The Baltimore City Council — a body some hope will help bring change to a beleaguered city — is likely to experience significant turnover in next year's election.
Already, four of the council's 15 members have said they will not seek re-election, while several others are considering stepping down or face formidable challengers. The result could be a younger council that analysts say might feel an urgency to address the persistent problems, including Baltimore's entrenched poverty, lead poisoning, housing segregation and drugs, which drew international attention after Freddie Gray's death in police custody.
"We're going to see the most turnover we've seen in years," said Catalina Byrd, a Baltimore-based political consultant. "This is going to be a historic year for the council."
In recent years, the council has passed significant legislation, including bills that barred employers from asking about an applicant's criminal record before a job interview, imposed a tougher curfew on youths, granted subsidies to spur large development projects and required businesses receiving such subsides to hire a majority of new employees from Baltimore.
And the council has final say over the city's more than $3 billion budget.
It has sometimes led on issues, such as a ban on indoor smoking in public places that later became state law. The council called for same-sex marriage to be legalized before the state took action and pressed Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration to implement a body camera program for Baltimore police.
But some critics say council members have not gone far enough in pushing for change. Members have been too eager to side with the mayor, critics say, and haven't done enough to address Baltimore's most pressing issues.
Council members missed about a quarter of the committee votes during the first three years of the current term, The Baltimore Sun reported in April. Three members — Robert W. Curran, Warren Branch and Helen L. Holton — missed 50 percent or more.
"The collective energy of the council has been about not making too many waves," says Farajii Muhammad, co-host of "The Larry Young Morning Show" on radio. "Coming out of Freddie Gray, the city is looking for new and fresh leadership. People want dramatic change."
In 2011, the last time City Council members were up for election, only two seats changed hands.
This year, east-side Councilman Carl Stokes and west-side Councilman Nick J. Mosby are vacating their seats to run for mayor. Councilman James B. Kraft, who has represented Southeast Baltimore for 11 years, is leaving to pursue a judgeship. And Holton, who has represented Southwest Baltimore for 20 years, is retiring.
Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector says that she is considering retirement. Other members, including Branch, Curran, Eric T. Costello, Bill Henry and William "Pete" Welch, face spirited primary challenges.
"It could change the whole dynamic of the council," City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said. "We are going to have some young people coming on who think they can change the world. It's going to be a learning process."
To date, no challenger has filed to run against Young in the April 26 Democratic primary, though activist Kim Trueheart, a frequent critic, has said she is considering it. In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 10-1, the Democratic primary generally determines who sits on the council. Green Party candidate Connor Meek also is running.
Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said she expects to see more "young energy" on the council.
"With young, idealistic people running for council, you're bound to see some change," she said. "The young energy is good. Baltimore City needs a leadership makeover. The social justice issues need to be addressed."
The salary of City Council members will be $66,000 next year. The position is regarded as part-time, though some members consider it a full-time job. Every Democrat on the council has a contested primary race this year. Republican and Green Party candidates do not face Democrats until the general election.
The council's 1st District, which Kraft has represented, includes Little Italy, Fells Point and Canton.
Five Democrats have filed for the open seat, including educator Zeke Cohen, lawyer Mark Edelson, Army officer Scott Goldman, retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent Ed Marcinko and pastor Mark Parker.
"There are a ton of big, generational issues to address," Goldman said. "Our city government just isn't functioning well. Every other issue flows from that. The least the city government can do is just make sure it works."
For the first time in years, the Republicans also will have a politically relevant primary in which lawyer Matthew McDaniel will face Elizabeth Copeland, a Department of Social Services administrator.
The last time a Republican was elected to office in Baltimore was 1963, when Theodore R. McKeldin won the mayoral campaign. But 1st District voters in 2014 chose Republican Larry Hogan over Democrat Anthony G. Brown — 53 percent to 47 percent — in the governor's race, signaling that the area is in play for both parties.
"Conservative solutions can solve urban problems," Copeland said. "Conservatism is focused on an individual's freedoms, common-sense approaches to policy and a strong value system: hard work, education, supporting law enforcement, fiscal responsibility and accountability. Those values would be a great benefit to Baltimore City."
In Northeast Baltimore's District 2, Councilman Brandon Scott has hinted at running for higher office but is expected to seek a second term. At 31, he is the youngest member of the council and perhaps the most outspoken about criminal justice issues. He is one of the co-sponsors of the 300 Men March anti-violence group.
Financial literacy teacher Tony Christian has launched a campaign for the seat.
After 20 years on the City Council, Curran faces five challengers for his Northeast Baltimore seat, including former Air Force Capt. Marques Dent, small businessman Ryan Dorsey, labor organizer Jermaine Jones, Perring Loch Community Association President Alicia Joynes and Maryland Human Resources administrator George Van Hook.
Curran, 65, who has not announced whether he will run again, said he plans to make a decision in January. He recently broke several ribs in a fall that sidelined him for weeks.
"I'm not going to give them six months to shoot arrows at me," he said "I'll give them six weeks."
Joynes said a new council member could help "bridge the gap between city government and the residents of the 3rd District." She said Curran has not been visible enough in the community.
"Right now, there's a lack of communication," she said.
Green Party candidate G. Andreas "Spilly" Spiliadis also has filed to run.
In North Baltimore's 4th District, Henry is facing a primary fight from educator Rodney C. Burris, CSX Vice President Brian W. Hammock and consultant Francesco Legaluppi.
Hammock has picked up endorsements from lawmakers such as Dels. Maggie L. McIntosh and Curt Anderson, Baltimore Democrats who hold leadership positions in the General Assembly.
Hammock said he wants to address an "open-air drug market on York Road that's been allowed to grow and fester over the last few years."
"The council can be relevant again," he said. "It can do the meaningful work of oversight and advocacy for neighborhoods."
Henry said he is deeply involved in the community and knows how to get things done at City Hall.
"Not only do I know how city government works, but I also know how the communities work," he said.
In Northwest Baltimore's 5th District, Spector has been serving for 36 years — earning her the nickname "Dean of the City Council." She faces four challengers: criminal justice reform advocate Christopher Ervin, transportation coordinator Derrick Lennon, and small-business owners Sharif J. Small and Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer.
In December 2014, Young stripped Spector of most of her committee assignments after she publicly opposed and voted against two bills the council president favored. Spector said Young's move left her feeling "underappreciated" and made her question whether she will seek re-election.
"I don't feel I'm working to my max and getting the respect I deserve," she said. "So many of us are not coming back. I'm going to meet with my family and talk it over."
In Northwest Baltimore's District 6, incumbent Sharon Green Middleton faces a primary challenge from educator Mark E. Hughes, who lost to Middleton by more than 2,000 votes in 2011.
Green Party candidate Richard Thomas White Jr. will face the winner in the general election.
In West Baltimore's 7th District, four Democrats are running to replace Mosby. Political analyst Marshall C. Bell; Shawn Z. Tarrant, a former state delegate; Kenneth Paul Church; and the Rev. Westley West of Faith Empowered Ministries.
Holton's departure after 20 years leaves a wide-open race in District 8, where four Democrats — Kristerfer Burnett, Russell Neverdon, David Maurice Smallwood and Dwayne "Diamond K" Williams — are expected to square off.
Burnett, a 29-year-old community organizer, said he has knocked on 5,000 doors since he launched his election bid in April, months before Holton announced that she would not seek re-election. As he has made his way through the district, he said, he has helped get street lights turned back on, water problems resolved and vacant houses boarded up.
Neverdon, 48, ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign for Baltimore state's attorney after working as a longtime defense lawyer. He said he grew tired of seeing the blight as he went from West Baltimore to downtown on his way to work and believes he has the life experience to make a difference.
Smallwood, 54, has run for the seat three previous times and says he's not a "Johnny-come-lately." Smallwood, who lost to Holton in 2011, said he is "deeply rooted" in the community through his advocacy work and experience working for the city and state governments. He has worked at the state Department of Juvenile Services for about a dozen years.
Williams, 42, has long worked in the entertainment industry. An administrator by day, Williams says his time as a disc jockey and music executive gives him a unique way to bring together people with different backgrounds for the betterment of the district.
Welch will have to fend off at least three primary challengers to keep his District 9 seat. The 62-year-old accountant has worked full time as a councilman since he was appointed by the body in 2011 to replace his mother, Councilwoman Agnes Welch, when she retired.
John Bullock, 37, a political science professor at Towson University, is launching his second bid to unseat Welch. Bullock previously placed third in a nine-way race against Welch.
Jamie Frierson, president of a mentoring program for girls, and J.B. Kenney, 51, who has worked in real estate and construction for 20 years, also are challenging Welch.
Republican Kenneth Earl Ebron Jr. will face the winner in the general election.
Kerry Eugene Hamilton wants to knock Councilman Edward Reisinger from the District 10 seat he has held since 1995.
Reisinger, 65, is a full-time councilman from Morrell Park who previously worked as a lab manager for an eyeglass manufacturer.
Hamilton, 58, is a longtime basketball coach from Cherry Hill who works in insurance sales as a federal contractor.
In one of council's most competitive races, Costello faces Greg Sileo, Dea Thomas and Curtis Johnson to retain the District 11 seat to which he was appointed in October 2014. The process the council used to select Costello was criticized as lacking community involvement. The diverse district includes Federal Hill, Bolton Hill, downtown and parts of West Baltimore.
Costello, 35, quit his job as an information technology auditor for the federal government to work full time as a councilman. He said he has spent his time in office trying to solve complex problems, and pointed to his efforts to communicate with constituents during the April riots and his successful push to continue the Circulator route that runs to Locust Point.
Sileo, a 32-year-old government efficiency consultant, contends that he would be a "more effective advocate." He said Costello has not done enough to bring the community together after clashes between bar owners, patrons and residents in Federal Hill, where tensions peaked after a St. Patrick's Day street party.
Dea Thomas said her upbringing in the Otterbein neighborhood gives her an edge on her competitors. The 32-year-old hospital administrator said she was raised by two nurses who taught her the importance of civic engagement. Costello grew up in upstate New York and moved to Baltimore in 2007, while Sileo moved to Baltimore for college.
"The council needs to be more representative of the constituents who live in the city," Thomas said.
Johnson is a transportation policy analyst for the state of Maryland and a former field organizer for President Barack Obama's campaign.
At least three Democrats are seeking the District 12 seat being vacated by Carl Stokes, who is running for mayor. They are Gary Crum, a leader with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development; Jason Pyeron, a consultant and former president of a Charles Village community group; and Robert R. Stokes, an assistant to Carl Stokes who is not related to the councilman.
Robert Stokes, 57, said he has worked on behalf of the community for 30 years on housing, employment and taxation issues.
Green Party member Ian Schlakman has filed to run in the general election.
Branch will face a familiar challenger, Shannon Sneed, for East Baltimore's District 13 seat. Sneed lost to Branch by 43 votes in the 2011 Democratic primary.
Branch, 54, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, was first elected in 2007. He is a full-time councilman and worked previously as a public works inspector for the city. Branch said he wants to serve another term to continue to push for economic development in the district.
Sneed, 35, a former broadcast journalist who works as a volunteer recruiter for a nonprofit, has been knocking on doors in the district and attending community events to spread the word about her campaign.
"My neighbors have my phone number. I will be present," Sneed said. "We need a voice for people to advocate for us, for good jobs that have benefits and pensions."
Republican George Johnson will face the winner in the general election.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke faces challengers David E. Carter and Terrell Williams for the District 14 seat she has held since 2004. Clarke, 74, is a full-time councilwoman who has lived on Cloverhill Road in North Baltimore since 1967. She is a former administrator for the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and served for 16 years on the council before her current stint.
Clarke said with another term, she would work to achieve a living wage in the city by building a coalition of businesses and residents. She pointed to her efforts in the current term to persuade the mayor to add $4 million to the budget for after-school and community-based programs.
Williams serves on the boards of Civic Works, the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corp. and the Real Food Farm.
Carter, 22, said he can help bring change to city government and wants to focus on community engagement. He works as a hospital security guard and has experience as a union organizer.
"Mary Pat is a diligent worker, and she fights for us," he said. "But it's a time right now for fresh ideas."
An unaffiliated candidate, David Harding, also has filed to run.