City Council districts

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Sun continues its endorsements for the Sept. 9 Baltimore primary election with races in west-side City Council districts 7, 8 and 9.

District 7

DEMOCRAT Shawn Z. Tarrant, a Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceutical salesman and president of Ashburton's neighborhood association, says members of the new council must think of themselves as mini-mayors. Mr. Tarrant's volunteer efforts to have Ashburton rezoned for single-family homes and get streets repaved gave him experience in making government work for his community. He has built a network of allies throughout the district. He is founder of a group of dads supporting school activities, and says the council can do more to bring neighbors and schools together to benefit the children. The Sun endorses him to represent the new west-side district that runs from Medfield and Hampden through Druid Hill Park into Ashburton.

There is no incumbent in this race, which also attracted John Burke, a city fireman who lives in Hampden and who wants police to maintain a more constant pressure on known prostitution and drug-selling hot spots, which he says have been repeatedly repopulated by offenders after the activity is reported; Belinda K. Conaway, a counselor in the city schools, who also seeks more accountability from the police; John Holmes, a former rat-eradication expert with the city, who would support a scratch-off lottery to fund programs for kids; and Timothy Mercer, a general contractor, who would work to improve schools.

In the Republican primary, The Sun endorses Owen B. Hanratty, who would push for more economic development in neighborhoods. The other Republican candidates are Almaajid Muhammad El, a city Department of Social Services worker; and Carlton "Yummy" Dotson.

District 8

WITH A STEEP dropout rate in some of its schools and a fair share of Baltimore's drug problems, the new 8th District -- running from the Gwynns Falls to Ten Hills, Dickeyville, Edmondson Village and Violetville -- needs a passionate advocate.

The Sun endorses Democrat David Maurice Smallwood, whose work with young people as the director of the city's Ralph J. Young Center in East Baltimore would give the council a much-needed street-level perspective. "I've raised them. I've chastised them. I've taught them," says Mr. Smallwood.

He is the promising upstart in a race against two current council members; his is a new voice to reinvigorate debate and pursue solutions for the west side's deeply ingrained troubles. Current councilwoman Helen L. Holton's service to the community has been adequate if unremarkable. Councilman Melvin L. Stukes has repeatedly called for a greater community voice in school system management, and for the opening of more drug-treatment centers.

Other challengers are Patrick J. Burns, a property management firm owner who would urge city agencies to tailor their work neighborhood by neighborhood; Beatrice Hawkins, who is running because she and her neighbors are "tired of the norm"; Melva Cole-Fleet; and W. Keith Matthews.

District 9

In the Democratic race, Wendy Foy, an activist with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) who helped push for the new single-member council districts, earns The Sun's endorsement in District 9, which stretches from Rosemont east along Gwynns Falls to Pigtown, then up to Union Square.

Office manager at the Harlem Park Village Center and a former city employee, Ms. Foy has been a president of the Stadium School's parent-teacher association and a volunteer in many community organizations, most of them focused on the needs of the city's young people. She sees a role for the City Council in lobbying for better funding for Baltimore schools and supporting the opening of more innovative and community-based academies. She lives in Rosemont.

Ms. Foy wants the city to promote the development of skills training programs because, she says, "the drug trade has been the major employment force in my community." She would work to strengthen housing code enforcement and to increase protections against predatory lending practices that she says have left many homes in her district in foreclosure.

Ms. Foy's campaign captures the spirit of change, in counterpoint to the pledge of hard work and stability during a time of change offered by the veteran council member and incumbent, Agnes Welch, who has served five terms. Ms. Welch says that if re-elected, she would seek more budget authority for the council through a change in the city charter.

Other candidates are Cortly "C. D." Witherspoon, who wants police to add more foot patrolmen and who would lobby for a comprehensive system of help for the flood of ex-offenders who come back to Baltimore neighborhoods each year, and Ernest M. King, whose campaign is built around his long history of work with young people in bands and in sports programs.

Tomorrow

The Sun's endorsements in the Sept. 9 primary continue with a look at City Council races in districts 10 and 11.

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