Question P

Election 2002

October 27, 2002

WHY ON EARTH does Baltimore need a 19-member City Council, when far larger Montgomery and Baltimore counties do just fine with five- and seven-member legislative bodies, respectively?

Good question. And no one has been able to explain this discrepancy persuasively, or why Baltimore continues to have three-member districts when virtually all other U.S. cities elect only one council representative from each district.

By voting for Question P in the Nov. 5 election, city voters can end these archaic practices and reorganize the council into 14 single-member districts plus a president who would be elected at large. This would enhance the council's accountability and responsiveness.

Intriguingly, many in the city's political establishment -- from Mayor Martin O'Malley to City Council President Sheila Dixon to individual council members -- oppose the change. They want to retain the coziness of the current arrangement, which favors incumbents and election tickets.

It's true that vast changes are in store if voters approve Question P.

The current six districts are all huge; each contains roughly 108,000 residents. The 14 new districts would have just 46,500 residents each. Those elected from them would have to stand on their own and work hard because no one else would cover for them.

The new arrangement would force other long-overdue changes as well. The dynamics between the powerful mayor and the traditionally weak council would be altered, requiring new alliances. Similarly, customary courtesies, such as deferring to each district's representatives on touchy zoning issues, might fall to the wayside, as they should. The end result: better, more diligent and rejuvenated representation.

Baltimoreans should rally in support of Question P on Nov. 5. The alternative is the continuation of the reprehensible lethargy and business-as-usual attitude of recent years. And who would want that?

Legislative races

Decades of Democratic control have made Baltimore a one-party city. Nevertheless, several brave Republicans are battling against formidable odds in the Nov. 5 legislative elections.

District 43: The Rev. John A. Heath, a Republican, has lots of promise. Unfortunately, he opposes the recommendations of the Thornton Commission on education and is running in a district where Democrats have three superior candidates. Incumbent Dels. Maggie McIntosh and Ann Marie Doory, and Curt Anderson, a lawyer and former delegate, merit our endorsement.

District 44: Arthur W. Cuffie Jr., the better of two Republican challengers, is a veteran candidate. Yet he is so weak on issues that he has not even formed an opinion about the Thornton reforms. Voters will do better with Democratic Dels. Ruth M. Kirk and Jeffrey A. Paige, and Keith E. Haynes, a promising Democratic newcomer.

District 45: Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden is the chairman of the city's senatorial delegation, but his time in Annapolis has been undistinguished in terms of delivering for his district's needs. He has been a disappointment, but Republican Gordon T. Gates has not even waged a campaign against him. Mr. McFadden gets the nod for lack of a better choice. The Republican candidate for delegate, Roxcelanna Nia Redmond, has done much commendable work to improve literacy but lacks a viable overall platform. Voters should stick with the Democratic incumbents Talmadge Branch, Clarence Davis and Hattie N. Harrison.

District 46: Incumbent Democrats Peter A. Hammen, Carolyn Krysiak and Brian K. McHale are among the hardest-working legislators in Annapolis. Republican L. Patrick Dail is waging no credible campaign.

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