Baltimore’s new City Council President Nick Mosby was sworn in Thursday along with five new and nine returning members of the council during a staggered, socially distanced outdoor ceremony.
Mosby, who resigned from his post as state delegate just before the inauguration began, aimed to inspire during a 15-minute address — five minutes longer than the new mayor’s speech two days prior — highlighting racist policy decisions of Baltimore’s past and challenging the new council to do better.
“Policy can no longer be the disease of Baltimore,” he said. “Policy must be its prescription.”
Mosby, a Democrat who served on the council before becoming a state delegate, emphasized his deep roots in the city and shared experiences with its residents.
“You know me. We grew up together. You stood in line with me and my mother at Mondawmin [Mall] waiting for Santa Luke,” said Mosby, paying homage to Baltimore’s beloved Black Kriss Kringle.
New to the council this year are Mark Conway in District 4, James Torrence in District 7, Phylicia Porter in District 10, Antonio Glover in District 13 and Odette Ramos in District 14. All are Democrats.
The coronavirus pandemic dramatically altered inaugural proceedings for the council. Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott swore in council members in shifts. Returning members, each wearing a mask and standing 6 feet from one another, stood on the steps of the War Memorial. In the past, the ceremony has been held inside the building.
Council members then retreated to the side of the building to, one at a time, sign a historic register as required by the city charter. Each council member was given a fresh pen.
The five freshman members were sworn in during a separate ceremony with Mosby. Standing in a staggered formation, the War Memorial behind them bathed in sunshine, each repeated the oath of office as Scott directed them.
Ramos, the city’s first Hispanic elected official, choked back tears after the ceremony as she described the historic nature of the day. Her extended family in Puerto Rico planned to watch the festivities online and her parents were watching in Massachusetts.
“I know this moment in history is a big deal,” Ramos said. “The Latino community is no longer invisible.”
Ramos said she stands on the shoulders of Mary Pat Clarke, a longtime Democratic councilwoman and former council president who retired this year. Ramos now represents Clarke’s old district.
Clarke and other departing members of the council, including Shannon Sneed, Leon Pinkett and Ed Reisinger, were not present for Thursday’s ceremony. Organizers tried to keep attendance to a minimum, in compliance with recommendations from the city Health Department to help control the spread of COVID-19.
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“I would have loved to be with all my colleagues,” Ramos said. “We have to take all precautions.”
Also departing the council this week were Scott, who was sworn in as mayor, and Bill Henry, who became city comptroller.
Unable to hold a large swearing-in ceremony, Mosby amplified the production value of the event with a report shown several hours later on the city’s CharmTV channel. It opened with a virtual performance by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, followed by a video featuring all council members, who were recorded speaking in their respective districts. The production closed with a filmed vocal performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sometimes referred to as the Black national anthem, in front of City Hall. Modern dancers, their faces covered in masks, twirled behind a singer.
The council met briefly Thursday evening for an organizational session. Democratic Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton was elected vice president.
Committee assignments are customarily made during the first meeting of a new four-year term, and Mosby said council members would receive an email during the meeting with their respective committee selections. Those emails did not arrive until after the meeting had ended.
In a news release, Mosby announced Thursday evening he was consolidating the board’s committees to six from 14, using the General Assembly’s legislative process as a model:
Economic and Community Development, chaired by Middleton. She chaired the earlier Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee.
Ways and Means, chaired by Democratic Councilman Eric Costello. Costello was chair of the earlier Budget and Appropriations committee.
Public Safety and Government Operations, chaired by Conway. Democratic Councilman Issac “Yitzy” Schleifer headed the earlier Public Safety Committee.
Education, Workforce and Youth, chaired by Democratic Councilman Robert Stokes. The earlier Education and Youth committee was chaired by Democratic Councilman Zeke Cohen. The previous Labor Committee was headed by Sneed.
Health, Environment and Technology, chaired by Democratic Councilwoman Danielle McCray.
Rules and Legislative Oversight, chaired by Schleifer.