Sarbanes joins race to head City Council

Veteran activist seeks chamber's presidency

May 31, 2007|By Sumathi Reddy | Sumathi Reddy,Sun Reporter

Longtime community activist Michael Sarbanes officially declared his candidacy for City Council president yesterday, injecting new competition and his well-known family name into the race.

Surrounded by neighborhood activists and members of his family in front of his Irvington house, Sarbanes said running for the office is an extension of his 15 years of community service, which include working as an attorney with the Community Law Center and as director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

"I was raised in a family where public service was held up as really the highest thing that you could do, as something that you really should aspire to," said Sarbanes, 42, in comments after the announcement. "And I've been trying to do that in all the work that I've been doing for the last 15 years. This is really an extension of that work. Running for elected office is a new step in that direction."

This is Sarbanes' first run for public office. Sarbanes is the son of former Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, the state's longest-serving senator, who retired in January year after 30 years. Michael Sarbanes' brother, Rep. John P. Sarbanes, won election last year to Congress from Maryland's 3rd District.

Neither the elder Sarbanes nor his son, the congressman, was present at yesterday's announcement.

Sarbanes' wife, Jill Wrigley, and their three children -- Mulay, 14, Jimmy, 12, and Christina, 2 -- were by his side, as was his mother.

Sarbanes joins two other major candidates in the race for council president. Current Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake has said she will run, and two-term City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. announced his candidacy in January.

In his remarks, Sarbanes touched on topics including ensuring that schoolchildren's routes to school are safe, providing job opportunities for residents and passage of the "inclusionary" housing bill before the council. Sarbanes was closely involved with the creation of the bill, which would require some developers to build affordable housing in their market-rate residential developments.

"A city of strong neighborhoods is a healthy, vibrant place to live," said Sarbanes. "It's time for us to invest boldly in our community. There are thousands of vacant buildings in this city."

Asked what role he believes name recognition will play in the race, Sarbanes said: "I feel blessed to have a father whose name I'm proud of and that I think a lot of people associate with integrity and service and opportunity. My experience in life is that that may get people to take a look at you, but then ... they're really looking to see who you are. And I hope people will judge me based on my record and my work."

sumathi.reddy@baltsun.com

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