Baltimore's 5th District, in the city's northwest quadrant, has undergone a process of almost continuous transformation over the past three decades, but its politics have never quite managed to keep up with the changes. By the time the 5th elected its first black City Council member in 1979, blacks had comprised half the population for nearly a decade. Still, it took nearly another decade for the 5th to elect a second black council member.
The three incumbents -- Vera P. Hall, Iris G. Reeves and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector -- accurately reflect the present racial makeup of the district and the black-Jewish coalition that is the district's main political force. Yet, though the incumbents take pride in working as a team, their approach to the district's increasingly serious social and economic problems sometimes seems behind the curve. All three trace their roots back to a time when the 5th was largely a middle-class enclave. Today, however, much of the district is occupied by poorer families whose needs and outlooks differ greatly from their upwardly mobile predecessors.
The Hall-Reeves-Spector team deserves credit for smoothing relations between the middle-class, mostly Jewish neighborhoods in the district's northern tier and the poorer blacks who live below Northern Parkway. All three incumbents merit re-election. But we also think they need to pay more attention to their district's southern neighborhoods, which have lost many youth and recreational programs over the years. Because the 5th traditionally was oriented toward middle-class living, there is a serious shortage of the kind of social service facilities needed by a growing population of poor. The incumbents can provide adequate representation for all 5th District residents only if they can now manage to get ahead of the curve in addressing the social forces that have wrought such profound changes in the district's communities.