Members of the Baltimore City Council who decided not to override Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's veto of two proposed charter amendments did the right thing. Both a proposal to strip future mayors of control of the Board of Estimates and one to give the council power to reallocate funds in the budget would have weakened fiscal accountability and gummed up the works of city government.

That said, we appreciate the spirit in which Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young pushed for their passage. He argues that the city government has for years failed to address the needs of the economically and socially marginalized in Baltimore, and he's absolutely right about that. Rep. Elijah Cummings put the issue well in accepting the Howard "Pete" Rawlings award at the Greater Baltimore Committee's annual dinner on Monday. He said that since last year's unrest, he's gotten asked a lot by colleagues in Congress about whether Baltimore would recover. It will, he says, but that's not the question.


"I talk to my experts in Washington, and they say Baltimore's going to be fine," Mr. Cummings said. "All you've got to do is look at the new corporations and the millennials, thanks to the mayor who are moving into our city. Baltimore's going to be fine. It's not a question of whether Baltimore's going to be fine. The question is whether we will all rise together. That's the question. ... There are people who feel so often like they are not part of the city, and they want to be included."

We support Mr. Young's diagnosis of the problem, just not his cure. His premise is that if the strong mayor form of government has left so many out, Baltimore should shift to a system in which power is more broadly shared. But recent research into how the structure of a municipal government relates to its responsiveness to the policy preferences of residents suggests such a change wouldn't make any difference. In 2014, researchers at UCLA and MIT measured the political leanings of every city and town with a population of greater than 20,000 and found that "the policies enacted by cities across a range of policy areas correspond with the liberal-conservative positions of their citizens." They then considered whether various structures of local government matter but found that they "have little consistent impact on policy responsiveness."

That is to say, if Baltimore's government is not serving the broad needs of the city, it's not necessarily because we have a strong mayor form of government. It's because residents have not effectively demanded better.

We believe that is changing. The results of last month's primary election, particularly on the City Council level, showed a tremendous desire for new energy and new ideas across the city. Even so-called establishment candidates in the mayoral election, like the apparent Democratic nominee, Sen. Catherine Pugh, espoused a raft of proposals for a more just, equitable Baltimore. We have a new, reform-minded police chief, and although we didn't like the way the deed was done, the city school board clearly got the memo when it decided to replace the district's CEO.

Mr. Young has the opportunity now to help build that momentum, and we hope he will seize it. In the weeks ahead, the council will have the opportunity to review Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's budget. Although it will not have the power Mr. Young sought to move money from one item of appropriation to another, it does have the ability to cut from Ms. Rawlings-Blake's proposal and to negotiate for her to support its priorities. Ms. Rawlings-Blake should be amenable to the process; she did the same thing when she was council president, helping pressure then-mayor Sheila Dixon to restore some funds for summer camps, rec centers, child care centers, a fire company and other council priorities. We would suggest he start by finding enough cuts in the budget to restore the $4.2 million in funds for youth programs the city provided after last year's riots but which the mayor failed to include in her proposal for next year.

It is also absolutely crucial that he use the City Council's review of the proposed Port Covington tax increment financing deal to provide the transparency that the process has so far lacked. We believe most Baltimoreans want to see Under Armour succeed but at a cost we can afford. Likewise, we believe many are intrigued by the scale and grandeur of its vision but worried that it will create a city within a city, isolated physically, socially and economically from the neighborhoods that need opportunity most. Officials at Sagamore Development, the company spearheading the project, say they are committed to making sure that doesn't happen. Mr. Young and his colleagues need to press them on the details.

Finally, Mr. Young could foster a more deliberative discussion about whether the structure of city government is as effective and efficient as it could be. It's been more than 20 years since the last thorough evaluation of Baltimore's charter, and some of the most significant reforms to come from it have been erased by subsequent developments. We have long argued, for example, that the Board of Estimates might be more effective if its composition and responsibilities were akin to those of the Board of Public Works on the state level (the recent air conditioning debacle at the BPW notwithstanding). But accomplishing that would require a more comprehensive reform to the charter than the one council members failed to send to voters Monday night.