In what is shaping up to be another heavyweight political battle, the likes of what we witnessed days ago between Delegate(s) Maggie McIntosh and Dereck Davis for the coveted speakership; it appears that the Baltimore City Council is split on who should become their next Council President.
After the recent resignation of Mayor Catherine Pugh, the city charter called for the automatic ascension of Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, the city’s two term City Council President. That has left a vacancy in the position he has held since being appointed to the post by his colleagues in 2010, following Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s ascension to the Mayor’s Office following the resignation of Mayor Sheila Dixon.
Over the past few weeks, during the indefinite leave of absence by then Mayor Pugh, Council Vice-President Sharon Green-Middleton served as the interim, ex-officio Council President while Young filled in for Mayor Pugh. However, now that Young has officially become the 51st Mayor of the City of Baltimore, Middleton needs to win the support of at least eight of her council colleagues in order to stay in that role.
However, it seems as if second term Councilman Brandon Scott has something to say about that. The 35-year old East Baltimore representative, who has been rumored to be weighing a citywide run for Mayor in the upcoming 2020 election, has been whipping the votes of his colleagues for this coveted position for weeks now. And while it appears as if he has yet to reach the eight votes necessary to secure the job that will be voted on by the council during their next council meeting this Monday night, he seems to be closer to victory than his competitor.
As of 3:00 p.m. today, it appears that Scott has landed the votes of some high ranking and well-respected council members, including: Kristerfer Burnett (D-8), Shannon Sneed (D-13), Ryan Dorsey (D-3), Bill Henry Jr. (D-4), Isaac ‘Yitzy’ Schleifer (D-5) and Eric Costello (D-11). And when you include his own vote, it appears he remains one vote shy of becoming the city’s next Council President. Our research shows that the three swing votes, who have yet to commit to either candidate are council members: Zeke Cohen (D-1), John Bullock (D-9) and Leon Pinkett (D-7).
Now more than ever, based on the recent revelations of financial improprieties alleged to have occurred under the Pugh administration, Baltimore needs its leaders to be above board in their dealings – both in reality and through the perception of area voters. And in our opinion, Councilman Scott is the embodiment of such a leader. A young man who has proven his leadership capabilities over the past seven years on the council, and even in the years he spent prior to being elected in the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods. A Park Heights native, Scott has led the charge on crime reduction over the past few years, both as the chairman of the council’s public safety committee, as well as the lead author of the council’s crime plan, Live to Be More – crafted by the councilman and signed onto by members of his committee and the council.
On the flip side, you have a councilwoman who has done little to nothing to be proactive in the fight to combat crime, eradicate grime or anything directly beneficial for the citizens as a whole. Middleton, who has served on the council since 2007, has been the Mayor’s floor leader for the past three years under the Pugh administration, and has yet to cast a vote that went contrary to the wishes of that administration. In fact, after initially voting in favor of Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke’s bill to increase the minimum wage in Baltimore to $15 an hour, the councilwoman refused to sign on to a letter calling for an override of the veto offered up by Mayor Pugh.
But beyond just the politics, it appears that the Middleton family has blurred the lines of campaigning and politics, as her husband continues to use his influential position with the AFSCME union to not only help get his wife elected year after year; but also using his position to threaten other elected officials who don’t do as he asks. It’s been reported by several staffers that members of the council are receiving “threatening calls” from the union boss in regards to their vote for Council President, including suggesting that whoever doesn’t vote for his wife need not expect to receive “his union’s endorsement” during next year’s primaries.
Middleton has voted on numerous bills that directly or indirectly effected his union without recusing herself, and as council president would be chair of the powerful Board of Estimates committee that receives bids of millions of dollars, which could very well involve his union. For these reasons alone, it appears that a vote for Middleton would be a vote towards regressing back to the same old, personally selfish politics that this council is supposed to be trying to eradicate.
For this body to truly reform itself from the stench of Pugh past, they must consider eliminating any present or future conflicts of interest, while working to ensure to the public that their decisions will always be one that puts the best interest of the citizens, and the reputation of that body, ahead of personal preference or political gain.