Several candidates for the Baltimore City Council have pledged to be full-time council members, though the $66,000-a-year position is considered part-time and many members over the years have juggled a prime livelihood with their council duties -- at a different sort of cost to taxpayers.
In an effort to measure just how attentive the 14 council members are to their duties, The Baltimore Sun reviewed 667 City Council committee votes between December 2011 and March 2015, and an additional 768 votes taken by the full council during the same period.
It was not exactly pretty, a reflection of both incumbents who needed to retire and, perhaps, the consequences of council positions being treated as part-time jobs.
Pete Welch, for instance, is an accountant in West Baltimore in addition to being the city’s 9th District councilman. The Sun’s review found that, over a four-year period, Welch had missed 32 percent of votes by his council committees and the full council. That amounted to more than 100 votes.
"Where else in America can you not show up for work and then [make] a decision on something that impacts 600,000 people?” Scott asked. “That's unacceptable."
As bad as that sounds, Welch’s 68 percent vote rate was not the worst of the pack.
Nick Mosby, who represents the 7th District, had a slightly worse no-show rate (66 percent).
But the three worst offenders were Bobby Curran, Warren Branch and Helen Holton; they each missed 50 percent or more. Councilwoman Rikki Spector missed 40 percent of committee and council votes.
Of the most frequently absent, only Branch, who missed 56 percent of votes, is seeking reelection.
He faces a vigorous challenge for the 13th District seat from Shannon Sneed, a community activist in East Baltimore who came close to upsetting Branch in 2011. (We posted my Roughly Speaking podcast interview with Sneed two weeks ago.)
In the 9th, Welch faces opposition from an astute Towson University professor and Union Square resident, John Bullock, and from an energetic community organizer named Jerrell Bratcher. You can hear the candidates, including Welch, on my Roughly Speaking podcast for Monday, part of an ongoing series of interviews with office-seekers in the April 26 primary.
The City Council has some outstanding candidates to replace retiring members or incumbents who have not been tested in an election in five years.
Tuesday’s podcast presents four candidates seeking to replace Holton in the 8th District, as well as Mark E. Hughes, who is challenging Sharon Green Middleton in the 6th. On Wednesday, we’ll hear from four candidates in the 4th District, including the incumbent, Bill Henry. Thursday’s podcast features three of the candidates seeking to replace Spector after her long tenure in the 5th, and six candidates vying for Carl Stokes' seat in the 12th District.
Mosby chose to run for mayor rather than seek reelection to the council. He dropped out of the mayor’s race last week and endorsed Catherine Pugh. Several Democrats are running to replace him. My podcast interviews with five of the 7th District candidates will be posted this Friday.