In April of 2016, Baltimore Democrats saw the chance to remake the City Council for the first time in a generation, and an astonishing 46 percent of us headed to the primary polls — up from 23 percent just two years earlier.
We voted for change, electing candidates who promised a progressive agenda: eight new members of the City Council and a mayor whose campaign slogan was “moving Baltimore forward.”
We thought progress would be quick, yet, as The Sun has reported, the intricacies of city politics have hampered much of the legislation proposed by the freshman council members. All the while our crime rate soars and we are unable to keep our children warm in school. It is apparent that efforts to effect political change cannot end at the ballot box.
The fastest way for us to better coordinate engaged citizens is to recharge the Baltimore City delegation of the Democratic State Central Committee, which has a mandate to: bolster voter turnout, support grassroots organizing, fill vacancies as needed in a district’s elected legislative delegation, fund raise and advocate for the priorities of Democrats. It is the organizing arm of the party, and to succeed, its district representatives must focus on building lasting relationships within their communities.
In Baltimore, committee members should support small businesses, labor unions, environmental advocates, women, members of the LGBTQ community and every constituency who believes in government as the agent of progress. Then, when our local elected officials propose policies that will guide our city forward, the Central Committee should leverage these relationships to provide the kind of broad and diverse support our council members need to get bills beyond the bureaucracy and signed into law — or to hold accountable those unwilling to move Baltimore forward.
The Baltimore delegation of the Democratic State Central Committee can also be an advocacy apparatus: ensuring that the electorate is well-informed on the benefits of enacting good public policy and standing ready to mobilize when harmful or near-sighted policies are proposed.
In September, I was honored to receive an appointment to the Democratic Central Committee for Baltimore’s District 46. However, I’ve quickly learned two things: The Central Committee has been both largely ineffectual in recent years, and its efficacy is a direct consequence of its near invisibility. In order to truly bring about the kinds of long-term, sustainable policies that our city residents so desperately need, this needs to change, and it needs to change now.
When the next primary comes in June, we will see the names of many new young and hopeful individuals from across the city running for Democratic State Central Committee; more than 100 people have filed for positions in six districts. This bodes well for our local party infrastructure and for the prospect of an organization that is truly out in the community elevating neighborhood leaders who are working tirelessly to make a difference. It is up to all of us to ensure these candidates, myself included, are committed to doing the hard work of voter outreach, coalition-building and unrelenting advocacy for our values. If we do so with diligence and accountability to our fellow citizens, we will be the political base on which these freshman City Council members can build the progressive future we elected them to create.
Baltimore can afford nothing less.
Mark Edelson is a member of the Democratic State Central Committee for District 46 and can be reached at email@example.com.