November 22, 2011

Rawlings-Blake inaugural gala planned

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will be sworn into office Dec. 6, before a ball celebrating Baltimore as "a great place to grow," according to a statement from her campaign.

Rawlings-Blake, who easily won a full term in office, will be sworn-in at noon in front of City Hall, amid "elected officials and dignitaries from around our City and our State, as well as citizens and groups representing the communities that make Baltimore the unique and incredible city that it is," according to the statement.

The inaugural ball will follow at the Hilton Hotel on Pratt Street. Tickets cost $75 and are available here.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 2:32 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

November 8, 2011

Rawlings-Blake easily wins Baltimore mayoral vote

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to victory in Tuesday’s general election, securing a full four-year term and defeating Republican Alfred V. Griffin III, according to unofficial election results.

The Associated Press has called the race. With 88.6 percent of precincts reporting, Rawlings-Blake led Griffin 85 percent to 13 percent. View updated election results here.

Rawlings-Blake, 41, who ascended to the mayor’s office in Feb. 2010 following the resignation of Sheila Dixon, has focused on maintaining core services while grappling with persistent budget shortfalls.

A native of Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake is a former public defender who became the City Council’s youngest member when she was elected to the body at age 25 in 1995. She became the council president when Dixon was appointed mayor in 2006.

Rawlings-Blake cruised to victory in the September Democratic primary, campaigning on a theme of responsible and reliable leadership.

Elections officials report record low turn-out in the general election, with about 40,000 of the city’s 370,000 registered voters casting ballots.

-Julie Scharper

Posted by Andy Rosen at 8:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

October 28, 2011

Early voting in city general election begins Friday

Early voting began Friday at five Baltimore polling places and will be held on five more days before the city's Nov. 8 general election.

The city's registered voters can head to the polls from 10 a.m to 8 p.m. on Friday or Saturday, or Monday through Thursday of next week.

Voter turn-out hit a record low during the September primary, with fewer than 23 percent of voters casting ballots during early voting and the primary day. And turn-out for the general election is likely to be even lower, since city politics has long been dominated by Democrats.

Yet the Democrat candidates face a number of Republican, Independent and Green Party challengers. And some candidates are waging write-in campaigns, including Shannon Sneed, who is hoping to unseat Councilman Warren Branch in the 13th District.

The city's early voting polling places are: Edmondson Westside High School, 501 Athol Avenue; The League for People with Disabilities, 1111 E. Coldspring Lane; Moravia Park Drive Apartments, 5050 Moravia Park Drive; the Public Safety Training Center at 3500 W. Northern Parkway; and St. Brigid's Parish Center, 900 S. East Avenue.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 12:34 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

September 15, 2011

City Council primary still too close to call

Sun colleague Nicole Fuller reports:

The political fate of Baltimore City Councilman Warren M. Branch, whose primary race remains too close to call, won’t be determined until later this month, election officials say.

The current counts from the Tuesday vote – 1,713 for Branch, 1,698 for his nearest competitor, Shannon Sneed, a television news journalist – do not include absentee and provisional ballots that are still being counted, city elections director Armstead B. Crawley Jones Sr. said.

A margin of less than 2 percent would trigger an automatic recount, Jones said. The elections board has until Sept. 21 to certify the vote totals for Tuesday’s Democratic primary and declare a winner.

Sneed is looking forward to a final count.

“When I first decided to run for city council it was because of a desire to improve our community,” she wrote in an e-mail, and added: “I remain committed to those goals while we wait on ALL the votes to be counted. It is not over!”

Branch, who was elected to the council in 2007 to represent the East Baltimore district, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:02 AM | | Comments (8)

September 14, 2011

Rawlings-Blake tight-lipped on plans for next four years

In her first public appearance after securing the Democratic nomination for mayor, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke briefly and in vague terms to reporters, but was tight-lipped on future plans.

"I'm glad it's over and now we can continue to do the work to move Baltimore forward," Rawlings-Blake said of the election, in which she swept a field of challengers with 52 percent of the vote.

In heavily Democratic primary, the November general election is generally considered a formality. Rawlings-Blake, who was appointed to the mayor's office last year following the resignation of Sheila Dixon, is all but guaranteed a four-year term.

Rawlings-Blake addressed reporters for fewer than 10 minutes Wednesday morning in the ceremonial office in which city leaders swear an oath of office.

"Today is about moving forward together," she said. "I think the broad support that I was able to get mixed with my olive branch to the opponents' supporters, we have a unique opportunity to move forward again."

Rawlings-Blake received broad support throughout the city, crossing color lines to win precincts in both traditionally white and black neighborhoods.

When asked about her goals for the future, Rawlings-Blake returned to the three-prong slogan that has been her motto since she was the City Council President.

"We have a shared vision for our city," she said. "Everyone wants safer streets, better schools and stronger neighborhoods."

Rawlings-Blake declined to say whether she planned to replace agency heads or cabinet members, many of whom remain holdovers from the Dixon administration.

"I'm not making any personnel announcements here," she said, noting that she was "constantly evaluating" city leadership.

Rawlings-Blake said that she planned on "continuing the restructuring" of the quasi-governmental Baltimore Development Corp.

"We're going to do a lot more advocacy in the business community, trying to retain more business in Baltimore," she said.

And she said she planned to spur economic development by "making more investment in innovation," and praised the work of Canton's Emerging Technology Center.

Rawlings-Blake said she was "frustrated" that work on the city's slots parlor had been delayed. Bids for that project are due in two weeks, a two-month extension of the original date.

She said she did not know how many bids would be submitted, but that she had "confidence that we will receive bids from people who are not just interested but capable."

Rawlings-Blake said she was disappointed by voter turnout, which, at 18.5 percent of registered voters, sunk to a historic low.

"I had hoped for a larger turnout," she said. "My campaign put considerable resources into yesterday -- feet on the street as well as money."

Describing herself as a "student of politics and a love of democracy," Rawlings-Blake said she planned to study other city's initiatives to boost turnout. She noted, however, that slightly more voters cast ballots yesterday than in last year's citywide race for State's Attorney in which Gregg L. Bernstein upset incumbent Patricia Jessamy.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:10 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

Sun Poll predicted mayoral primary

The results of Baltimore’s Democratic primary election are in — and they show the accuracy of The Sun Poll.

The survey conducted by the Annapolis polling firm OpinionWorks last month predicted the order in which the mayoral challengers finished and, after distributing the undecided respondents among the candidates, gave a good approximation of their shares of the vote:

Candidate Poll response / Primary vote

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake 50 percent / 52 percent

Catherine E. Pugh 12 / 25

Otis Rolley 10 / 13

Joseph T. “Jody” Landers III 5 / 7

Frank M. Conaway Sr. 5 / 3

Wilton Wilson 0 / 0

Undecided 18 / n/a

The Baltimore Sun commissioned the OpinionWorks to conduct the survey of 742 likely Democratic primary voters on their mayoral picks and other issues from Aug. 22 to 24.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:56 PM | | Comments (3)

Rawlings-Blake wins Democratic primary

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake glided to victory in the Democratic primary Tuesday, securing the nomination for a full four-year term in the office to which she ascended last year.

Bernard C. "Jack" Young, picked by his fellow City Council members last year to lead the panel, won the Democratic nomination to keep the office for four more years.

A fraction of the city's electorate trickled into polls for Tuesday's primary — apparently the lowest recorded turnout in Baltimore's history.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)

September 13, 2011

Voter turnout sharply down from 2007 primary

Far fewer Baltimore voters have cast ballots in the city primary this morning compared to the 2007 election, according to the director of the Baltimore Board of Elections.

By 11 a.m., 15,283 people had cast ballots, which is about 4,100 fewer voters than the last city primary, said Armstead B. Crowley Jones Sr, elections director.

That means that about 4 percent of the city's 380,000 registered voters had voted.

Jones predicted that about 20 percent of registered voters would come to the polls.

In the six days of early voting -- which marked the first time that Baltimoreans have been able to cast ballots in a city race before the primary -- 7,815 residents voted.

"I'm looking at 18-20 [percent], somewhere around there," Crowley said. "By the time everything is added up, we may get to 25."

Jones reported no significant problems at the polls this morning, but said that two of the city's 290 polling places opened about 20 minutes late due to tardy judges.

Polls will remain open until 8 p.m.

Here is a full list of candidates for city offices, and a guide to the leading Democratic competitors for mayor.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 11:20 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

September 12, 2011

Candidates protest lack of debate, media coverage

Sun colleague Liz Kay reports:

Four primary challengers for president of the Baltimore City Council gathered outside City Hall Monday afternoon to protest the lack of media attention to their race.

Local organizations held more than a dozen forums for the mayoral candidates in the primary Tuesday election Tuesday. But the one forum scheduled for the council president candidates was canceled by the League of Women Voters when the venue -- the downtown branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library -- was closed following the earthquake earlier that day.

Thomas A. Kiefaber, one of several Democrats challenging Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, said the lack of a debate favors the incumbent.

Kiefaber, the former owner of the Senator Theater, organized the news conference that included two other Democratic candidates, Leon Winthly Hector Sr. and Renold B. Smith, as well as Republican contender Armand F. Girard.

“They don’t even know who we are,” he said.

Kiefaber said that he knew media often aren’t able to cover the district races closely, but he was disappointed in the coverage of city council president, a citywide post. He said the position is significant in part because the last two city council presidents were appointed mayor.

“Nobody knows anything about the second-highest elected office,” he said.

Smith said the candidates had joined together to confront a shared challenge.

Continue reading "Candidates protest lack of debate, media coverage" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:46 PM | | Comments (1)

Council candidates trade tax charges

Sun colleague Jamie Smith Hopkins reports:

City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway’s challenger has blasted her in campaign mailings for receiving a tax break intended for owner-occupiers on a property in Baltimore County while claiming to live in Baltimore.

Now Conaway is blasting back, accusing Nick Mosby of improperly handling his late mother’s estate so her home would appear eligible for the same tax break.

In a statement sent out late Sunday, Conaway – who represents the 7th District in West Baltimore – said she has asked state Comptroller Peter Franchot to investigate.

At issue is a small estate Mosby opened shortly after Eunice Orange’s death in May 2010. It specifies that she did not own any property, according to documentation Conaway provided to the comptroller’s office. Orange did own a home on Hillenwood Road, and it has received homestead tax credits worth $2,086 in the two tax years since her death. The homestead credit can be collected only by a homeowner on his or her primary residence.

“Nick Mosby is a phony and hypocrite,” Conaway said in her statement.

But Mosby said Monday that the estate documentation specified that it was being opened for litigation purposes only and was not intended to deal with any assets. He said he filed that paperwork so he could get his mother’s medical records and will later open a formal estate to dispose of her home. He said Conaway’s accusation is “just creating smoke” and added that he found it “really appalling and disgusting” that she would bring his mother’s death into the campaign.

“It’s a non-issue,” he said. “No one’s hiding any property. … When there is an estate, the home will be included.”

Continue reading "Council candidates trade tax charges" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:25 PM | | Comments (7)

Landers blasts The Sun, says race isn't over yet

Sun colleague Ed Gunts reports:

Baltimore mayoral challenger Joseph T. “Jody” Landers III urged city voters to go the polls on Tuesday and not be misled by “political commentators and pundits” -- including those at The Baltimore Sun -- who he said were predicting the outcome of the primary election before ballots have been cast.

“The point I want to get across today, in the strongest language possible, is that this election is not over,” Landers said at a news conference Monday morning at his Key Highway campaign headquarters. “The citizens have yet to register their votes ... Each and every vote counts.”

Landers, one of six candidates for mayor in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election, said he called the news conference because he wanted to call attention to “negative influences” he believes are affecting the race.

He warned that media reports that suggest that the mayor’s race is a “fait accompli” and state that incumbent Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has a commanding lead in the polls will only discourage voter turnout.

Rawlings-Blake finished first in a Sun Poll of likely Democratic voters last month with the support of 50 percent of respondents. State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh came in second with 12 percent. Landers finished tied for fourth with 5 percent.

“The media and the political commentators and pundits are doing the citizens of Baltimore a disservice, by predicting the outcome of the race before the voters have gone to the polls,” he said. “The actual election takes place tomorrow, Tuesday, September 13th. It is clear to me that the media’s characterization of this race as a fait accompli just discourages voters from expressing themselves at the ballot box.”

Landers said people tend to lose interest in an election if they think their vote doesn’t matter, and he doesn’t want people to stay away from the polls on Tuesday.

“When someone tells you the outcome of a sporting event or how the plot of a movie ends, most of us lose our motivation to watch the game or the film,” he said. “When the political commentators and prognosticators make pronouncements about the outcome of an election before the election day, it has the same effect. … No one should tell us, or make us believe that it isn’t worth the bother, or that it is a done deal. From the voters’ perspective, the only poll that means anything is the poll taken on Election Day in the voting booth”

Landers also said he was troubled by The Baltimore Sun’s endorsement process and the makeup of the Sun’s editorial board. He said he was granted an interview with the editorial board, which he was told “consisted of five writers and managers at The Sun”. After reading on Friday that the board endorsed Rawlings-Blake, he said, he asked how many of the editorial board members live in Baltimore City and was told “currently two of the five, though all of us have at one time or another.”

Continue reading "Landers blasts The Sun, says race isn't over yet" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:47 PM | | Comments (15)

September 9, 2011

O'Malley to campaign for Rawlings-Blake, Brown today

Gov. Martin O'Malley will be in Baltimore this afternoon to campaign for two candidates -- Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and De'Von Brown, a college senior running for the City Council.

At 3, O'Malley will talk with Brown supporters at Terra Cafe on the 2500 block of St. Paul Street. Brown became close with O'Malley and his wife, Judge Katie O'Malley, after he was featured in the documentary "The Boys of Baraka" several years ago.

A senior at Maryland Institute College of Arts, Brown is vying for the 12th District seat currently occupied by Carl Stokes. Other challengers include community activist Odette Ramos, Mt. Vernon-Belvedere Association President Jason Curtis and labor leader Jermaine Jones.

At 5, O'Malley will head to Belvedere Square to stump for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, his long-time political ally. Rawlings-Blake and O'Malley have been closely allied since they both served on the council together.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 1:31 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

September 6, 2011

Bill Cosby to campaign for Rolley Wednesday

Bill Cosby will be visiting a senior apartment complex, the Loch Raven neighborhood and the Northeast Market Wednesday to campaign for mayoral candidate Otis Rolley.

Cosby will start the day 2 p.m. at West Baltimore's St. James Terrace Apartments and conclude with a 6 p.m. rally for Rolley at Coppin State.

Cosby's visit, which comes less than a week before the Sept. 13 primary election, marks the second time the comedian has come to Baltimore stump for Rolley, the city's former planning director.

Cosby hosted a January fundraiser for Rolley, on the same night that Stephanie Rawlings-Blake threw a gala just a few blocks away.

Cosby learned about Rolley from Karen Miller, an old friend of his who had been running communications for Rolley's campaign.

The full schedule for the day appears after the jump:

Continue reading "Bill Cosby to campaign for Rolley Wednesday" »

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

September 1, 2011

Conaway says he's flummoxed by phony emails

Emails apparently from mayoral candidate Frank M. Conaway's campaign called and then cancelled a press conference Thursday -- but Conaway says they didn't come from him.

The first email, sent around 9:30 this morning, said Conaway would make an "important announcement" at 1 p.m. today in front of the War Memorial Plaza across from City Hall.

Three hours later, an email sent from the same account cancelled the press conference.

Conaway, who has served as Baltimore's Clerk of Court for the past dozen years, denies sending the emails, which arrived on the first day of early voting in the city.

"I didn't call for any press conference," he said. He declined to speculate on who had sent the mysterious missives, and what the motive might have been.

"You're asking me to explain something that I didn't have anything to do with," Conaway said.

Indeed the emails were sent from a Gmail account, while Conaway had used a Hotmail account for previous campaign correspondences.

Conaway said he was recovering from injuries he suffered in a car accident Tuesday evening while en route to a candidates' forum jointly sponsored by the Baltimore Sun, WYPR and The League of Women Voters.

Conaway has injected a note of levity into the mayor's race, reciting snatches of nursery rhymes at debates and releasing a rap song slamming his opponents.

He ran for mayor in 2007 as well, but dropped out of the race about two weeks before the primary.

A recent Baltimore Sun poll showed Conaway capturing about 5 percent of the vote.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:26 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 29, 2011

O'Malley "proud" of the state

Roughly half a million Marylanders don't have power after Hurricane Irene whipped through the state, but Gov. Martin O'Malley said that on balance "we came through this very well."

Speaking briefly on WTOP radio this morning, the governor said "providence protected us" from greater destruction. "I'm very proud of our state," O'Malley said. One death in Maryland was blamed on the hurricane.

The governor said that some dialysis centers around the state still lack power and not all secondary  roads are cleared of trees and debris. The main arteries, he said, are open.

O'Malley is keeping a fairly normal schedule today. Suitably, he is set to give a speech this morning in Baltimore at a conference entitled Environmental Management of Coastal Seas. Later he is dropping by a dental clinic for low-income children in west Baltimore. (O'Malley's dental clinic event was cancelled due to power outage at the venue.)
Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:38 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 25, 2011

Rolley says mayor campaigning from City Hall

Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley accused Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today of using mounting her campaign from City Hall and using city employees and resources for her political gain.

"What we've seen in recent months... is the wholesale use and misuse of government to aid the mayor's election, and that is hurting Baltimore," Rolley said at an afternoon news conference in his Hampden campaign headquarters.

"For every moment her staff is spending on the campaign, that's one minute they are taking away from the taxpayers who pay their salaries," said Rolley.

He said he had sent letters to the city state's attorney, U.S. attorney for the State of Maryland the Office of the State Prosecutor, asking them to investigate Rawlings-Blake.

Rolley said that mayoral spokesman Ryan O'Doherty provided political information to reporters, an issue about which Sun colleague Laura Vozzella has written.

He also took exception to a campaign flier from Rawlings-Blake which included a photograph of the mayor flanked by police and firefighters after a tornado which ripped through Northeast Baltimore last fall. The photograph was taken by Marc Dennis, the city's official photographer.

Rolley criticized Rawlings-Blake for ordering the finance department to prepare a lengthy report on Councilman Carl Stokes' plan to halve property taxes. Rawlings-Blake frequently cites figures from that report when bashing her challengers' property tax plans.

A campaign spokeswoman characterized Rolley's criticism as "desperate behavior."

Continue reading "Rolley says mayor campaigning from City Hall" »

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:36 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 24, 2011

City Council candidate shot by pellet gun in Charles Village

City Council candidate Odette Ramos was shot by a pellet gun while campaigning in Charles Village last week, according to Ramos and police.

Ramos, 38, a long-time community activist who lives in Charles Village, was struck in the back and leg around 8:45 a.m. on Aug. 17.

Ramos was waving signs with a group of five campaign workers at the northwest corner of St. Paul and 25th Streets when the shots were fired. The first pellets hit her back when she spoke with a radio reporter halfway up the block, and a second volley hit her leg after she rejoined the group waving signs.

"I was definitely targeted," said Ramos. "No doubt about it."

Ramos said she did not believe that she was injured by a person associated with a rival campaign, but by a youthful troublemaker.

"This proves my point that we need more productive things to do for our kids," she said.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed that Ramos had been struck with a pellet gun, and that the "suspect shot out the window of a passing car."

Police have not identified any suspects, he said.

Ramos said that the pellets bruised her back and leg, but did not puncture her skin.

She helped found the nearby Village Learning Place, and runs a consulting business that works with progressive groups.

Ramos is vying for the 12th District council seat currently held by Carl Stokes. He canned his mayoral bid on the candidate filing deadline last month, and decided to run to represent the district, which includes portions of Charles Village, Mt. Vernon, Remington and East Baltimore.

Other challengers include Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association President Jason Curtis, who is seeking to be the council's first openly-gay member, and Maryland Institute College of Art student De'Von Brown, who was featured in the documentary, The Boys of Baraka.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 8:23 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 23, 2011

Earthquake cracks Landers' headquarters


Earthquake damage to Landers' campaign headquarters



The earthquake that shook Baltimore this afternoon damaged a wall at mayoral candidate Joseph T. "Jody" Landers' campaign headquarters.

Several cracks appeared in the building in the brick building in the 200 block of Key Highway in Federal Hill, according to an email from Landers' campaign.

Landers, a former city councilman who headed the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors until recently, said in a statement, "My thoughts are with any citizens whose homes may have been affected,” 

Fellow candidate State Sen. Catherine Pugh, in an interview with WBAL TV's Jayne Miller, used the earthquake to call attention to the city's problem of vacant buildings, an issue she has discussed frequently in her campaign. 

Posted by Julie Scharper at 6:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

Council president forum postponed after quake

The League of Women Voters of Baltimore City has cancelled the forum planned Tuesday evening between candidates for City Council president after officials closed the Enoch Pratt Free Library, where it was to be held.

The central library building, which dates to the 1930s, was evacuated and closed after the earthquake shook Baltimore Tuesday afternoon. It must be inspected before the public will be allowed back in.

The League, which organized the event, did not say Tuesday whether it would be rescheduled.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:42 PM | | Comments (0)

August 19, 2011

Rolley criticizes Rawlings-Blake on slots deal

Mayoral candidate and former city planning director Otis Rolley criticized Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today for allowing the states slots commission to loosen the minority and woman hiring requirements for the city's planned casino.

"In this economy, with things being as bad as they are... I don't understand how there could be a waiver for the minority and women-owned business requirements," Rolley said in an interview following an afternoon press conference in front of City Hall.

"It speaks volumes about her commitment to helping the majority of the citizens find jobs," he said.

Keiana Page, a spokeswoman for Rawlings-Blake's campaign, said that Rolley "has been making multiple attempts over the last few days to get attention for his campaign" and has been "misrepresenting facts for political gain."

Earlier this week, the state slots commission voted to relax the minority and woman-owned business participation requirement for the casino contract. Bids for the project were initially due in late July, but the deadline was extended to September-- after the mayoral primary.

Following complaints from potential bidders that the terms of the deal were too onerous, both the city and the state announced in the past couple weeks that they were relaxing some requirements. Bidders are required to agreement to the terms of a memorandum of understanding with the city as well as respond to a request for proposals from the state slots commission.

The slots commission eased the minority and women participation requirements following a law suit from Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer that alleged that the terms of the project discriminated against white men.

Moldenhauer's company was the sole bidder in 2009 when the slots commission sought a developer for Baltimore's commission. The state later rejected his bid, prompting Moldenhauer to sue both the city and the state. The slots commission began seeking new bids this spring after those suits were partially resolved.

Page noted that it was the state slots commission that eased the minority participation agreement -- not the city.

Rawlings-Blake "has been in support of women and minority participation goals in city projects," said Page. "She has been vocal in the past about advocating for increasing minority participation."

But Rolley countered that Rawlings-Blake should have used the "bully pulpit" of her office to fight against the state loosening the minority requirement.

Rolley had urged reporters to call into Marc Steiner's radio show on WEAA earlier this week as Rawlings-Blake was giving a live interview to ask about the minority hiring issue.

In response to a question on the topic, Rawlings-Blake explained that there had been a legal challenge to the state slots commission's minority participation requirements.

"We have very strict minority and women goals [for city contracts] and we take it very seriously," Rawlings-Blake said, adding that her staffers reach out to small businesses to help them obtain contracts.

"We work hard to make sure minority firms are represented at the table," she said.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 5:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 18, 2011

Pugh paid $250 to political operative charged in robocall case

State Sen. Catherine Pugh, who is running for mayor, paid $250 to a consulting company run by a political operative accused of vote suppression in last year's gubernatorial race -- but a campaign spokesman said the charge was for work before he operative was accused of wrongdoing.

A spokesman for her campaign said that Pugh and other legislators in the 40th District jointly hired Politics Today to work on their re-election to the General Assembly last year, before Julius Henson, the company's head, had been accused of vote suppression.

"It was for the senator's re-election for the 40th District," said spokesman Anthony McCarthy. "It had nothing to do with the mayor's race."

He said the campaign received an invoice from Henson early this year for work from last fall, before he had been accused of wrongdoing.

Henson was indicted by a grand jury on three conspiracy counts in June.

Prosecutors allege that he was masterminded a robocall that went out to 112,000 registered Democrats in Baltimore City on Nov. 2 telling them to "relax" because Martin O'Malley had won the election. The calls came several hours before polls had closed.

Henson, who had been hired by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's campaign, has worked on city campaigns for decades.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 16, 2011

Rawlings-Blake boasts fundraising lead

Sun colleague Justin Fenton reports:

With less than a month left before the Democratic primary, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has opened a commanding fundraising lead over her challengers, according to figures released by the campaigns in advance of the final reporting deadline Tuesday.

Rawlings-Blake had raised $800,000 since mid-January and $1.4 million overall this year, her campaign said, more than all her opponents combined. She has $676,000 in cash on hand — enough, her campaign said, to fund an aggressive television campaign in the race’s final weeks.

Her lead poses a challenge to her the rest of the field, which was already battling the perception that she has the race all but locked down.

Rawlings-Blake, who became mayor early last year following the resignation or Sheila Dixon, has also secured the endorsements of much of the city and state’s power establishment. But her campaign touted the breadth of her support.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we have had more than 1,000 individuals donors since the beginning of the year,” spokeswoman Keiana Page said. “I think it just goes to show that people aren’t necessarily in agreeance with some of the radical plans put out by our opponents.”

Her challengers have tried to use Rawlings-Blake’s fundraising prowess against her, saying it shows she is beholden to special interests and the political establishment.

State Sen. Catherine Pugh said she had raised $345,000 since she announced her candidacy for mayor in June. She had $250,000 in January. A campaign spokesman said he did not know how much cash she had on hand.

Former city planning director Otis Rolley reported raising about $267,000 since mid-January and $400,000 overall. He had less than $95,000 in cash.

Former City Councilman Joseph T. Landers raised $140,000 after he announced his candidacy in April, much of it in loans from himself and his campaign manager, according to a report filed with state board of elections. He had about $101,700 on hand.

Continue reading "Rawlings-Blake boasts fundraising lead" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 8:53 PM | | Comments (20)

Candidates trade barbs, plans at morning debate

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s Democratic challengers teamed up against her Tuesday as they sparred over development, property taxes, school construction and crime in a spirited radio debate.

Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway Sr. described Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Martin O'Malley as “conjoined twins” that only the renowned surgeon Dr. Ben Carson could separate, a line that drew laughs from the audience of about four dozen — primarily campaign staffers and politicos — huddled in the Gywnn Oak studio of WOLB.

Forner city planning director Otis Rolley said “I will work with the governor, not for the governor,” a not very veiled criticism of Rawlings-Blake's relationship with O'Malley.

Rawlings-Blake fired back that her opponents' plans to cut property taxes were “reckless,” and compared them to the proposals of tea party members.

And she said her close relationships with O'Malley and other state leaders have helped her push the city's agenda in Annapolis.

“While some of us think it's a liability to have the support of the governor and the lieutenant governor and so many members of the state legislature, I consider it a plus,” she said. “I'm very proud to have the support that I have and I use that support to make our city better.”

Conaway, Rolley, former Baltimore Board of Realtors Executive Vice Chairman Joseph T. “Jody” Landers, state Sen. Catherine Pugh and nurse Wilton Wilson are challenging Rawlings-Blake in the primary next month that is expected to decide the mayoral election in overwhelmingly Democratic Baltimore.

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Posted by Julie Scharper at 11:20 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 15, 2011

Rolley makes a campaign issue of Grand Prix

Sun colleague Childs Walker reports:

Mayoral challenger Otis Rolley questioned Monday whether the city will profit from the Baltimore Grand Prix, and called on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to release all city documents related to the three-day event.

Other challengers in next month’s Democratic primary joined in the criticism, saying the event raised doubts about Rawlings-Blake’s spending priorities, and how carefully she weighed the costs and benefits of the race before she pledged millions of dollars to support it.

The Baltimore Grand Prix, a three-day event culminating in an IndyCar race through the streets along the Inner Harbor on Sept. 4, is one of the most visible projects Rawlings-Blake has pursued during her 18 months in office.

Rolley’s press conference, and the follow-up remarks by former City Councilman Joseph T. “Jody” Landers and state Sen. Catherine Pugh, amounted to the most significant attempt yet by Rawlings-Blake’s challengers to portray the event as a potential liability for the city and its mayor. The race comes nine days before the Sept. 13 mayoral primary.

Rawlings-Blake has signed a five-year agreement pledging $7.75 million in road work for the race. Much of the money comes from the federal government, and city officials say most of the work would have been necessary in coming years anyway.

Rolley, who is challenging Rawlings-Blake in the Democratic primary, noted that the city cut funding this year for after-school programs, and the mayor proposed staggering swimming pools schedules, closing fire companies on a rotating basis and reducing the hours of the city’s 311 service request line.

He questioned how much thought Rawlings-Blake put into the Grand Prix before signing off on it.

“It sounded like a cool idea, and she ran with it,” Rolley said. “That’s not what we expect in terms of leadership from the mayor of the city.”

A campaign spokeswoman for Rawlings-Blake said Rolley was muddying the issue by implying that federal money for roadwork could have been directed to other needs.

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Rawlings-Blake raises $1.4 million for campaign

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has raised more than $1.4 million this year for her bid to keep her post, her campaign announced Monday, indicating the incumbent heads into the final weeks before the Democratic primary with a substantial edge over her opponents.

Rawlings-Blake has received more than $800,000 in contributions since the last campaign finance reports were released in late January. She raked in more than $600,000 at a gala in early January.

"Our supporters also know that the Mayor is a leader we can count on to get the job done,” Keiana Page, a spokeswoman for the Rawlings-Blake campaign said in a statement.

Rawlings-Blake, who was appointed mayor in February 2010, has received donations from more than 1,000 people, according to the campaign.

Full campaign finance information for all the mayoral candidates -- who include Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway Sr., former Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors head Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, former city planning director Otis Rolley and nurse Wilton Wilson -- is slated to be filed with the state board of elections tomorrow, less than a month before the Sept. 13 primary.

Rawlings-Blake had huge lead over her challengers in the last round of financial reports. She had more than $842,000 cash-in-hand in January. Pugh had about $250,000 and Rolley had $106,000.

In the 2007 contest, Dixon had raised $1.2 million by the August report and Keiffer Mitchell, her leading challenger, had raised $640,000.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 5:51 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 11, 2011

Pugh urges police audit, youth programs in safety plan

Mayoral candidate state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh said Thursday she would audit police statistics, implement a program to seize guns from young people and create a watch list of children most likely to become involved in violence.

“If we're going to solve crime in our community, we need to focus on young people,” Pugh said at a morning news conference at her East Baltimore campaign headquarters.

Pugh said she would create a program that would allow police to confiscate guns from juveniles without levying criminal charges. Under “Operation Disarm Our Youth,” parents, teachers and social workers worried that a young person may have a gun could arrange for police to search the youth's home — with parents' permission — and seize weapons.

Campaign staffers for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is running to keep her post against a crowded Democratic field in the Sept. 13 primary, issued a news release saying that Pugh presented a “stolen public safety plan” calling for tougher gun laws as the mayor had done. Rawlings-Blake campaign spokeswoman Keiana Page said the news release referred to a point on Pugh's website that urges stricter gun laws.

Pugh's campaign fired back, saying that the mayor's news release represented “a desperate attempt ... to distract citizens from the fact that she has been absent from the conversation with the community and doesn't really have a comprehensive plan for reducing the growing violence in our city.”

The seven-page crime prevention plan that Pugh unveiled Thursday does not mention tougher gun laws. While Pugh’s campaign said she supports the idea, that’s not a centerpiece of her proposal.

Pugh also would target 300 children most likely to perpetrate or be victims of gun crimes and provide mentoring and monitoring to prevent them from being involved in violence. She would establish a “youth crime” section in each police district that would focus on kids teetering on falling into crime and expand the police cadet program in high schools.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 7, 2011

O'Malley backs Baraka alumnus for city council

Boys of Baraka subject and city council hopeful De'Von Brown got a boost from Maryland's top Democrat this weekend, capturing the endorsement of Gov. Martin O'Malley.

O'Malley said Friday that he could not recall ever before wading into contested Democratic primary -- but in this case he said he picked 21-year-old Brown out of a crowded field because "I think he just represents the best of what Baltimore has to offer."

The governor said that Brown is "good friends" with all of the members of his family and he handed the candidate a campaign check when he arrived at a Brown fundraiser in Little Italy.

"I love his passion," O'Malley said. "He is a good guy and I think the city would do very, very well to bet on this guy." Brown is vying in the 12th councilmanic district, which includes parts of Mount Vernon and East Baltimore.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 5, 2011

Rolley: Rawlings-Blake lacks 'real' crime plan

Mayoral challenger Otis Rolley said at a Friday news conference held across the street from where a 91-year-old woman was fatally stabbed to death this week that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lacks a “real plan” to address crime.

“Instead of providing leadership or proposing a real plan to make every neighborhood safer, she's running campaign commercials touting a drop in crime that began under another mayor,” Rolley said. “She knows crime is too high and she has no plan to make us safer.”

Rolley, the former city planning director, said Rawlings-Blake's strategy focuses only on “catching criminals” and not reducing crime. His plan, which he claims is the only one being offered by any of the candidates, goes beyond law enforcement and includes proposals to increase spending on youth programs and reduce recidivism by “eliminating barriers for ex-offenders.”

Rawlings-Blake this week released radio and TV ads focused on crime, saying she has worked to strengthen gun laws and avoided laying off police officers in tough budget times. Since taking office in January 2010, she has largely continued the policies that were already in place that dropped the city's murder rate to its lowest mark in 22 years, with an added emphasis on pursuing additional surveillance camera technology.

Despite the declines, Baltimore also remains one of the most deadly in the country as crime has dropped across the country. Rolley’s remarks coming on the heels of a week that saw two 15-year-olds gunned down in Southwest Baltimore and 91-year-old Irene Logan - the mother of a family friend of Rawlings-Blake - fatally stabbed inside her Northeast Baltimore home. For the year, murders are up slightly compared with a year ago.

Rawlings-Blake's campaign hit back by mocking Rolley’s crime plan, which includes among its proposals the institution of a bullet tax. The idea got nationwide attention, though much of it negative.

“His crime plan is literally a joke from Chris Rock,” said spokeswoman Keiana Page, referring to a routine from the comedian's 1999 special Bigger and Blacker (link contains explicit material) in which the he jokes that shootings would drop if bullets were more expensive. “But crime in Baltimore is a serious challenge that needs serious solutions. ... Her crime strategy is not only real, but it is working.”

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 4, 2011

Rawlings-Blake to face challengers at disabilities forum

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will join those fighting for her job for her first political debate of the campaign this afternoon at a forum addressing disability issues.

While the other candidates -- former City Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, former city planning director Otis Rolley and Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway, among others -- have squared off at at least half a dozen times, Rawlings-Blake has chosen not to attend a forum until today.

The challengers, and in some cases, the moderators, have criticized Rawlings-Blake for not appearing at other debates, where the topics have centered on schools, crime and economic development.

Earlier this week, Jamal-Harrison Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple, one of the city's largest churches, left an open podium on the stage to mark Rawlings-Blake's absence.

Organizers of today's debate say that the questions will be centered on issues concerning disabilities. Perhaps it will be similar to this forum last fall, where Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich answered questions about policies concerning disabled people.

Rawlings-Blake's campaign says that she will attend a total of four debates before the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. Those include: an August 16 debate hosted by former state senator and WOLB radio host Larry Young, an August 25 debate hosted by interfaith coalition BUILD, an August 29 debate hosted by Maryland Public Television and an August 30 debate hosted by WYPR, The Baltimore Sun and the League of Women Voters.

The August 29 debate could present some complications, because Fox 45 and other news organizations had planned a debate on that day.

Rawlings-Blake, who became mayor in February 2010 following the resignation of Sheila Dixon, is following a familiar political strategy by limiting her participation in debates.

Dixon followed a similar route in 2007, facing opponent Keiffer Mitchell in only a handful of forums as the September primary neared.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

August 1, 2011

Rawlings-Blake to skip Empowerment Temple forum

Six candidates vying to be Baltimore's next mayor will speak at a forum at one of the city's largest churches Tuesday night--  but Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will not be participating, a campaign spokeswoman said.
Organizers of the forum at the Empowerment Temple said that Rawlings-Blake's campaign had told them Sunday that she would be participating, but campaign spokeswoman Keiana Page said another engagement prevented Rawlings-Blake from attending.
Candidates State Sen. Catherine Pugh, former city planning director Otis Rolley, former city councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, clerk of courts Frank M. Conaway Sr., nurse Wilton Wilson and Vicki Harding-- the lone Republican on the panel-- are expected to attend, a church spokeswoman said. 
Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor and Republican Party chair, is slated to moderate the event along with radio host Marc Steiner. 
Nicole Kirby, a church spokeswoman who is organizing the forum, said she was surprised to hear that Rawlings-Blake would not be joining the other candidates.  
The campaign "called Sunday to say she would be in attendance," said Kirby. "The mayor was the last one to confirm."
Update: Page forwarded an email that Rawlings-Blake's campaign manager had sent Kirby last week, saying that the mayor would not be able to attend.
More than 2,000 people are expected to view the forum, she said.  More than 8,000 people are members of the Northwest Baltimore mega-church, she said.
The church has promoted the event -- and Rawlings-Blake's attendance -- in radio ads and emails, she said. 

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

July 26, 2011

Rolley rolls out plan to cut property taxes

Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley unveiled a plan Tuesday that he says would cut property tax rates for most homeowners by more than half in a decade.

Rolley's plan would keep property tax rates at current levels for commercial properties, including rental homes and apartments, and dramatically increase rates for vacant plots and buildings. He would also tax homes worth more than $200,000 at a slightly higher rate-- but only on the portion of the home's value that exceeds $200,000.

Rolley said that the increased revenue from blighted buildings would compensate for some of the revenue lost by the tax cuts to residential properties. He said he would also trim to city government, but did not specify which cuts he would make.

"There is enough fat within [city government] to enable us to do what we need to do," he said.

Rolley, the city's former planning director, is the third candidate to release a detailed plan to cut property taxes.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

July 18, 2011

Rolley would reduce penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana

Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley said he would seek to reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, create a dollar tax on bullets and increase funding for youth recreation and jobs, as part of his plan to fight crime.

Rolley, who is slated to unveil his public safety platform Tuesday, said the city needs a "multi-faceted approach" to cutting cutting.

Rolley said he would increase police hiring and fitness standards and bolster police training, but not increase the size of the force.

"We don't need more cops. We need screened, well-trained, reasonably-compensated police," he said, adding that standards much be increased to prevent some more police department scandals.

Rolley said he would push for state legislation to make carrying a small quantity of marijuana a summary offense -- subject to a citation and fine, but no jail time. Philadelphia and Seattle have similar policies, he said.

"It takes a lot of the burden off of the court system," he said.

"I'm not trying to turn this into Hamsterdam," said Rolley, referring to a neighborhood on The Wire where drugs were legalized. "But I think we can all admit the war on drugs isn't working."

Rolley also plans to lobby state lawmakers to allow the city to impose a one dollar tax on bullets, which he hopes would ultimately lead to a reduction in gun crime.

He said he supports the police department's current approach of targeting the worst offenders and high-level drug dealers, a policy put in place during Sheila Dixon's administration and continued under the tenure of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Rolley says he plans to create incentives for businesses to hire ex-offenders, in an effort to reduce recidivism rates.

Rolley said he hopes to pull churches into the fight against crime, organizing mediation programs, education, recreation and social service program.

"The only thing that outnumbers the liquor stores in the city are the churches," Rolley said.

He says he would pilot a program -- modeled after a similar initiative in Boston -- in two police districts with the highest levels of crime.

The program would cost "a couple of million dollars" to begin with, with additional assistance coming from the churches, Rolley said.

Rolley said he would double funding for after school programs and increase the number of students hired by the city's summer jobs program to 10,000. About 5,000 students are employed this summer, down from a high of 7,000 in 2009.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:18 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

July 12, 2011

Where is long-delayed plan to fix school buildings, Rolley asks Rawlings-Blake

Mayoral challenger Otis Rolley prodded Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to release her long-delayed plan to rehabilitate the city's dilapidated schools.

Rawlings-Blake announced in November that she was forming a task force to draft strategies to pay for $2.8 billion in needed repairs and construction on school buildings. The announcement followed an ACLU report detailing broken windows, overburdened electrical systems and water contaminated by high levels of lead.

Rawlings-Blake said at the time that the task force -- comprised almost entirely of city and school system employees -- would issue a report in February. A spokesman later said the report would come in June.

“As bizarre as it was that she proclaimed we had to ‘stick with what works’ even as new test scores revealed our schools are falling further behind, what is simply outrageous is that she simply has not kept her word to release a plan to address our schools’ crumbling infrastructure,” Rolley said in a statement.

“Last year she said she’d have it by February, then it slipped to the end of June, and now it’s July with no plan. Where is it?” Rolley said.

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Rawlngs-Blake, said in an email that the task force was continuing to work on the report.

He said that changes to the formula by which the state calculates the city's contribution to the school system caused the delay. Those changes went into effect during the General Assembly session this spring.

When city schools CEO Andres Alonso joined Rawlings-Blake to announce the task force in November, he said, "We have an obligation to transcend all barriers, financial and legal, to improve the condition of our schools."

Rawlings-Blake said, "While we don't have a solution to address this shortfall today, one thing is clear - we can't do nothing."

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

July 7, 2011

Pugh shakes up Rawlings-Blake endorsement

A quiet luncheon at which a group of ministers endorsed Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Thursday afternoon became a lot more interesting when state Sen Catherine Pugh arrived.

Pugh, one of Rawlings-Blake's leading challengers, entered the church hall silently as the minsters were wrapping up their remarks.

Rawlings-Blake and campaign staffers turned to their phones, rapidly tapping messages. Several of the ministers embraced Pugh, who shares much of her West Baltimore base with Rawlings-Blake. The incident could presage a summer of tough campaigning by Pugh, who as a former City Council member and state delegate, has considerable political clout.

Pugh questioned the process by which the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance chose to endorse Rawlings-Blake. The group has held candidates' forums in past elections before choosing a candidate to back.

"Never in the history of the IMA have they not had a candidates' forum," said Pugh. "We were waiting for an invitation to be heard."

Rev. Alvin J. Gwynn Sr., president of the group and pastor of Northeast Baltimore's Friendship Baptist Church, acknowledged that the group had traditionally held forums. But, he said, the group decided to "support" Rawlings-Blake on June 1, 2010.

"She was coming in behind the former mayor, Sheila Dixon, so we were backing her," he said.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

July 6, 2011

Rawlings-Blake agrees to mayoral debates

With the field of candidates now set for Baltimore’s Democratic primary, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday agreed to participate in four public debates with her challengers in August.

In a release, the Rawlings-Blake campaign said it had secured the commitment of the Larry Young Morning Show to broadcast a radio debate on WOLB 1010 AM and was in talks with Maryland Public Television to broadcast a televised debate.

The campaign said Rawlings-Blake also would participate in two candidates’ forums, including one focused on issues affecting people with disabilities.

“Now that the field is set, I am excited to debate those who are seeking the privilege of the serving the people of Baltimore as Mayor,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “This is an important election about important issues and I look forward to sharing my vision for a better, safer and stronger Baltimore.”

"It's about time," said challenger and former city planning director Otis Rolley, who has been calling for Rawlings-Blake to join debates and candidates forums for weeks.

"Everybody else has been," said challenger state Sen. Catherine Pugh. "Those of us who care about the community have been coming out."

"Part of the reason I've been pushing so hard for these debates is that I have pretty high expectations for the citizens of Baltimore," Rolley said. "Without those debates, it's hard for them to hear real substantive discussions of who has a plan and who doesn’t."

Pugh questioned why Rawlings-Blake would only agree to four debates. "People in the community have already decided they want to hear debates," she said.

Rolley said he wanted to debate education, crime, youth and jobs and economic development with the other candidates.

Pugh said she would like to debate solutions for lead paint poisoning, drug abuse and moving Baltimore "away from being a developer-driven city to a community-driven city."

Rolley, Pugh, Clerk of Court Frank M. Conaway Sr., former City Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, City Councilman Carl Stokes and activist Wilton Wilson appeared last month at a forum sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League and the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The challengers have appeared at about four forums sponsored by community and civil rights groups over the past few months.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

July 5, 2011

City election candidates-- the final list

The list of candidates for Baltimore's mayor, city council president, comptroller and city council races is now final.

A small group of candidates and politicians gathered at the Board of Elections this evening at the 9 p.m. deadline. Among today's surprises-- City Councilman Carl Stokes has doffed his mayoal campaign and launched a bid to retain his seat.

Former Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber also filed today to run for City Council President.

The complete list of candidates is after the jump. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

Carl Stokes files for 12th District seat

City Councilman Carl Stokes filed this evening to run for his current 12th District seat, after months of saying he planned to run for mayor.

"There are too many people in the race," said Stokes. "The message gets muddled."

As Stokes told The Baltimore Sun earlier today, he does not support Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and he feels that by stepping back, he can give other candidates a chance.

Stokes said that he decided to run for his council seat because supporters have told him he is one of the few independent voices in the legislative body.

"My experience is important on the council. I'm hoping we can become a more independent council," he said.

Stokes' decision throws a wrench into the other candidates' plans -- many of which he had encouraged to run for office. The 12th District had been one of only two council seats without an incumbent candidate; there are currently more candidates in that seat than any other.

The other candidates include community activist Odette Ramos, Mt. Vernon-
Belvedere Association president Jason Curtis, Robert Stokes, a staffer for Carl Stokes (and no relation, De'Von Brown, a senior at Maryland Institute College of Art who was featured in The Boys of Baraka documentary, Jermaine Jones, whose family is rehabbing dozens of homes in Oliver, and longtime community leaders Ertha Harris and Frank Richardson.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

As deadline looms, Stokes undecided on mayoral bid

City Councilman Carl Stokes said Tuesday afternoon that he still had not decided whether to run for mayor, as the deadline to file for city office looms this evening.

"I still haven't made up my mind," said Stokes. "There are a lot of people in the race."

Five candidates have filed to challenge Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in the Democratic primary in September: former city planning director Otis Rolley, state Sen. Catherine Pugh, Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway, former city councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers and Wilton Wilson, a home health care nurse. Vicki Ann Harding is the lone Republican to file.

The deadline to file for all city campaigns is 9 p.m. this evening.

Stokes said the plethora of challengers could stymie efforts to unseat Rawlings-Blake, which he said was paramount.

"We need to have a unified voice vis a vis the present administration, the present direction we're going in," he said. "It's better if there is one voice of opposition."

Stokes said he was contemplating running for his seat representing the council's 12th District or devoting himself to opening more charter schools. Stokes was part of a team that founded the Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy a few years ago.

Stokes dismissed rumors that he might run for the council presidency.
"I would never do that," he said. "[Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young] is my friend."

Stokes said he would continue weighing his options throughout the afternoon.

"What's the best win for the city, not just Carl?" he said.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 3:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 27, 2011

Rawlings-Blake officially launches campaign

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officially launched her campaign to retain her seat Monday evening, as the state's highest elected leaders joined in a rally on the lawn of her mother's West Baltimore home.

“I've lived here and worked here my entire life. This is our hometown,” said Rawlings-Blake, who was flanked by Gov. Martin O'Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Sen. Barbara Mikulksi, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Elijah Cummings, among other elected officials.

Rawlings-Blake, who became mayor in February 2010 following the resignation of Sheila Dixon, touted her balanced budgets despite major deficits, overhaul of the police and firefighter pension system, ethics reforms and school system gains.

“We want real progress, not empty promises,” she said. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true. The hard truth and the hard work are the only things that make it work.”

More than 200 people, including many city and state workers, flocked to the leafy neighborhood of Ashburton for the event Monday evening. Rawlings-Blake's mother, Nina Rawlings, a retired pediatrician, still lives in the home where she and her husband, the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings, raised their three children.

Nina Rawlings clapped enthusiastically from the front of the crowd and jumped up and waved a sign at one point. The mayor's husband, Kent Blake, and daughter Sophia, stood with her onstage.

As Rawlings-Blake read her remarks, Sophia, 7, clung to her side, periodically whispering questions, and once asking audibly, “Are you done, Mommy?”

O'Malley spoke of Rawlings-Blake's father, saying he was “schooled at this kitchen table” many times early in his tenure as mayor of Baltimore. Rawlings' support played a key role in O'Malley's election to lead the city in 1999.

Rawlings-Blake is “the woman we need right now to move the city forward through these challenging times,” O'Malley said.

Cummings praised Rawlings-Blake's budgets — she closed gaps of $121 million and $65 million in the past two years — saying she “cut the budget with the skill of the most skillful heart surgeon.”

“I will do everything in my power to make sure she is reelected,” Cummings said.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 23, 2011

O'Malley, Mikulski to speak at Rawlings-Blake campaign kick-off Monday

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will officially announce her campaign to retain her seat Monday afternoon, according to her campaign.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown are slated to speak at the event, which will be held at the Ashburton home where Rawlings-Blake grew up and where her mother still lives today.

"We're just expecting a huge crowd of supporters," said campaign spokeswoman Keianna Page.
"Mayor Rawlings-Blake is very proud of where she comes from and you'll be able to see that."

Rawlings-Blake frequently touts the fact that she is a lifelong Baltimorean in her campaign ads. Her two leadings challengers-- former city planning director Otis Rolley and State Sen. Catherine Pugh-- both grew up out of state, he in New Jersey and she in Pennsylvania.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:48 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

Rolley criticizes Rawlings-Blake on school cheating

Former city planning director Otis Rolley, who is challenging Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for her job, questioned gains in education touted by the mayor following revelations today that two city elementary schools practiced widespread cheating on state tests.

Rolley said the cheating scandal described by Sun colleague Erica L. Green today, is "extremely disturbing, not just because of what it means for our kids, but for our city."

Rolley challenged statements by Rawlings-Blake, who has touted recent gains in test scores, and said she needed to hold the school system and school board accountable.

"We are not giving a quality education to our kids," said Rolley. "It's not good enough for my kids and it's not good enough for any children in Baltimore City."

"At the end of the day, the buck stops at this building behind us," said Rolley, who held a press conference in front of City Hall.

Rolley called for the immediate release of Maryland School Assessment tests for all city schools. Principals received the data earlier this week, but it is not slated to be made public until next week.

'Enough with the drama. Enough with the spin," said Rolley. "She must act in the best interest of our kids."

A spokeswoman for Rawlings-Blake campaign said "We can't undermine the progress that Dr. Alonso is making with our schools."

"Anyone who reads can see that our schools are making progress," said spokeswoman Keianna Page. "Test scores are up. Enrollment is up. Drop-out rates are declining. African-American males are graduating at a higher rate. Who can deny we are making progress?"

"Fixing Baltimore City Schools isn't an overnight process," said Page, adding that Rolley was "using an old political trick to divert attention away from the fact that his voucher plan is catching a lot of heat from educators and parents."

"Baltimore city schools do not need their right wing agenda placed on it," she said.

Rolley has proposed issuing vouchers to students at the city's five-worst performing middle schools to enable them to attend private schools. The city teacher union's president strongly opposed that plan in an editorial this week.

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Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 22, 2011

City approves $30K contract for election day taxis

Baltimore's election judges will be ferried to the polls by Yellow Cabs this fall, under a deal approved by the city's Board of Estimates.

The board approved a $30,000 contract with the cab company this morning. The contract was not competitively bid, but awarded to Yellow Cab because it is the "only known vendor that has the proven resources" to deliver the judges, according to the board's agenda.

Baltimore City Elections Board Chair Armstead B.C. Jones Sr. said that the cabs would wait outside board of elections offices near City Hall to take substitute judges to the polls during the September primary and November general election.

More than 2,000 election judges are hired to work the polls and 100 or more do not show up due to illness or other problems, Jones said. That's where the cabs come in-- to rush the substitute judges to fill the vacancies, he said.

"The rush is really in preparation to make sure all these polling places are staffed and ready to open," Jones said.

The $30,000 award represents an upset limit, but the cab company will likely be paid less, he said.

Jones said the Board of Elections has contracted with Yellow Cab and the company is the only one with a large enough fleet to transport all the election judges.

"One year, a man did it who didn’t have the proper equipment and dispatchers.... It was a disaster," he said. "I feel better in knowing that I can rely on a company that can get it done."

Jones also clarified the last date to file to run for city office-- July 5. Many have been saying that the deadline was July 6, but Jones, after doing a little research, said it was definitely July 5 at 9 p.m.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 3:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 20, 2011

Rawlings-Blake, Pugh supporting Young campaign

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young formally announced Monday his campaign to retain his office, backed by several city politicians who had not supported his quest for the office a little over a year ago.

"There is no other job in the world that I would rather be doing, today or for the next four years," said Young. He said he had earned the nickname the "Iron Man" of the council for having only missed five meetings during his 15 year tenure on the legislative body.

With the deadline to enter the city races a little more than two weeks away, no well-known politicians have filed to run against Young, who was appointed council president as part of a string of shake-ups caused when Sheila Dixon resigned from the mayor's office.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake praised Young for supporting her budget and state legislation mandating tougher gun laws.

Young "shares my vision for a better, safer and stronger Baltimore," Rawlings-Blake said. "Jack is truly the captain of the team moving Baltimore forward."

"Baltimore could not ask for a better council president," said Rawlings-Blake, who was ferried over from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to speak at the rally for Young on the steps of the War Memorial Building.

Continue reading "Rawlings-Blake, Pugh supporting Young campaign" »

Posted by Julie Scharper at 12:42 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 16, 2011

Baker, Leggett, Ulman endorse Rawlings-Blake

County executives from Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's County this morning endorsed Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's campaign to retain her office.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker praised Rawlings-Blake's father, the late Del. Howard P. Rawlings, as one of the "best mentors I ever had."

"He allowed me to sit in his office and watch him exercise power in the way it should be used-- for the greater good," said Baker at a press conference on Federal Hill.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said he was proud to have joined Rawlings-Blake in successfully lobbying the General Assembly for tougher gun control laws. He also touted
a regional broadband initiative announced early this week.

Montgomery County Isiah "Ike" Leggett noted that the four leaders represent about one half of the state's residents. He described Rawlings-Blake as a "very competent" leader and "the person needed for this time."

Reading from prepared remarks, Rawlings-Blake ticked off achievements in education, ethics reform and balancing the city's budget.

"You can count on me to work closely with you on our shared interests," she said to the three executives.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 12:56 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 13, 2011

O'Malley talks property taxes

Gov. Martin O'Malley gave props to Baltimore's current mayor at an event today and dismissed one of her opponent's plans to reduce the city's property taxes as election year promise-mongering.

The governor, speaking after an groundbreaking for a new sports field at Patterson Park, was asked about a Sun story by Julie Scharper that laid out plans by various mayoral candidates to slash the city's high property tax.

One idea, put forward by City Coucilman Carl Stokes, would reduce the rate by $1.10 over four years. Baltimore homeowners currently pay $2.268 per $100 of assessed value, by far the highest in the state.

"In an election year there will be people promising all sorts of things that they know in their heart of hearts they really can’t accomplish," O'Malley said.


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Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:22 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

Flirtatious tweet mistakenly sent by Pugh aide, spokesman says

Update: Following the inquiries from The Baltimore Sun, the @pughformayor account now says, "By authority: Committee to elect Catherine E. Pugh..."

A flirtatious tweet sent from state Sen. Catherine Pugh's account was the result of a staffer's mix-up, a campaign spokesman said today.

The staffer, legislative aide Gary Brown, sent a tweet from Pugh's account saying "mmm mmm good looking men here" Saturday night, while at an Associated Black Charities gala at Martin's West, said campaign spokesman Anthony McCarthy.

Brown thought he was logged into his personal account, but was actually logged into Pugh's account when he sent the tweet, McCathy said.

Within minutes of tweeting from Pugh's account, Brown sent a prim-and-proper message from his own account about being pleased to attend the gala. Both tweets were deleted following inquiries from The Baltimore Sun.

Brown will no longer be tweeting for Pugh, McCarthy said.

McCarthy also said that Brown, who is a legislative assistant, volunteers for the campaign in his free time. He did not send campaign tweets while he was on the clock, McCarthy said.

Pugh could run into another problem with her Twitter account -- it does not include a line saying that is authorized by her campaign committee. Under a state law passed last year, candidates are required to include an authority line on
campaign-related social networking sites.

McCarthy said he thought the line was not necessary because Pugh has not yet filed to run for mayor. I've put in a call to State Board of Elections director Jared DeMarinis for clarification.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 2:32 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 12, 2011

State Sen. Pugh denies sending flirtatious tweet

Twitter-addicted political junkies got a surprise last night when State Sen. Catherine Pugh's account published the following:

@PughforMayor: Mmm mmm good looking men here (@ Martin's West w/ 4 others)

Pugh, a candidate for mayor who was attending the Associated Black Charities gala, says she did not send the tweet-- and she did not even have her phone with her.

"I don't know why anyone would want to do that to me," she said. "It's not even my kind of terminology. I don't speak that way."

The tweet was sent using Foursquare, an app that allows users to record their location. That means whoever sent the tweet had to have been logged into Pugh's Foursquare account and been at or near Martin's West.

Pugh said her legislative assistant, Gary Brown, who was also at the gala, primarily handles her social media efforts. She said Brown had denied sending the tweet, although it's possible someone else could have picked up his phone.

Brown sent a tweet from the gala from his personal account, @gbhitman, within moments of Pugh's update, but that tweet was later deleted.

Pugh's tantalizing tweet, which was sent around 10 p.m., was promptly deleted after I inquired about it to campaign spokesman Anthony McCarthy.

But the local political twitterati had already spotted it and started a local internet meme. So far today, people have tweeted "mmm mmm good looking men here," from an airport, a bathroom mirror and even a church.

Pugh said her first inclination was to shut down her Twitter account, which is only followed by about 200 people. She has only been tweeting a few months, and while she occasionally sends updates herself, such as when her bills were passed in the General Assembly, staffers write most of the tweets.

McCarthy said he is "narrowing in" how the tweet was sent and that he has changed the passwords and limited access to Pugh's social media accounts.

Incidentally, Pugh was not the only mayoral candidate to tweet from the Associated Black Charities gala. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former city planning director Otis Rolley III were there as well.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 1:12 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 10, 2011

Pugh forms commission to study property tax cuts

State Sen. Catherine Pugh, a candidate for mayor, announced this morning that she was forming a commission to study how to cut the city's property tax rate in half over four years, but did not detail specific steps to reduce the rate.

"I'm saying to the people of Baltimore that this property tax reduction is going to take place in my first four years in office, and if it doesn't, don't re-elect me," said Pugh, who spoke in front of a block of abandoned homes on Barclay Street in East Baltimore.

"This is an opportune time for Baltimore to reconfigure itself," said Pugh, adding that residents had told her the high property tax rates were causing them to move out of the city.

Media entrepreneur Dorothy Brunson and Scott Donahoo, the former owner of a chain of car dealerships, will head the commission, Pugh said.

Pugh said she would release some parts of a plan to lower property taxes in the coming week, but that the total plan would likely not be completed before the September primary.

Pugh is the latest challenger to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to declare lowering the city's property tax rate -- twice that of surrounding jurisdictions -- a priority. Former city planning director Otis Rolley III, Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors Joseph T. "Jody" Landers and City Councilman Carl Stokes have all stressed that lowering the rate will attract new residents to the city.

Rawlings-Blake has formed a task force to draw up a 10-year financial plan for the city. She has said she hopes to reduce property taxes over time, but characterizes her challengers' promises of immediate property tax reduction as unrealistic.

Donahoo, who had considered a mayoral bid last year, said that he had decided to support Pugh after learning about her goals and plans for the city. Brunson is the former owner of a media company and a longtime Pugh supporter.

After the press conference, one of the block's few remaining residents denounced the Housing Authority of Baltimore City for trying to spur her to move. Willinette Williams said she had rented her home from the HABC for 39 years and raised 11 kids there.

"This is my home. I've been here all my years," said Williams, tears trickling down her cheeks. "It's not fair."

Posted by Julie Scharper at 11:11 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

June 9, 2011

Pugh to unveil plan to cut property taxes in half

Update: A spokesman for Sen. Catherine Pugh's campaign clarified that she will share only a component of her plan tomorrow.

Pugh will discuss "a component of the plan that includes calling on the leadership of Scott Donahoo, Dr. Dorothy Brunson and other leading business persons, economists, accountants and other financial experts," said spokesman Anthony McCarthy.

Original post:
State Sen. Catherine Pugh, who announced last week that she is running for mayor, plans to reveal a plan tomorrow morning to cut the city's property tax rate in half in four years.

"The citizens of Baltimore cannot wait another decade for property tax relief," Pugh said in a statement. Lower property taxes will assist in "repopulating our city, helping grow business investment, and encourage employment opportunities."

Pugh will be joined at the announcement by media executive and longtime friend Dorothy Brunson and Scott Donahoo, the former owner of a chain of car dealerships who had also contemplated a run for mayor late last year.

At least three other candidates who are challenging Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for the city's top office have also stressed the importance of lowering property tax rates: former city planning director Otis Rolley, Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors vice president Joseph T. "Jody" Landers and City Councilman Carl Stokes.

Rawlings-Blake told WBAL's Jayne Miller earlier this week that dramatically lowering property taxes is a "pie in the sky idea."

Rawlings-Blake says that she has formed a task force to draw up a 10-year financial plan for the city that includes lowering property taxes.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 5:40 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns

Pro-choice women's group endorses Rawlings-Blake

Emily's List, a group that encourages the political careers of pro-choice female Democrats, endorsed today Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's campaign to retain her office.

"As mayor, Stephanie has worked to build economic development, create jobs, and provide opportunities for her constituents," Jonathan Parker, Political Director of EMILY’s List, said in a statement. "A groundbreaking mayor, Stephanie is the only African-American female mayor out of the nation’s 100 largest cities."

"Baltimore is home to some amazing women who wake up every morning ready to do everything in their power to create a better life for their families," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. " These women can count on me to make the same type of tough decisions as mayor so that our families can have better schools, safer streets and stronger neighborhoods.”

Emily's List cited in the statement a contentious 2009 Rawlings-Blake initiative that required crisis pregnancy centers that do not perform abortions to post signs saying that they did not offer those services. A federal judge struck down that law in January, saying that it violated the centers' First Amendment rights. The city filed an appeal of the ruling about a month ago.

Backers of the law said that the centers had provided deceptive information; the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which filed suit against the city, said that being forced to post signs infringed on the centers' right to free speech.

Rawlings-Blake has previously been endorsed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Del. Keiffer Mitchell and the local health care workers union of the SEIU.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 4:29 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns
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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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