Federal Hill community president nominated for City Council

The committee tasked with filing a vacant City Council seat listened to more than four hours of testimony Tuesday evening from 14 candidates with a wide range of experiences.

But when it came time to debate their relative merits, there was little discussion. The committee voted on only one candidate — Eric T. Costello, 33, the president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association — and approved him by an 11-2 vote, after considering the matter for less than five minutes.

"I'm humbled and honored at the opportunity," said Costello, an information technology auditor in the U.S. Government Accountability Office. "I've been real involved in the community for the past couple of years. I've seen what type of impact being a council member can have."

City Councilman Carl Stokes, chairman the 13-member committee that selected Costello, said the nominee had received about 25 letters of support, but also about two dozen in opposition. Costello declined to comment on the opposition to his nomination.

The City Council expects to vote on whether to approve Costello on Oct. 6. He said he plans to meet with council members ahead of that vote.

Costello said he met last week with City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who appointed the 13 members of the committee. Costello said he "absolutely" did not pledge to always vote with Young, and planned to be independent. "I met with him and his chief of staff," Costello said. "That was the extent of it. .. The first priority is to vote the conscience of the district. It's about voting what's best for your district."

During his presentation to the committee, Costello said he wanted to have more frequent audits in Baltimore that are greater in scope. He added that he would resign from his federal government job, if selected, and planned to take calls from constituents as late as 2 a.m.

Costello said his first action in office would be to talk with residents of Upton's Marble Hill community to learn how he can address issues important to them on the council.

"Not much attention has been given to their neighborhood," he said.

Costello's name was offered up by committee member Adrian Harpool, a Madison Park resident who was Young's campaign manager. Harpool said he took notes while all 14 candidates spoke, and considered Costello's responses to questions the best. No other committee member publicly gave a reason why he or she supported Costello.

Stokes said he voted for Costello only because many others on the committee had already done so.

"To be frank, by the time it got to me, he had already won," Stokes said. "I accepted the will of the committee."

Stokes said all the letters against Costello came from "one community" — Federal Hill.

"Of course it gives you pause when you get that much opposition," he said.

Michael A. Evitts, a vice president of the Downtown Partnership, said he voted against Costello because the members of his organization preferred Gregory Sileo, the president of the Locust Point Civic Association. Sileo's name was not voted upon by the committee.

Andy Freeman, a real estate developer who lives in Harborview, also voted against Costello. He declined to discuss the reasons behind his vote.

Costello was among 14 residents of Baltimore's 11th District — which includes downtown, Federal Hill and Bolton Hill — who spent Tuesday evening making their best pitches on why they should fill the City Council seat left vacant by William H. Cole IV.

Cole, who has represented the 11th District since 2007, was appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake last month as director of the Baltimore Development Corp.

In the packed City Council chamber, the candidates offered their views on tax incentives for development, improving police relations with the community, bettering Baltimore's schools and reducing homelessness.

Nearly all said they support Young's plan to require all city police officers to wear body cameras to curb police brutality.

Anthony F. Vittoria, a lawyer from Locust Point, told the committee that, as councilman, he could hold his own in negotiations with Baltimore's biggest developers.

"I've dealt with [Mark] Sapperstein. I've dealt with Kevin Plank. ..." Vittoria said. "They may not like me, but I believe they'll tell you they respect me."

Shannon Sullivan, a Police Department employee from Riverside, said she does not own a car and would advocate for better public transportation.

"As taxpayers we need better services," she said. "I don't know what I'm getting for my tax dollars."

David Stone, now vice chairman of the city school board, pointed to his work in education and said Baltimore should devote more resources to making the city welcoming for families.

"We need to make this a family-friendly city, which, currently, I'm not sure that it is," the council candidate said."

The selection committee is made up of community and business leaders chosen by Young. This is the first time the council has used the selection process it created in 2011 after council members chose the successor to Councilwoman Agnes Welch, who retired. The council voted to appoint Welch's son, William "Pete" Welch, to her seat.

Council members were criticized for not having sought more community input and subsequently established the process being used now.

Young has said he does not want someone who will be a loyal vote for either himself or Rawlings-Blake.

"I am looking for someone who will be independent and vote the conscience of the district, and not mine or not the mayor's," Young said.

Stokes said Young has emphasized that point in discussions with committee members.



The candidates

Fourteen people applied for the City Council seat representing the 11th District, which includes downtown, Federal Hill and Bolton Hill. A selection committee nominated Costello, who will now face a council vote. The candidates were:

Melanie A. Ambridge, former board member, South Baltimore Neighborhood Assn.

Darroll Cribb, CEO, The Humanitarian Inc.

Eric T. Costello, president, Federal Hill Neighborhood Assn.

Julie K. Dunham Howie, development director, Payne Theological Seminary

John Kucskar, deputy legal counsel to governor

Rob LaPin, former teacher

Arthur McGreevy, lawyer, Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White

Harry F. Preston V, teacher, Edmondson Westside High School

William Romani, founding board member, One House at a Time

Gregory Sileo, president, Locust Point Civic Assn.

Benjamin R. Smith, student body president, University of Md. law school

David Stone, vice chairman, Baltimore school board

Shannon Sullivan, board member, Riverside community group

Anthony F. Vittoria, lawyer, Ober Kaler

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