Baltimore City Council to Vote on New Member

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City Hall completed its power shift on Thursday when the City Council voted on a new District 12 representative. Seven candidates – Frank W. Richardson, Arron Keith Wilkes, Rev. Rasheed Q. Ray, Charles U. Smith, Ertha Harris, Carl Stokes and Mike Schaefer– were interviewed during a public hearing Tuesday evening so Council members can fill the seat President Bernard Young vacated upon his recent ascension.

“The most qualified one will get the job,” Young told the AFRO.

But Carl Stokes, a former councilman and friend of some current Council members, stole the show. While most of the candidates interacted with the Council for 10 to 15 minutes, Stokes doubled that time frame as he expressed his ideas for legislation, suggested how the city could save money, shared his community outreach efforts and joked briefly with some of the Council members.

Stokes served as a Baltimore City councilor from 1987-1995 and was a member of the city school board from 1997-1998. After losing the 1999 mayoral race against former mayor and current Gov. Martin O'Malley, Stokes chaired the Maryland Education Commission and joined the Dunbar Advisory Board. As a member of the Board, he accused the city school district of racism for failing to follow through on a $48 million renovation of the 99 percent Black Paul Laurence Dunbar High School while spending $42 million to build Digital Harbor High School with a 24 percent White student body.

Whoever is selected for the job should be prepared to work tirelessly for Baltimore City and its citizens, said Council Dean Rochelle Spector, representative of District 5.

“It takes a person that is used to doing women’s work, which means the work is never done,” she said.

The day before the Council conducted interviews, Edward Reisinger, Council vice president, said he had only received one qualifying applicant – someone at least 21 years old who is a registered voter and has lived in the 12th District for at least one year – but accurately assumed more people would show up for the interview.

“I’ve been through this before and usually the day of the interview you have people come in,” Reisinger said. “I’m looking for someone [who is] active in the community, if they advocate to any issues, if they’re holding any office of a community association.”

Young’s former District has been without representation since his colleagues voted him in as the new Council president earlier this month. However, Reisinger said personnel have been available to take phone calls and complaints from residents of the 12th district and the new councilperson will be appointed “ASAP.”

The nominating committee reconvened to vote on the new councilor Thursday evening and will present their selection to the entire Council at the next full body meeting on March 8. At that time, a final decision will be made.