City / County Digest

CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

February 15, 2007

Branch leaving City Council to take position in real estate

City Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch, who has served East Baltimore since 1991, is leaving her council seat midterm to take a job in the real estate industry.

Branch, 57, represents the 13th District, which covers an area between Belair Road and East Fayette Street east of Broadway. Her departure, though not unexpected, leaves a second vacancy on the council in as many months.

"The legacy that I leave with the people is the legacy of providing good services to them, looking out for their interests and trying to improve their quality of life," Branch said. "I'd like to pursue some other interests while I'm still walking."

Branch declined to say what company has hired her, adding that "it may pose some ethical problems" if she was to take the job and keep her seat on the council. Her early departure -- about 10 months before her term expires -- allows her successor to be an incumbent heading into the city's Sept. 11 primary election.

Branch said she supports Vernon E. Crider, an aide in her office, to fill the vacancy. The council will convene a committee to fill the seat -- the same procedure it is using to fill a seat left vacant when Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ascended to the council presidency this year.

"Since well before she was elected to the council, Paula has served the people of Baltimore honorably," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "Having served alongside Paula on the City Council, I am proud to call her a friend and a mentor."

John Fritze

Baltimore: Politics

Committee hears 10 seeking council seat

Ten people seeking to fill a vacant Northwest Baltimore City Council seat were slated to appear before a nominating committee last night.

The 10 applicants -- L. Ramonda Moore Baker, Israel Bernard Cason, Helen, L. Dale, Julius W. Eldridge, Vincent Rick Fullard, Sharon Green Middleton, Deborah B. Ramsey, Brandon M. Scott, Eric D. Smith and Charese Williams -- want to replace Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who had represented the council's 6th District.

Council members elected Rawlings-Blake council president last month. She replaced Sheila Dixon, who rose from the council presidency to the mayor's post, filling out the mayoral term of Martin O'Malley, who was elected governor.

The nominating committee, which includes Rawlings-Blake and nine other council members, is expected to recommend a name from the list to the full council within a month. The entire council will then vote on the replacement.

Downtown

Civic leader Sondheim reported hospitalized

Elder civic leader Walter Sondheim Jr., a former Baltimore school board president and city planner, was reported hospitalized yesterday at Mercy Medical Center. Sondheim, 98, was instrumental in the desegregation of Baltimore schools after the 1954 Supreme Court ruling, played a major role in the development of the Inner Harbor and remains an adviser to top political leaders.

"It's a serious condition, and he's under observation," said Dan Collins, a spokesman for Mercy.

"I know his family would like this to remain as low key as possible."

Collins said he could not say what brought Sondheim to Mercy. Collins said Sondheim has been hospitalized "at least a few days."

Nicole Fuller

Education

School-closing hearing reset for Saturday

Baltimore school officials have rescheduled a school-closing hearing for 10 a.m. Saturday The hearing -- originally planned for last night at Frederick Douglass High School -- is to get public comment on plans to shut Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts, Dr. Lillie M. Jackson Alternative Elementary, Lafayette Elementary and Pimlico Middle. Saturday's hearing will be held at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, 1400 W. Cold Spring Lane. Another school-closing hearing is planned for 7 p.m. today at Poly. The city school board plans to vote on school closings Feb. 27.

Harford County: Bel Air

Traffic detours set for Marine's funeral

The Harford County Sheriff's Office will reroute traffic tomorrow in Bel Air for the funeral of Marine Cpl. Jennifer Marie Parcell, who was killed Feb. 7 in Iraq. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. at Oak Grove Baptist Church on Churchville Road, with a military burial in Bel Air Memorial Gardens. Moores Mill Road, between Rock Spring Road and Hickory Avenue, will be closed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Detours will be in place.

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