AFTER the mayor, the City Council president and the comptroller are Baltimore's most powerful elected officials. They are among voting members of the day-to-day management committee known as the Board of Estimates. And they are potential contenders for the mayor's job.
Democratic Councilwoman SHEILA DIXON is The Sun's choice for the next City Council president. In her three terms representing West Baltimore's Fourth District, she has shown steady growth.
In Baltimore's strong-mayor form of municipal government, the City Council president chairs the Board of Estimates as well as the meetings of 18 council representatives. Aside from the mayor, the president is the only other elected official in a position to have a full picture of the city's business.
The council president's job has often served as a training and testing ground for politicians aspiring to a higher office. William Donald Schaefer, Thomas J. D'Alesandro III and Clarence H. "Du" Burns rose from that post to become mayor. But Walter S. Orlinsky, Mary Pat Clarke and Lawrence A. Bell III failed in their bids.
Before the primary election filing deadline, there was much public hand-wringing about the perceived lack of adequate candidates for various offices. It was a sorry spectacle we do not want to have repeated.
That's why it is important to have politicians of Sheila Dixon's caliber in offices where they can receive further training and where their future leadership potential is tested.
The Republican candidate for City Council president is Antonio Wade Campbell, an energetic and promising newcomer. His chances are hampered by his late start and lack of name recognition. But with advance planning and proper organization, Mr. Campbell could play an important role in future attempts to resuscitate the city's GOP.
JOAN M. PRATT gets our endorsement for re-election as city comptroller. She faces token opposition from Republican Charles U. Smith.
Among Ms. Pratt's chief achievements during her first term was an attempt to bring some order to the city's real estate matters. She was only partially successful, not because she did not try hard enough but because she did not have the mayor's support. The next mayor must recognize that the city could save millions of dollars if all real estate transactions were handled by the comptroller's office.
Because Ms. Pratt has talked about running for mayor in the next election, she has set high expectations for herself. She deserves a second term -- and close scrutiny of her performance by voters.