Why Baltimore voters must reject term-limit ‘Question K’ | GUEST COMMENTARY

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2004, file photo, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.'s headquarters stands in Hunt Valley, Md. Sinclair Broadcast Group said Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, that it's suffered a data breach and is still working to determine what information the data contained. The Baltimore company owns and/or operates 21 regional sports network and owns, operates and/or provides services to 185 television stations in 86 markets.(AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)

Baltimore City voters should vote “Against” Question K, the proposed amendment to the City Charter that would limit city officials to two terms in office (”Baltimore voters will be asked this fall to consider term limits; other proposed ballot questions short of signatures,” Aug. 22)

History has shown that Baltimore’s best leaders serve more than two terms. I am 80 years old; and the most effective Baltimore mayors of my lifetime — Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., William Donald Schaefer, and Kurt Schmoke — all served more than two terms. Each of them had dramatic long-term impacts that positively reshaped Baltimore City with projects that took years to conceive and accomplish.


Several long-term City Council members have also made major contributions to our city, including Mary Pat Clarke, who was a member or president of the City Council for more than 30 years. As she said in The Sun recently, “I think voting is the best term limit. They’ll keep you or they’ll cut you out the next time around, if you’re not doing a good job. A lot of things take some time.”

Imposing structural term limits is paternalistic and insulting to the citizens, who should be free to retain officials they like and believe are doing important work. Baltimore voters have shown that they are sophisticated and know how to vote out incumbents they no longer want. Just ask the most immediate former mayor, former comptroller, and the current sheriff, all of whom were replaced by the voters.


The breadth of the proposed City Charter amendment on the November ballot is particularly troubling. It would limit the terms of all Baltimore officials, including the mayor, the comptroller, the president of the City Council and all its members to exactly the same schedule.

That combination of executive and legislative term limits would promote shortsighted planning, produce inexperienced officials and lead to governance by bureaucracy that gives lip service to perpetually changing elected lame ducks.

But, there is an even more odious and ominous aspect about Question K. The leader of the group that conducted the petition campaign to put Question K on the ballot is a former Republican candidate for City Council president. But the petition campaign was funded by $385,000 from David Smith, the chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns more than 100 mostly conservative television stations across the country.

This was not the beginning of the Sinclair Broadcast Group attack on Baltimore. Under Mr. Smith’s leadership, the local Sinclair station, WBFF TV Fox 45, has engaged in an aggressive, almost humorously obsessive and repetitive, campaign of criticizing and stigmatizing Baltimore City. The news coverage has been anything but “fair and balanced,” as the station has not missed a beat in casting bad light on Baltimore City.

Mr. Smith’s sponsorship of the term limits initiative leads one to question whether the Fox 45 “City in Crisis” television campaign is news, or actually a set up to provide justification for the current attempt to destabilize Baltimore City government.

The last thing Baltimore City needs is more instability in city government. Baltimore voters should send Sinclair and Fox 45 a strong message, by voting “Against” Question K.

— Larry S. Gibson, Baltimore