For Mayor
Sen. Catherine E. Pugh

In order for us to explain our endorsement of 40th District Senator Catherine Pugh, we have to begin with those we did not endorse.

First, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is the first sitting mayor in the modern history of the Baltimore AFRO American Newspaper not to respond to our candidate’s questionnaire. Therefore, she eliminated herself from the process.

But, perhaps what is more telling is the AFRO never received any viable reason for the lack of response from the current mayor until two weeks after the deadline. The common answer we did ultimately hear from more than one Rawlings-Blake staffer was plain incompetence on their part, which should be unsettling at best for any citizen of Baltimore.

Jody Landers, former executive vice president of the Baltimore Board of Realtors and a former Baltimore City councilman has been a formidable candidate with a strong command of the issues facing the city. And unlike the current mayor, who was a no-show for almost every mayoral forum over the summer, Landers has been present for almost every forum, debate or community meeting connected to the 2011 election great and small.

Otis Rolley, the former Baltimore City planner (at 29 he was the youngest director of a planning department of any major U.S. city), is extremely impressive for several reasons. Rolley, who certainly wasn’t born into privilege, had a stellar academic career, which included the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Fellowship as an undergraduate at Princeton and a graduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He brings a fresh approach and a bold vision and it is our opinion Rolley will undoubtedly be mayor of Baltimore, one day.

However, given the unique set of challenges the City of Baltimore faces, the AFRO believes the time is now for the proven, innovative leadership of Catherine Elizabeth Pugh.

Pugh, who has served in the Baltimore City Council, the Maryland House of Delegates and currently the Maryland Senate, has exhibited strong, distinguished leadership throughout her political career.

During just seven years in the General Assembly, Pugh has been perhaps the most prodigious legislator from the Baltimore City Delegation. But, her supporters argue she has not only been prolific, but substantive as a legislator and we agree.

Pugh introduced SB 132, The Job Fairness Act, which generally prohibits employers from using credit history to determine whether an applicant is qualified for a job, a practice which could negatively impact a growing population of Maryland residents in the wake of the economic downturn. Pugh also backed SB 257, which authorized the creation of the Healthy Start Client Service Center, which provides services for low-income pregnant and postpartum women. She also sponsored SB 130, which requires the Board of Public Works to adopt regulations that promote a more vigorous certification process for the State’s minority business enterprise program.

But, beyond the Legislature, Pugh has exhibited bold and independent leadership. Several years ago, the life-long fitness enthusiast established the Baltimore Marathon, which has become one of the fastest growing and most prestigious marathons in the United States. It has also been a significant economic boon for the Baltimore region generating about $28 million annually.

When Baltimore was faced with a 38 percent illiteracy rate Pugh established the Need to Read to Campaign, which helps city residents of all ages learn to read.

Pugh is also founder of the Baltimore Design School, a new public middle-high school, with a curriculum that focuses on fashion design, architecture and graphic design, unique in the Baltimore area. It is scheduled to open this fall.

Baltimore like many major U.S. cities faces perilous times and all the major candidates for mayor rail against the status quo they believe is represented by the current mayor. But, Pugh offers a unique skill set that will help her navigate a city laden with many political booby-traps, entrenched cronyism and bureaucratic apathy, all impediments to progress.

We strongly endorse the candidacy of Catherine Pugh because we believe her varied background, uncommon work ethic and political acumen, exhibited by her independent legislative record, will enable her to effect the change Baltimore needs more quickly and effectively than the others who seek the office of mayor.

For City Council President
Bernard “Jack” Young

Despite some media gaffes and a mini-controversy concerning his Baltimore City residency earlier this year, the AFRO endorses Bernard “Jack” Young for Baltimore City Council President.

The 2011 race for Council President brought out an assortment of opponents for Young, including perennial candidates like Charles U. Smith, and a very vocal “protest” candidate, Tom Kiefarber, who was infamously ousted from city council chambers earlier this year.

But, now isn’t the time for untested political firebrands, the city needs the veteran leadership of Young – who knows the ropes of City Hall as well as anyone – in the council president’s chair.

Despite a brief challenge from 11th District City Councilman William Cole IV, Young was elected unanimously by his colleagues in February to replace Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as council president when she became mayor. As council president, he also serves as president of the board of estimates and has an integral role in the process often dominated by the mayor. The council president, along with the city comptroller, offers the important checks and balances needed during those sometimes contentious meetings.

Those meetings most likely will grow even more contentious given the city’s budgetary constraints. We believe Young will offer prudent guidance and the appropriate level of resistance to the mayor on Wednesdays during the board of estimates meetings.

Young, who got his political start as a special assistant to then-City Council President Mary Pat Clarke – perhaps the most effective city council president in decades – hopefully, will bring some of what he learned from her to bear as he continues his tenure as City Council President.

For City Council – District 6
Sharon Green Middleton

The clear choice for Baltimore City’s 6th District is the incumbent Sharon Green Middleton.

Since her appointment to the council in 2007, Green-Middleton has been a consistent and accessible public servant for the district, which contains some of the most economically challenged communities in the city.

The former teacher has established a community outreach office at the Garwyn Medical Center within the district to help facilitate constituent needs. She has worked closely with several community organizations, including Park Heights Renaissance to encourage home ownership and work towards eradicating blight, a huge problem in Park Heights. And as a commissioner on the Baltimore City Commission on Sustainability, Green-Middleton works to get district residents more involved in “green” initiatives.

We believe her work so far warrants another term to serve the residents of the 6th District.

For City Council – District 7
Nick Mosby

Nick Mosby is the AFRO‘s choice to represent the 7th District of the Baltimore City Council.

Mosby emphasizes the need to grow the tax base and reduce the number of abandoned properties in the city. And he wants to implement job training for city residents in reducing the number of those properties. Mosby also advocates creating more partnerships with local Historically Black Colleges and Universities to address some of the city’s many challenges.

He denounces the lack of transparency existent in government. By engaging “the citizenry and stakeholders early and often, you create the collective power to move new changes forward and proactively eliminate the possibility for logjams of important growth opportunities.”

Mosby has been a leader in his community for many years and those experiences will serve him well as city councilperson for the 7th.

For City Council – District 8
Helen Holton

The AFRO endoreses Helen Holton to continue as City Council person for the 8th District.

She’s been a member of the City Council since 1995 and served the 8th District since 2004.

Despite legal challenges, she’s continued to show up for work and maintain a viable presence in her district.

She is co-sponser and supporter of the Council President’s local hiring preference legislation designed to and has introduced legislation to discuss and create a viable local, small business enterprise program with a focus on contract awards to local small businesses with a local business being defined as one where more than 50 percent of its payroll is paid to Baltimore City residents.

She is also keenly aware that not all children will go to college and that training needs to be available in thriving industries like health, healthcare and biotechnology.

She sets the example for volunteerism by working in schools in her district and serving on the board of a mentoring program to “give back what I can when I can.”

We’d like to see her remain a viable member of Baltimore’ legislative team.

For City Council – District 9
Michael Eugene Johnson

We believe the 9th District in West Baltimore needs a representative that will work hard to address the many needs of the divergent demographics of the district. The AFRO believes the best person to do that is Michael Eugene Johnson.

Johnson, who has been fighting on the frontlines as a community organizer and activist for many years in the 9th, is a familiar face in the community with a passion for the revitalization of it.

Johnson wants to create an economic and academic housing partnership, utilizing high school students in real-world housing revitalization projects. And he wants to bring increased economic development to central Edmondson Avenue and Hollins Market.

We hope a seat in the Baltimore City Council representing the 9th District will be the next phase in Johnson’ long career of community service for the sake of the district’s residents.

For City Council – District 10
Erica S. White

We endorse Erica S. White for Council representative in the 10th District.

She is an attorney and has been a teacher and we feel she’ll bring a passion for change as well as a willingness to learn the inner working of the city system – not to be bound by them, but to successfully negotiate them on behalf of her district residents.

She calls herself an “everyday woman who is connected to everyday realities and struggles of life.” Her desire is to make like better for the everyday people of the city, much like herself.

She thinks developers should have to reserve a percentage of jobs for residents. She thinks working people should have dependable transportation to get to those jobs and shouldn’t have to worry about their children getting above standard education.

We believe this lifelong resident will be a valuable addition to the Council.

For City Council – District 12
Odette Ramos

The AFRO endorses Odette Ramos to represent District 12 of the Baltimore City Council.

We have watched her grow as a leader in the community for several years. She has experience as a business owner, a volunteer and has helped establish two non-profit organizations.

Ramos is impressed by the community outreach efforts of Sojourner Douglass College and wants to forge partnerships between that institution and Morgan State University and Copping State University.

She also wants to more fully utilize union apprenticeship programs as a resource for expanding job skills and opportunities. And Ramos fights for stronger community policing policies.

For City Council – District 14
Mary Pat Clarke

Veteran Baltimore politician Mary Pat Clarke is running unopposed to maintain her seat in the 14th District, but it’s a pretty good bet even if she had a challenger the AFRO would still endorse her. Few have fulfilled the role of “public servant” better than Clarke has for decades.

She has represented several districts during her sparkling career, including a stint as city council president, one of the best this city has ever seen.

It may take time to get through Clarke’s office simply because of the sheer volume of calls, but there is little doubt there will be a response and sometimes the diminutive councilperson shows up to investigate the situation first hand.

It’s for that unwavering dedication to public service during her career that the AFRO heartily endorses Mary Pat Clarke for the 14th District.