Sun Editorial Page Editor Andy Green discusses The Sun's endorsements for Baltimore County council. (Kevin Richardson / The Baltimore Sun video)
Only one seat on the Baltimore County Council is guaranteed to turn over in the next election — the 2nd District, now represented by Vicki Almond, who is running for county executive. But at least two other incumbents face tough challenges this year. Here are The Sun’s endorsements:
We like Councilman Tom Quirk. The Catonsville Democrat has an extremely strong understanding of budget issues, keeps a cool head and tries to mediate tough situations even outside his district. He can point to a record of bringing home funding to his district for new school construction and renovations, and his zoning decisions have generally been sound. In fact, there’s really only one thing we disagree with him about, but it’s a big one: Baltimore County’s federal housing discrimination settlement.
He opposes the HOME Act, which would prohibit landlords from discriminating based on a prospective tenant’s source of income — that is, whether they receive federal housing vouchers. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the settlement in determining Baltimore County’s future. It’s not just an issue of whether lower-income residents will have the opportunity to live in neighborhoods with greater economic opportunities and better schools. It’s a question of whether Baltimore County will develop cancerous pockets of concentrated poverty like those that have bedeviled Baltimore City for decades. If the county doesn’t take action now — not only by passing the HOME Act but by doing even more than the consent decree requires to spread affordable housing throughout the county — it will face mounting social problems that will put the quality of life of all its residents at risk.
For that reason, we endorse Sheila Ruth in the Democratic primary. She understands the central importance of affordable housing, and more broadly the need to address issues regionally. She is a champion of increased transparency in county government, environmental protection and the revitalization of older communities.
Pete MelcavageII, a lawyer and former political science professor, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Two strong Democratic candidates are vying to replace Ms. Almond: Izzy Patoka and Rick Yaffe. Either would be a capable councilman. (And both, incidentally, support the HOME Act.) Mr. Yaffe founded Butler Medical Transport, a 300-employee company, and would bring a strong business sense to county government. But on the issue that is so often the source of tension in Baltimore County — development — Mr. Patoka’s experience as a planner in both Baltimore City and County makes him the superior choice. He understands the dangers of poorly thought out infill in established communities and of a system in which developers have excessive sway. Plus, he has extensive experience in preparing budgets and reviewing contracts on both the local and state level, which are essential skills to a councilman’s oversight role. He has our endorsement.
Businessman Michael Lee is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Incumbent Republican Councilman A. Wade Kach has an unparalleled record of public service from decades in the legislature and as a teacher. We appreciate his commitment to bringing more transparency to county government and his willingness to challenge the status quo. But we believe the sprawling and diverse 3rd District, which runs from Lutherville to the Pennsylvania line, could use some fresh perspective and new leadership. Businessman Ed Hale Jr. is the best choice. He plans to use his private sector experience to help revitalize flagging commercial areas in the district and to protect its rural space by concentrating growth in already developed areas. He has been a regular attendee at council meetings and work sessions for the last year, and he says he will be able to use his business experience to help hold down county spending. He has our endorsement.
Two good candidates are running in the Democratic primary in the district: Towson University professor Colleen Ebacher and Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong, who has held a variety of roles in government and non-profits in education and the environment. Ms. Mitchell-Strong’s candidacy is an outgrowth of her six years as a foster parent and through her involvement with Baltimore County schools, and she wants to use that experience to focus the county on efforts to tackle social problems that affect children. Ms. Ebacher got involved in politics as a result of her academic work on immigration, and she is well attuned to the issues Baltimore County faces as it grows more diverse. (Both she and Ms. Mitchell-Strong support the HOME Act.) Ms. Ebacher’s well developed views on how to make Baltimore County development smarter and more community focused give her the edge and our endorsement.
Democratic incumbent Councilman Julian E. Jones Jr. faces a challenge this year from Derrick A. Burnett Sr., a business owner, architect and veteran. Though Mr. Burnett’s long record of community involvement is impressive, we endorse Mr. Jones. He was the lone supporter of the HOME Act among the council’s incumbents, and he understands that the communities that have the highest concentrations of subsidized housing now — including some in his district and others on the East Side — are the ones with the most to gain from it. Mr. Jones has been focused on his district’s schools and on efforts to reduce racial and socioeconomic disparities in students’ achievements, and his long career as a professional firefighter gives him crucial insight into public safety issues.
Republican Councilman David Marks has proven himself to be consistently independent, effective and attuned to the needs of a district that runs from Towson to Perry Hall. He has faced plenty of difficult issues associated with the redevelopment of Towson and has navigated them thoughtfully. His expertise in transportation issues (he has worked on the issue at the state and federal levels) is particularly valuable. We give him our enthusiastic endorsement.
In the Democratic primary, we endorse Alex Foley, who has been active in the Ridgeleigh community and wants to focus on basic county services and infrastructure.
Incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins is unopposed in the primary, but five Republicans are seeking the chance to challenge her in the fall. The two most serious candidates among them are small business owner Deb Sullivan and Ryan Nawrocki, who has held a variety of positions in the state and federal government and now runs his own communications consulting business. Both are good choices with deep ties to the community, and both are determined to make sure the East Side isn’t forgotten in county government. But Mr. Nawrocki’s understanding of the workings of county government is deeper and his plans for addressing the problems the district faces, from overdevelopment to subpar schools, are far more detailed. He has our endorsement.
Republican Councilman Todd Crandell is being challenged by Dave Rader, an appealing young candidate with a strong record of community involvement. But Mr. Crandell’s record during his first term should convince Republican voters in the 7th to nominate him for a second. He has been a voice for fiscal conservatism in the county while keeping his eye firmly fixed on the most important thing happening in his district: the redevelopment of the Sparrows Point peninsula into Tradepoint Atlantic. He has our endorsement.