New City Council

Some of the Democratic primary winners who, if they win the election in Nov., will be on the City Council for the first time. (Courtesy Photos)

There will be at least eight new members of the next Baltimore City Council, many of whom are under 45. The AFRO spoke with six of them to get a sense of what the next generation of Council members has planned.

With the election of a new Mayor and an assortment of potential new City Council members, Baltimoreans are expressing hope for a transition from unrest to unity and greater attention to basic quality of life issues, according to first-time Democratic hopefuls and incumbent winners in Baltimore’s recent City Council Democratic primary.

The newly elected democratic Council hopefuls will, in all likelihood, be elected to the City Council after Baltimore’s general election in November. The vast majority of Baltimore voters are registered in the Democratic party. New faces and their incumbent colleagues have already begun the process of connecting with constituents in their districts to map out priorities for moving Baltimore forward.

Zeke Cohen, winner of the District One Democratic primary, is one of the youngest new council hopefuls. “The best thing about the First District is our people. Yet far too often we remain separated and segregated from each other. Part of my work will be to bring communities together across lines of difference,” Cohen said in an interview with the AFRO.

Cohen’s aspirations for bringing people together in District One are echoing across the city in District 5 by Isaac “Yitzy” Shleifer, who will replace Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, the District’s City Councilwoman for  the past 40 years.  District 12 victor, Robert Stokes, who won a contentious primary over eight other Democratic opponents, also sees unity as a first order of business for his district.

“The election united our diverse communities by the challenges that face our families. But now I hope we can rally into unity by common goals and hoped for a better Baltimore,” Shleifer said. Stokes agreed that the election initiated a kind of unity that candidates must now transform to work on issues. “Even before the election, I met with eight community presidents.  I worked on bringing them together so that we can work together to solve some of the problems in the 12th District, like cutting this crime rate and bringing our youth together,” said Stokes.

However, for new Democratic primary winners Shannon Sneed (District 13), John Bullock, (District 9), and Kristerfer Burnett (District 8), basic issues such as crime reduction, connection to jobs and adequate and improving trash collection come first.  “From the door knocking I have done during the campaign job creation is the number one concern for District 13 – tying resources to opportunities. Affordable housing is a close second. We want to make sure folks make decent wages and can afford to live in our community, “ Sneed said.

Burnett agreed. “After canvassing 8,000 homes during my listening campaign in District 8, the most pressing issue residents have shared with me along this journey are a need for greater access to employment opportunities that pay family-supporting wages, enriching after school programing for our youth, and an end to the violence that has devastated families and communities though out our city,” he said.

John Bullock’s District 9 residents made it clear: it’s time to remove the trash. “In my efforts to stay connected with our communities, one of the biggest things we heard about was ‘trash’. Clearly, we have other issues such as abandoned and sub-par housing in our district, but trash is a major issue,” Bullock said.

Incumbent Council candidates Eric Costello and Bill Henry will continue to focus on expanding constituent services. Costello, who will serve his first full term on City Council if elected in November understands access to services is critical for District 11 resident. ” I would like to continue the work my office has done with outreach and accessibility. We will help constituents with problems they face with the city bureaucracy” he said.

Henry, who will return to City Council for a third term if successful in November, will remain consistent with his current agenda on behalf of District 4. “As someone who has always been committed to community empowerment, economic justice, responsive government and a sustainable future, my priorities for a third term will not change.  I will continue to balance providing effective constituent services for my district with the development of progressive legislation that will benefit the City as a whole.” Henry said.

Edward Reisinger, incumbent District 10 City Councilman and Council Vice-president will work on “crime, education, affordable housing and decent paying jobs” for the residents of his district and the entire city, he said.  District 6 incumbent Sharon Green Middleton will work on these same issues and ensure District six has “healthy, safe 21st Century Schools, senior opportunities, youth afterschool programs, greening/urban faming, transportation and revitalization.”

District 2 incumbent Brandon Scott, currently the youngest City Council member, faced two opponents during the primary election who said he wasn’t doing enough to stem violence and crime plaguing   sections of his District. Scott replied, “I will continue to focus on crime through a complete public safety approach using all city agencies and partners to address. This of course includes the beginning of the 300MenMarch’s Street Engagement Unit season and my partnership with North East Citizens on Patrol,”  Scott said.

(All Democratic Primary Winners were contacted for this story).