As freshman councilman Leon Pinkett vacates his District 7 seat on Baltimore City Council to enter the council president race, a competitive field of five candidates are looking to replace him, and revitalize some of the ailing neighborhoods of West Baltimore.
James Torrence, a Democratic candidate who has received donations from prominent Democratic lawmakers like Del. Maggie McIntosh and state Sen. Antonio Hayes, said he wants to take a “data-driven” approach to addressing the area’s lack of supermarkets and job opportunities.
A 2017 study by the city’s health department found that 26.3% of the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods, which are both within District 7, were “covered by food desert,” meaning residents lacked easy access to healthy food. The rate was more than double the city’s overall rate of 12.5%.
“It’s looking at where the current data is [in relation to] where residents are,” he said. “I always say we haven’t had focused job training program coordination throughout the city.”
Torrence leads the field in campaign fundraising, reporting a cash balance of about $30,500 in his April filing.
Brian Sims, a Democrat and president of the Greater Baltimore Health Improvement Initiative, is second in fundraising with a campaign cash balance of $18,000 as of April. He said the city first needs to tackle its homelessness problem and the surplus of vacant or condemned houses in the city.
“Wealth is typically generated and transferred through home ownership,” he said. “This is something that, first and foremost, we need to address.”
All of the candidates pointed to public safety as a top priority, for business owners and residents.
Tori Rose, a Democratic candidate, said she would focus on revitalizing Mondawmin Mall to help bring economic change to the area. Target closed its location at the mall in 2018, which employed 134 people.
“Having a central marketplace where people feel a sense of ownership ... will stop some of the devaluing that you see happening in our community,” she said.
Christopher Anderson, the lone Republican candidate, said he would work to find more ways for the district to take advantage of the city’s Enterprise Zone program, which offers incentive to developers for investing in distressed areas.
Rodney Hudson, a Democratic challenger, said he first wants to “clean up Pennsylvania Avenue,” and focus on the entertainment district while also starting a vacant home rehabilitation apprenticeship program to help employ the city’s young adults.