During his nine years on the City Council, Bill Henry has challenged the administration over erroneous tax bills, slow snow removal and even mayoral power.
Now he's facing a challenge.
As he seeks his third term on the council in North Baltimore's 4th District, Henry has three opponents in the April 26 Democratic primary, including CSX vice president Brian W. Hammock, who has raised $120,000 — more than three times as much as Henry.
Also challenging Henry are educator Rodney C. Burris and business consultant Francesco Legaluppi, who have not raised much money but say they're active in the community.
Henry, who has raised about $38,000, said he's not worried about Hammock's deep pockets. "He needs a lot of money because he hasn't had any real prior community involvement in the 4th District," Henry says.
The 47-year-old Radnor-Winston resident and father of two points to his record on the council, where he's known as an independent thinker. Henry says he's strong on constituent service and has introduced legislation to regulate late-night businesses and stop the city from demolishing public buildings without community input.
Henry has proposed a new task forced aimed at fixing Baltimore's struggling inclusionary housing program and won passage of a bill that allows Baltimore officials to take over abandoned homes more quickly. He opposed the $107 million in public financing for the Harbor Point development, arguing for a smaller incentive package.
He says he wants to reform city government by balancing the power between the mayor and the council and pushing the administration to assign the same importance to investing in youth as investing in law enforcement.
"There's not really a lot of glory in being a City Council person," Henry says. "It's an opportunity to help and contribute. I'm somebody who likes to help if I see a problem."
Henry has received contributions from the city's firefighters union, teachers union and police union, according to campaign finance reports.
But Hammock, 35, of Homeland, says Henry's record in office is lacking. The father of three faults Henry and other council members for not holding enough hearings on the city's problems.
"The entire council has failed to live up to their role of doing oversight of city government to make sure our government is working for the people, not against them," Hammock says. "The council failed to investigate the sexual abuse scandal in housing and failed to have routine budget oversight hearings of the school system."
If elected, Hammock says, his first order of business would be to pressure the police to "shut down the open-air drug market on York Road." He also wants to encourage the police to focus on property crime in the district and improve relations with the community.
Hammock's contributions include $3,000 from state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat; $3,000 from developer Mark Sapperstein; $2,000 from former Gov. Martin O'Malley's "O' Say Can You See" federal political action committee; and $1,000 from lobbyist Sean Malone.
Henry unsuccessfully challenged Conway for state Senate in 2014.
Hammock, who campaigned for O'Malley during his unsuccessful presidential campaign run in Iowa, says his fundraising totals are a sign of strength.
"After 2015, Baltimoreans want a change. They want to head in a new direction," Hammock says. "In this election, more than any other, voters are taking a fresh look at everyone on the ballot."
Burris, 34, a community college teacher with five children, says he's running to improve quality of life in the district. The Govans resident wants to provide tax breaks for families who are involved in their children's schools, hold community events with the police, and create dirt bike tracks to cut down on illegal riding.
"I'm running because a lot of the things I care about are city issues," Burris said. "I believe change is possible for our city."
Burris had raised slightly more than $1,000 as of his last campaign finance report. Henry vouched for his advocacy on education issues.
"If I weren't running, I'd probably be voting for Rodney," Henry says. "He's a good advocate and a good guy."
Francesco Legaluppi, 48, a business consultant who lives in Homeland, was Honorary Consul General to Italy for 28 years.
Legaluppi says his top issue is improving Baltimore's schools. He wants to pressure the mayor and school board to implement universal pre-K and hold the schools accountable for a lack of transparency. He also wants to reduce taxes and ensure city agency audits are completed. Legaluppi filed an affidavit reporting less than $1,000 on hand in January.
"I felt an absolute need to become involved," Legaluppi says. "I love my city. I saw a great degradation over the years of what's going on. I feel very strongly that our district has been under-represented and I want to make a difference."
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Edwin Johnson, president of the Mid-Govans Community Association, said Henry has wide-spread support in his neighborhood. Johnson said Henry has been instrumental in brokering partnerships between the community, local universities and businesses.
"Bill Henry has very strong support in my neighborhood," Johnson said. "The lawn signs are going up. Neighbors are having conversations about the candidates, both for mayor and for council."
But Angel Entner, president of the Pen Lucy Neighborhood Association, said voters in her area are eager for change.
"Bill Henry has been completely missing in action for Pen Lucy," she said. "Both Brian Hammock and Rodney Burris came to our December meeting. They both spoke and the residents were very interested in hearing from the two of them. They'd like to see us get a council person that actually does something for us."
The winner faces Republican William "Sam" Broaddus III in the general election.