Barbs are flying in the 10th District City Council race where three candidates are criticizing incumbent Edward L. Reisinger's relationship with area business owners.
"The incumbent claims to be there for the people," said Terry F. Hickey, one of the Democrats campaigning for the South Baltimore seat in the Sept. 11 primary election. "What I see him doing is creating a rift and slowing the process of real conversation between community and developers. He obviously has close ties to developers, builders and fund raising companies."
Two other candidates, Hunter L. Pruette and Donnie Fair, say they have grown tired of what they call the "pay to play" politics of Reisinger.
Reisinger, 57, calls his opponents political opportunists who are looking to take advantage of his narrow victory in the 2003 district race. Reisinger, who is chairman of the Land Use and Planning Committee, won by 124 votes.
"The past six months, I've been in the trenches," said Reisinger, a councilman for nearly 17 years. "I've been to planning commission hearings. I've been to liquor board hearings. I've been to zoning board hearings. I've not seen any of those three at any of those meetings to testify."
Hickey, 37, says that Reisinger is not in touch with the community. He and the other candidates have accused Reisinger of being "for sale" to developers, using campaign finance reports to argue their case.
Reisinger has raised more than $62,000 this election, with about 50 four-digit donations since 2003 coming from local businesses and developers.
Pruette, a former aide to presidential candidate John Edwards, has raised the second-most money of the district candidates, about $25,000 less than Reisinger. Most of Pruette's donations are from individuals.
Hickey has raised about $20,000, with only a few donations coming from businesses.
"You lose credibility when the businesses you claim to be protecting your constituents from, when they show up on your campaign finance report. In the end, I think the district pays for it," Hickey said.
Fair, 31, a network administrator for CapitalSource Finance, added that he could foresee future development in some of the district's neighborhoods, such as Westport, Federal Hill and Cherry Hill, coming at the expense of area history and affordable housing.
"There's a bull's-eye on the Domino Sugar sign and every square inch of property in this city," Fair said. "They're giving away our city to the highest bidder. Cherry Hill, Brooklyn and Curtis Bay, Port Covington, they're all on the auction block. These developers are lining up [like] vultures."
Reisinger dismisses claims that he is bound to business owners who support his campaign. He said much of his fundraising is done through a consulting firm and that he only occasionally makes calls seeking donations.
Reisinger said he is not afraid to side against his contributors, pointing to the recent blocked plan to build two waterfront towers at HarborView. Reisinger sided with a majority of his constituents in opposing the project and called the death of the legislation a victory for the community.
He added that HarborView's principal developer contributed to his campaign.
"It upsets me that one of my opponents makes a bold, misleading statement that I'm for sale because they contribute to my campaign," Reisinger said. "I have a record that shows some developers have contributed to my campaign, but I've voted against them because it wasn't best for my community."
Reisinger said he will continue to support certain projects but is also focusing his platform on public safety, education and an increase in after school programs.
"We've made strides; we're moving forward. What the district needs is experience, not someone who is going to need on-the-job training," Reisinger said.
Hickey has worked as a community attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.
A resident of Riverside Park, Hickey said he has lived in the district for 10 years and is pushing job and educational opportunities for youth.
Hickey said he will fight for entrepreneur training programs in city schools and a concentrated plan connecting business people and students in neighborhoods such as Cherry Hill.
"Our city, including our district, does not have a strategic plan for working with our young people," Hickey said. "At no point have we said as a city, 'What are we going to do to make our youth successful?'"
Pruette lives in Riverside Park and is as an assistant public defender in Baltimore. He said he worked with Edwards on his initial campaign for Senate and his 2004 presidential campaign.
The connection left Pruette with contacts throughout the country who have helped financed his campaign.
"The people that are supporting me are friends, family and [those] whom I've met throughout my jobs. They're supporting me not because I'm going to help them out," Pruette said.
Pruette's platform focuses on decreasing crime and improving public schools. Pruette said he would push for hundreds of additional police officers in the city. Pruette also said he is looking to start a program where college and high school students tutor elementary students.
As for development, Pruette said he would take a more inclusive approach.
"You have communities that have been around longer than the developers. You've got to get their input," he said.
Fair grew up in Carroll County and moved to Baltimore about eight years ago. He has served on the Southern Police District Community Relations Council and Citizens On Patrol and is focusing much of his platform on crime and taxes.
Fair said he wants more control and accountability given to district commanders and is in favor of a pay increase for officers.
"The reason we have so much crime in this city is we have politicians running the Police Department," Fair said.
Having raised considerably less money than his opponents, Fair said he is not in the race to necessarily win it. Fair said he just wanted to provide voters with an alternative.
"Is it reassuring that Ed only won by a marginal victory the last time? Yeah," Fair said. "Will Ed lose this year? It's a damn good chance."
Meanwhile, in a neighboring district where gentrification is in full swing, incumbent James Kraft is the subject of the same kind of criticism that's dogging Reisinger.
Kraft, 58, is seeking re-election in the 1st District, which represents the development-rich neighborhoods of Canton, Fells Point and Patterson Park in Southeast Baltimore.
Donald John Dewar III, Marc Warren and Terry Jay McCready are running against him.
Dewar and Warren both said Kraft is out of touch with his constituents and is unresponsive to complaints in the district.
"I've tried to call Kraft on many occasions," said Warren, the arts and entertainment editor at the Afro American newspaper. "He refuses to address my concerns."
Warren, 46, lives in Patterson Park and said he wanted to talk with Kraft about crime prevention, including putting of law enforcement officers or the National Guard in each community.
Kraft said his district has very few shootings and killings, and that the majority of crimes involve quality of life. He said he would support the recruitment and retention of more officers.
Kraft also said he is most proud of the development projects in his district and will focus on building new schools if he is re-elected.
"I've been able to bring the people who want to develop and the people who live in the community together," Kraft said.
Dewar, 58, lives in Canton, and gained some attention when he criticized holding a rap concert at the Clarence H. Du Burns Arena last month.
Dewar objected to the lyrics of rappers Lil' Wayne and Juelz Santana, and sent a letter to Mayor Sheila Dixon and the city's liquor board asking that the event be canceled.
Neither request was granted, but Dewar said he received support from community leaders. No major incidents were reported at the concert.
Dewar said quality of life issues and staffing the Police Department are his priorities.
McCready, 64, is retired from the city's Department of Public Works. He is in favor of assigning more detectives to the homicide division to address the city's high rate of unsolved killings.