council in 1987, have worked diligently to build bridges between the district's often warring factions. They represent a generation of younger politicians whose cool style contrasts sharply with their predecessors. Councilwoman Welch's distinguished record of service has made her an institution in her own right. We believe all three incumbents deserve re-election.
There are practical limits on what any individual council member can do about the "big issue problems" -- crime, drugs, housing and schools -- that abound in the 4th District. But Bell and Dixon, especially, have been quick studies in the art of coalition-building and compromise essential to crafting practical solutions.