SPEAKOUT ON THE ELECTION:

Pass Question P, The People's Initiative, To Reform the Baltimore City Council

by Kay Dellinger

With 14 single-member districts, each district will be much smaller and residents will know who their council member is and know who to hold accountable.
On Election Day, Baltimore voters should begin making necessary reforms to the City Council by passing Question P, which will establish a 15-member council consisting of 14 members from single districts and a council president elected at-large. The voters should soundly reject the present council's foolhardy attempts to keep the council size as it is and maintain multi-member districts.

By its actions, this city council has proven to be worthless, inept and anti-democratic. In a city where 25 percent of the residents live in poverty, this council took no substantive or united action to keep five library branches, located in some of the city's neediest neighborhoods, from being unnecessarily closed. The public heard nothing from most of them on the issue. It was shameful!

The only thing that has aroused this council is trying to protect their jobs and doing it in a disgraceful, undemocratic way. The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned their attempt and removed Question Q, their measure on council structure added at the last moment, from the ballot, because they held an illegal meeting that excluded the public.

Question P, on the other hand, was added to the ballot legally by a citizens' initiative that collected over 10,000 signatures to get it done. It came from the people.

Most cities and all Maryland counties have single-member districts and it does not lead to "Balkanization," as claimed by the council and mayor. These cities run their business quite well and their councils work together effectively.

Single-member districts also do not lead to less representation by minorities. Washington, D.C., a city comparable in size of population to Baltimore and also with majority minority status, has single-member districts, and minorities are well represented on its council.

With 14 single-member districts, each district will be much smaller and residents will know who their council member is and know who to hold accountable. They will have more knowledge about what their council member does or does not do.

Candidates will have to run on their own and third party and independent candidates will have a better chance of being elected. This would lead to a more diverse council with a wider range of viewpoints. A smaller council also will save the city more than $500,000 a year in salaries.

It's time to reform the outmoded city council--and voters can begin that reform by voting for Question P on November 5.


Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on October 29, 2002.