Veteran Welch faces 3 challengers in 9th

THE BALTIMORE SUN

During the past 20 years, Baltimore has seen the emergence of the Inner Harbor as a major tourist attraction, elected its first black mayor and suffered through an epidemic of murder.

And through it all, the good and the bad, Agnes B. Welch has been on the City Council, where she says she has tried to make a difference, whether it's establishing a chapter of the American Cancer Society or pushing for legislation to control pit bulls.

At 78, Welch, a Democrat, says she has much more work to do for Baltimore. She believes voters will give her the chance at Tuesday's primary election by casting their ballots for her in the city's new 9th District, which covers portions of West and Southwest Baltimore.

Wendy Foy has other ideas.

Foy, 43, is challenging the incumbent and is backed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a group that successfully pushed for the redistricting that changed council representation from six three-member districts to 14 one-member districts.

Other Democratic candidates running in the 9th District are Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon and Ernest M. King. Neither could be reached for comment. No Republicans are running.

Foy, who grew up in Sandtown-Winchester, said she isn't daunted by Welch's long tenure on the council and that people are ready for a change in leadership.

"I think my chances are great in defeating her," said Foy, the mother of a teen-age boy. "I've been out talking to the community, and ... you could hear the frustration and the sadness. People are very disappointed with the current City Council."

A newcomer to politics, Foy said she is running for council to give her community a voice and to "stand up and make changes and to encourage community residents to get involved."

Among issues she says she is concerned about is housing, including putting a stop to predatory lending and flipping, a practice where depressed properties are bought cheaply then sold at inflated prices, sometimes fraudulently. She said she would press for reopening the Hollins-Payson branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Foy says she is against privatizing public-sector jobs, and she argues that education is the key to reducing the city's crime.

"If we can find money to better our schools and educate our children, then that would deter some of the crime in Baltimore City," she said. "I'm also fighting to [increase] the city's living wage." The minimum wage for city employees is $8.70.

Foy estimates that she has spent between $9,000 and $10,000 on signs and other campaign literature.

Welch said she isn't sure how much money she has spent on campaign signs, although she has put up many. She said she has been busy knocking on doors and shaking hands.

Welch points to her experience in politics and constituent service as reasons she should be re-elected to the council.

"I've always been a full-time council person," she said.

Among programs Welch wants to see implemented is one that would allow city residents to purchase vacant houses or buildings next door to them for a nominal fee. And she says that the city should do more to deal with a rampant drug problem.

"We need more drug treatment," she said. "We need more education, and we need more than just [detoxification]. We need psychologists and spiritual help for the people."

Welch also said she would like to see the city's public school system be held more accountable for spending.

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