Baltimore City

Community activist Kim Trueheart challenges City Council president Bernard 'Jack' Young

On any given Wednesday morning, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and activist Kim Trueheart might be in the midst of a cordial exchange or clashing — Young offering Trueheart a polished apple in a goodwill gesture, or banging his gavel amid her outburst.

The two Democrats — whose fiery personalities are often on display at weekly meetings of Baltimore's spending panel — are among seven people running for City Council president, including Republican, third-party and unaffiliated candidates.


Young, who has held the position since February 2010, said he welcomes Trueheart's challenge in the April 26 Democratic primary, saying that "advocates keep government in check."

"I have nothing negative to say about her," Young said. "I have the experience and knowledge to move the city forward. I am the best candidate."


Young has nearly $723,000 in his campaign account, according to the most recent filing in January. He is the only candidate who filed paperwork showing a campaign fund balance.

Trueheart, who said she has raised $2,000, is his only Democratic challenger. Republicans David A. Wiggins and the Rev. Shannon Wright will compete for that party's nomination.

The winners of those contests will go on to the general election in November to face Green candidate Connor Meek, Libertarian Susan Gaztanaga and unaffiliated challenger Sharon Black, a self-described socialist.

The council president, who earns $113,000 a year, presides over the City Council, chairs Board of Estimates meetings and stands next in line to become mayor if the office is vacated for any reason.

Young, 61, of East Baltimore, said he has focused on the city's children and seniors during his time in office. He served about 15 years on the council before ascending to the council president position when then-Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake became mayor.

If elected to another term, Young said he will work to pass reform measures that improve community policing, such as requiring more foot patrols and restoring the "Officer Friendly" program that for decades introduced children to police through positive experiences.

Legislation passed during his time as president requires businesses that get large city contracts or financial support to hire Baltimore residents for 51 percent of new openings. Another bill created a city charter amendment — which voters will be asked to approve in November — that would create a special account to pay for more enrichment programs for children and teens.

Young was a lead sponsor of legislation vetoed by Rawlings-Blake in November 2014 that would have required Baltimore police to wear body cameras. Outside of City Hall, he said he has organized a citywide baseball tournament and raised money to renovate sports fields.


He is a graduate of Northern High School who worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital for more than 30 years, rising to manager of the radiation department's file clerks. He also worked for several years as a mid-level manager at the state Department of Human Resources before leaving to work full time as council president.

"I don't consider myself a politician. I am a public servant," he said.

Among other controversies, Young came under fire in 2014 for pushing his favored candidate through a committee appointed to fill a vacant council seat. A committee appointed by Young listened to more than four hours of testimony from 14 candidates for the seat — and in less than five minutes agreed to nominate Eric T. Costello of Federal Hill, who was supported by Young.

Trueheart, 59, of Northwest Baltimore, said she decided to run for council president because Young running unopposed in the primary felt "un-American."

A Western High School graduate, she spent 26 years with the Navy as an active-duty member, a reservist and a civilian program manager where she said she managed people and million-dollar programs. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Strayer University.

She has spent the past five years as an "active citizen" and volunteer, rarely missing a meeting of the city spending board, council and school board. She also is earning a stipend from the University of Maryland for research she's conducting on trauma and how it affects the delivery of human services. She has not previously run for public office.


Trueheart counts among her accomplishments keeping the Liberty Rec and Tech Center in Northwest Baltimore's Forest Park neighborhood operating when the city began to shutter some centers.

"I put in a lot of work, a whole lot of work," she said. "If people appreciate the work I've done today as a volunteer, just think about what I could do" in office.

Trueheart was banned from City Hall three years ago for "disorderly" behavior and was arrested and jailed for trying to enter the building. The charges were later dropped.

"We, as a people in America, have to fight," Trueheart said. "If I get a little loud, if I get emotional, there's nothing wrong with that. I am not a violent person. I haven't hurt anybody."

In Democratic Baltimore, the party's nominee is heavily favored to win in the general election. Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to 1.

Wiggins, 56, of Park Heights, said he wanted to run "to present an alternative to the broken rubber stamps" in Baltimore elected office, who he said are influenced by special-interest groups. If elected, his priority would be to "end police brutality," bring greater oversight to the Police Department and lobby the Maryland General Assembly to change the way city school board members are selected.


Wiggins said his goal is to end the "reign of racially disparate economic policies" and find a jobs plan that puts more people to work and end public financing for developers.

"To be black, Muslim, and Republican in Baltimore, this is a lot to bring to the table," Wiggins said.

Wright, 48, of Northeast Baltimore, said she was prompted to run for office after 344 people were killed in 2015, the deadliest year per-capita in the city's history. She also wants to combat homelessness and provide better educational outcomes and more economic opportunities.

"This race is not about parties and politics; it's about people and policies," Wright said. "Baltimore is at a crossroads."

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She is an ordained minister who graduated from Virginia State University with a bachelor's degree in business and economics. She said her experience developing policies and procedures for the use of federal block grant funds as a consultant in New York will help her provide better fiscal stewardship to the city. She also wants the city to conduct more audits.

Wright and her family moved to Baltimore after she said Hurricane Sandy destroyed their New Jersey home in 2012.


Black, 66, a retired nurse from North Baltimore, said her top priorities are raising the minimum wage, job creation and ending police brutality. She must submit 4,000 signatures from registered voters by Aug. 1 to appear on the ballot.

Meek, 28, of South Baltimore, said he wants to focus on addressing the city's vacant houses by using unemployed residents to demolish and rehab them while teaching job skills and wants to ensure public subsidies are only provided to developers with community benefit agreements are reached.

Gaztanaga, the Libertarian, candidate did not respond to questions.