Former Senator Theatre owner to run for City Council president

Former Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber has been thrown out of two Baltimore City public meetings since June 19.

Now, Kiefaber wants to throw City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young out of office.

Kiefaber announced at a press conference Thursday that he is running for City Council president and will file officially before the July 5 deadline.

He signaled his intent earlier in the day, in an email to the York Road Partnership.

It was unclear whether Kiefaber is a city resident and can run for city office. He addressed reporters from a house at 501 Orkney Road that the city took possession of a few weeks ago, after he lost it to foreclosure, according to Ciity Solicitor George Nilson. The house is adjacent to a lot used by Senator patrons.

Kiefaber told the Messenger the water has been shut off, but that the foreclosure sale hasn't been ratified yet, a process that he said takes 60 days from the date of the sale. Therefore he believes he is still a city resident, he said, but added, "It is a big gray area."

Kiefaber said he still owns property in Sparks but is separated from his wife and is now "a nomad," staying in several places around the city.

Kiefaber is best known as the former longtime owner of the Senator on York Road, across from Belvedere Square shopping center. The theater was sold to the city government at a foreclosure auction in July 2009. It's now operated by James "Buzz" Cusack and his daughter, Kathleen, who are restoring and expanding the 1939 theater, with plans to add four additional movie screening rooms and a wine bar.

In an interview after his press conference, Kiefaber said he doesn't want to be "a career politician," and only wants to serve one, four-year term as council president.

"It's four years, isn't it?" he asked.

Kiefaber said the "precipitating" factor in his decision to run was that he was escorted from a city Board of Estimates meeting on Wednesday. He said city officials told him he was banned from city meetings.

On June 19, he was forced to leave a City Council meeting after staging a sit-in of sorts to protest a planned final vote by the council to designate the interior of the Senator as historic.

But Kiefaber told the Messenger he was not running for revenge.

"It's not grinding axes," he said. "It's for redemption."

He said he believes that the majority of city legislators "are inept or on the take," and that when he phoned Young numerous times in an effort to apologize for his actions at the City Council meeting June 19, Young did not return the calls.

Kiefaber said he then went to the Board of Estimates meeting to speak to Young, who chairs that body, but that he was ordered to leave by City Solicitor George Nilson because he had been banned from City Hall.

Kiefaber said he has received encouragement from people to run for office since the City Council imbroglio, including from members of the black community.

Kiefaber said he would not take any campaign money from developers — "even the ones I know."

He was vague about his platform and priorities if elected, saying only, "The rent's too damn high."

When asked to elaborate, he said only that some people would know what he meant and that he would say more about his platform and priorities once he files officially.

Kiefaber said he is qualified to be council president because he knew and worked with many city officials and members of the media..

"From my 30-year perch (as Senator Theatre owner), I knew them all, and I've been impressed by very few of them," he said.

And he said he hears from a lot of people "that our legislators and our media suck."

He called Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake "the developers' candidate."

Kiefaber said he will ask Buzz Cusack for permission to hold a campaign event in the Senator Theatre.

The Sun contributed to this story.

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