This week Baltimore’s Board of Elections officially certified all the results of last month’s Democratic primary. State Sen. Catherine Pugh was formally declared the winner with 36.6 percent of vote. Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon came in second with 34.7 percent.
“I want to first and foremost thank the voters of Baltimore for honoring me with their support and trust,” Pugh said in a statement on May 9, following the certification of the results. “I am excited to focus on the general election and then begin the process of moving the city forward,” she added.
Pugh has also said, “Change is on its way,” in the days following the Primary Election, even as she continues to align herself closely with outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Pugh was photographed literally embracing SRB recently during a so-called, reconciliation event at Druid Hill Park, observing last April’s uprising. Some argue Pugh’s juxtaposition to the lame duck mayor and some kind of mandate for, “change,” is dubious at best.
But, many cling to hope in the form of a transformed Baltimore City Council, although the city’s governing body has been the bane of progressive political aspirations in Baltimore seemingly for decades. Still, of the council’s 14 seats, eight will be filled by new occupants creating the largest upheaval in Baltimore City government in many years.
I recently spoke with two of the youngest (both millennial 20-somethings) prospective members of the council during my radio show on May 5. Ian Schlakman is competing to represent the city’s 12th District as a member of the Green Party in the General Election. Kristerfer Burnett, faced several formidable opponents during the Democratic Primary to represent the 8th District (one of the city’s most economically diverse) and emerged victorious. He’ll face Republican challenger Joseph Brown in November’s General Election. On the day we talked the news of Baltimore City Public School CEO Gregory Thornton’s eminent departure was in the headlines and the ubiquitous issue of transparency — or lack thereof — dominated the conversation.
“We’re hearing everything in the shadows,” Schlakman said. “If it’s hard for me to figure out what’s going on, obviously for our families and school children it’s incredibly difficult to figure out what’s going on,” he added.
Thornton’s firing and the secretive search for his successor is indicative of the opaque nature of city politics, according to Burnett. “When you have so much distrust…it could have been a fair process for all we know, but we don’t know,” Burnett said. “It continues to lend itself to this notion that people aren’t involved in the process and we don’t necessarily care to have the community’s voice in any process, whether it’s on North Avenue or in City Hall,” he added.
Burnett further bolstered his argument by pointing to what many believe were widespread Election Day shenanigans. He said there is the strong perception the election process may have involved, “some sort of hidden hand not doing it correctly.”
Of course the 900 pound gorilla that will fill the City Council chambers and confront the new members next year (unless the deal is done before they arrive, which seems like more of a possibility each day) is the massive Port Covington development project.
“It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that one,” Schlakman said in reference to the more than half billion dollar Tax Increment Financing (TIF) attached to it.
The young entrepreneur went further. “I would like to see an alternate to the BDC (Baltimore Development Corporation), to help small businesses.” Given the city’s current political climate Schlakman may have a better chance of building a bridge to Mars.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.