Baltimore City Council

Endorsement 2004

October 29, 2004

IN THE 14 months since Baltimore's primary election, the City Council has found itself the subject of a federal investigation, its perks, hiring practices and expense accounts under scrutiny. Its lax committee voting system has been forced into the public eye, and the city ethics code has been overhauled and strengthened. The council voted into office Tuesday will be doing business in a variety of new ways. The move to single-member districts greatly changes the council's review of development and zoning, and members will have to reach out across their districts to constituents, old and new.

But the changes should strengthen the council and make it more responsive to citizens and more rigorous in its work. The council president will be critical in this transition. Incumbent Sheila Dixon knows intimately how the council works, although she has been tortoise-like in adopting some reforms and defensive about others. But, anticipating the need to overhaul the council's policies, Ms. Dixon convened a distinguished panel of civic leaders and previous City Hall staffers to recommend new council rules. That's smart thinking. After 12 years of service as a council member and five years of on-the-job training as its president, Ms. Dixon is better equipped than her challenger, civic activist Joan L. Floyd, to manage a reconstituted council.

Baltimore's strong-mayor form of government works against council attempts to influence the administration's agenda. But past council members have taken on agencies, and more of that would be welcome. Ms. Dixon and others should identify those subjects where they have a shot at making a difference. Schools are a pressing concern for the city, and Ms. Dixon, a former schoolteacher, is well positioned to lead an effort to organize parents citywide to become advocates for their schoolchildren.

To join her on the council and in that effort, The Sun endorses:

District 1: James B. Kraft can talk development, the language of the changing neighborhoods on the Southeast side. He should work to extend the prosperity north through Patterson Park and retain the immigrant newcomers in danger of getting priced out of their neighborhoods.

District 2: Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. has his eye on the city's bottom line and isn't afraid to point out sore spots.

District 3: Robert W. Curran should continue to lead on land-use issues, and stick to his pledge to lobby for deeper police staffing.

District 4: Kenneth N. Harris Sr. plans quarterly "report card" meetings with constituents, who should hold him to it.

District 5: Rochelle "Rikki" Spector's 26 years on the council have made her adept at getting the bureaucracy to deliver, but she must fight any attempt to bring slot machines to Northwest Baltimore.

District 6: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake offers reasoned judgment and a steady hand in reviewing the city budget.

District 7: Newcomer Belinda K. Conaway's years as a school counselor should help the council scrutinize school operations.

District 8: Helen L. Holton offers reliable constituent service, but the drug activity and poor-performing schools in her newly configured district require a sharper focus.

District 10: Edward L. Reisinger has delivered for his constituents in Morrell Park; now he has to do so across his new district.

District 11: Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.'s attention to fiscal matters and the plight of the city schools make him the right council member to push for education reforms.

District 12: Bernard C. "Jack" Young scores high for his response to residents' problems; a smaller district - with potentially fewer pothole calls - could help convince him he can tackle the bigger issues.

District 13: Green Party candidate Glenn Lowell Ross has a 20-year record of service to community groups and offers an energetic alternative to incumbent Paula Johnson Branch, whose work on the East Baltimore biotech project can't offset missed chances to connect with constituents.

District 14: Mary Pat Clarke's Rolodex, civic knowledge and blunt, clear way with words would serve her constituents well.

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