Jack Young hijacked process to select a new City Council member [Letter]

September 28, 2014

I pass no judgment on the committee members charged with picking a nominee for the vacancy in the City Council's 11th District. I do not know their situations or any pressures they may have been under. In my heart of hearts, I feel nearly all of them agreed to serve on the committee because they believed they could make a positive impact in their community and a responsible choice for the district. The City Council members serving on the committee seemed deferential to its other members as representative of the district, a district the council members do not live in or serve directly. Their desire to defer to the district's representatives is understandable.

I write to discuss two great failings in what took place before and during the hearing Tuesday night: 1) Though a handful were given the opportunity, all applicants who asked to meet with Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young were not allowed to do so. 2) Letters written in support (or in one instance, opposition) of the applicants were not handled so as to give them any impact on the hearings.

Mr. Young's office came under fire for meeting with the eventual nominee before the hearing ("Young accused of pushing favored candidate through nominating committee," Sept. 24) but defends itself by saying that he "met with anyone who specifically requested a meeting to introduce themselves or just look him in the eye." I reached out to Mr. Young's office on September 5th for a meeting, offering to accommodate whatever scheduling needs he might have, and received no response. This is after, and in response to, hearing that other interested parties were being given such an opportunity. Other applicants may share this experience. If Mr. Young respected fairness and an unbiased process, all interested parties requesting a meeting would have received a meeting. It really is as simple as that.

As for the letters of support, and opposition in one applicant's case, they were an afterthought in Tuesday's hearing. More than 200 citizens attempted to make their voices heard through letters that night, but their words had no mouth to speak them. The letters' content remained unspoken, the writers' names unread, their final numbers uncounted, with the only black and white certainty they brought to bear being their printed pages and evident futility. All letters were sent to a member of the council president's staff ahead of time, and the committee members could not be expected to manage that staff. That responsibility fell squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Young, before being shrugged off entirely.

If the City Council approves the committee's nominee, I truly hope he delivers the passionate service that District 11 deserves. To truly serve District 11 and all of Baltimore, however, we must reform the vacancy nomination process further. Mr. Young has proven that the great power our current system places in the City Council president's hands can only be trusted when the council president is trustworthy. Unfortunately, our systems of government must places checks that prevent this sort of uncertainty when untrustworthy persons hold office.

Each of the 14 applicants deserved a fair process. The nomination committee deserved the chance to make an honest and informed decision. Most importantly, Baltimore deserved the chance to make its voice heard. That was taken from them Tuesday night, and it was taken by Jack Young.

Benjamin Smith, Baltimore

The writer was a candidate for the District 11 vacancy.

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