Thirty-four years ago, on this very day, a young man was born with the expectancy of being someone great that would make his parents proud. After graduating from Goucher College, the young lad decided to take on the monumental challenge of educating our youth, deciding to work within the school system that didn’t pay as much as surrounding districts, but was rewarding in other ways.
During his time in the classroom, the idealistic gentleman decided to take his eighth-grade students down to a Katrina ravaged New Orleans to offer them a hands-on education on giving back to those less fortunate by helping to rebuild homes. He was awarded the distinguished award known as the Elizabeth Lawrence Price for Excellence, and later went on to attain his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the nationally recognized Johns Hopkins University.
Having decided to take his passion for young people and teaching to the streets, he decided to start his own nonprofit known as the Intersection, helping young people at the “intersection of their life” begin to learn the importance of community organizing and civic engagement. It was this background and the belief that democracy only works when everyone has a voice in the process, that led the young millennial to throw his hat in the ring for city council at the ripe old age of thirty.
But his “lack of political experience” wasn’t a deterrent for voters looking for a change in leadership down in the southern region of Baltimore City. And it appears that Zeke Cohen was the perfect candidate running at the perfect time. Still wet behind the ears with milk still on his breath, the young titan came into office laser-focused on achieving tangible goals that would benefit not only the residents of the 1st district, but also those looking to improve their children’s educational experience citywide.
Not long after being sworn-in to office, Councilman Cohen organized a “bake sale for buses” campaign in order to protect city students from a reduction in their ridership hours, while fighting alongside students, parents and community advocates to have his colleagues restore $2.58 million of funding for community schools and after-school programs, as well as Safe Streets, the Maryland Food Bank and others. He was named Chairman of the City Council’s Education and Youth Committee, and immediately began traveling the city to help develop innovative and supportive programs to help improve the quality of education across the city.
Today, as he turns thirty-four years old, having gotten married and fathered his first-born child during the three years of his first-term in office, the councilman contemplates whether he should continue the work he’s been doing for the residents of the 1st district OR decide to take his vision for Baltimore on the road and seek the citywide Council President position. If you try to decipher what his plans are by the recent email sent out to supporters by his wife Reena, asking for his friends to consider donating $34 or more to help him “live out his dreams of serving Baltimore”; it be almost impossible to come to a definitive conclusion.
However, if you listen to certain political players such as SEIU500 political director Mark McLaurin, Cohen is all-in for council president, especially given the recent news of Council President Brandon Scott running for Mayor and the possibility of two competing African American candidates vying for the seat next year. But Cohen appears focused on knocking doors in his district, having a steady group of volunteers that assist in these efforts on an almost daily basis; which may mean he’s not ready to give up on his quest at seeking re-election in a district where he remains a Rockstar.
There have been rumors that Cohen has recently put together an exploratory committee looking into the possibilities of him successfully seeking that citywide seat. It appears that the changing political landscape has enticed Cohen enough to at least consider what his chances would be in a city that appears to be in crisis, as homicides continue to skyrocket while the quality of life in Charm City becomes bleaker by the hour.
His age or lack of council experience won’t be an issue this time around, given the current field of likely candidates, Leon Pinkett and Shannon Sneed; since both are also first-term council members while Sneed is only a few years older than Cohen and Pinkett not much older than her. Neither Pinkett or Sneed have made the citywide rounds the way Cohen has over the past three years, and with both black candidates possibly splitting the African American vote, Cohen could possibly benefit from this division by securing a large percentage of white voters across Baltimore. And with a war-chest double the size of both Sneed and Pinkett combined, the race for Council President may rest on what the 34-year old birthday boy decides to do.
Regardless of his decision, we wish the councilman a happy birthday, and hope that he enjoys his day with his beautiful wife and daughter Maya.