The Sun continues its endorsements for the Sept. 9 Baltimore primary election with City Council races in southern District 10 and central District 11.
ONCE DERIDED as the "Silent Sixth," the southernmost leg of the city is awakening to its potential: As the new 10th District, its future is tied to its twisting miles of waterfront, far-flung neighborhoods and dormant industrial lots. Pockets of new money and poverty share the harbor and river views.
Its council member must recognize the differing needs of Westport, Cherry Hill, Locust Point, Morrell Park, Brooklyn and Curtis Bay, and help them forge a vision for the peninsula's future. A nimble leader and a listener is needed to serve a mix of longtime homeowners who are squeezed by the upkeep cost and property taxes on aging housing, transient condo dwellers, young professionals, working poor and many who are less fortunate.
The Democrats offer several strong candidates. Among them, lawyer Nicole Pastore-Klein's energetic campaign has focused most on neighborhood coalition-building; she recognizes the need to battle isolation, get better access to city resources, and fight common problems of drug addiction, crime and decay. Her volunteer efforts to unify Key Highway interests to obtain public beautification funds, and participation in Federal Hill's Main Street program, demonstrate her growing political savvy. She approaches urban problems with a researcher's zeal. She earns The Sun's endorsement.
Incumbent Edward L. Reisinger, a tavern owner, has reason to be proud of his record on delivering constituent services since rejoining the council in 1995 (he was first a member in 1990 and 1991). He faithfully has served his own neighborhood, Morrell Park, and others to become a trusted voice in segments of South Baltimore, yet in parts of the district he remains unknown.
Candidate Charlie Metz, a small-businessman who manufactures and imports dry goods for the resort industry, is a seasoned activist with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). His political agenda reflects its influence: He wants to attract light industry to South Baltimore, guarantee workers a living wage, improve teacher salaries and expand after-school programs.
Mark A. Muhammad, a city wastewater treatment plant worker and part-time disc jockey, advocates change, but isn't well-known throughout the district.
In the Republican primary, Joe Collins Jr., an owner of a South Charles Street auto repair shop, speaks out for small-business owners and favors lower property taxes; he gets The Sun's endorsement. His opponent, Duane Shelton, a data coordinator at Johns Hopkins Hospital with more enthusiasm than ideas for change, would serve his party better in other roles.
THE CENTRAL city district boasts outstanding Democratic candidates: The leaders in the pack are two-term incumbent Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. and Michael Seipp, a thoughtful 30-year veteran of housing and redevelopment projects. Either would serve well a diverse district reshaped to run from Otterbein and Federal Hill north through downtown, Mount Vernon and Bolton Hill to Reservoir Hill, and west to Harlem Park. At its heart are pricey historic districts, the professional and arts corridors and a large gay community; farther out are swaths of working-class homes and pockets of strife.
The Sun endorses Mr. Mitchell, a financial associate at A. G. Edwards Inc. and former Boys Latin history teacher, who has been accessible to constituents and outspoken especially on education initiatives.
As a councilman, he helped get $3 million in computer equipment for public schools, and served on the board of the Midtown Academy, a parent- and teacher-run public school serving Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill. He supported a lien release program through which owners of abandoned property get tax relief if they turn their buildings over to community development corporations, and a program through which public school teachers can buy houses in the city at low cost and get repair loans.
Mr. Mitchell sponsored legislation that allows judges to order community service for parents of truants instead of jail time, intended to help keep the families intact. He has taken the unusual step of holding some office hours at drug corners, to interact with concerned constituents and prod users into treatment.
Mr. Seipp, who consults for a Virginia-based affordable-housing firm, was the No. 2 official at both the Housing Department and the city's economic development agency. After writing the Schmoke administration's successful application for the federally funded empowerment zones, he ran the nonprofit Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition for six years, earning mixed reviews. To help attract businesses to Baltimore, he would push for a citywide renewal plan and initiatives aimed at improving investor confidence: He also says Baltimore needs a better planning department to sketch out the next chapters in its renaissance.
Other candidates include chemical-company clerk Eric Easton, a Reservoir Hill activist and peace advocate and a champion for children and senior citizens; Robert Siewierski of Mount Vernon, a veteran of the first gulf war who says City Hall needs to pare its ranks of overpaid managers; Barre Circle resident Bill Marker, an attorney working at the state Department of Assessments and Taxation whose credentials include two terms as president of Pigtown's community association; and Midtown/Belvedere resident James Feld, a Maryland Institute graduate and bartender at a Harborplace restaurant who identifies himself as the only district candidate who openly favors the legalization of marijuana.
The Sun's endorsements in the Sept. 9 Baltimore primary election continue with a look at City Council races in north districts 5, 6 and 14.