Despite concerns of his past criminal convictions, nine of the twelve council members on the Vacancy Hearing vote for outgoing Councilwoman's son.
William 'Pete' Welch Jr., the long serving Chief of Staff for the 9th district councilwoman Agnes Welch, who happens to be his mother, was selected by the Baltimore City Council Vacancy Committee last night to replace his recently retired mother for the remainder of her four-year term, ending in December of 2011. The former legislative aide to his mother who served the past 27-years in the ninth district said that though the difficulties of his past were fair game for the council to consider, they should also consider that he was a different person now than he was then."
Concurring with that sentiment was 11th district councilman William 'Bill' Cole who was quoted as saying that "If the man has paid his debt to society and his district seems to be in significant support of him, I don't know where it's written that you aren't deserving of some kind of second chance?" The first term councilman Cole said he "anguished over his decision for the last few days" as Welch's past criminal convictions in 2000 and 2004 for handgun violations and paying campaign workers for his mom "walk-around" election day monies that were illegal then, yet have since been struck down by Maryland's Court of Appeals, making it now legal to pay such workers on election day.
As the 12-members convened last night in the Clarence 'Du' Burns chambers on the fourth floor of City Hall, a little late after hearing discussions of FY12 budgetary concerns, it became evident to on-lookers and those members present that Welch seemed to have the necessary votes needed for appointment. As 3rd district Councilman Robert 'Bobby' Curran nominated Welch, being seconded by outgoing/retiring 2nd district Councilman Nicholas D'Adamo, seven other members voted in favor of the second-generation Welch council member, while others seemed more determine not to give 'Pete' their vote. Fourth district Councilman Bill Henry Jr., the freshman legislator representing Northeast Baltimore was said to have been shopping a second vote for his choice Michael Eugene Johnson. Having found no one to second his original choice, he then added his vote to the Jim Kraft nominated and Clarke seconded nominee Abigail Breiseth. Though neither would have had the necessary 7-votes needed for a majority (as two of the remaining 14-members on the Council with one vacant seat making it usually fifteen members, were excluded from the Committee <Holton and Spector>), it was still suggested that someone other than a nepotistic member like the younger Pete Welch should receive the votes to fill this vacancy.
"It's been council tradition that when someone retires or steps away from this body, that their selection of who they want to fill the vacancy they essentially left, would be left up to them," said recently appointed councilman Carl Stokes (12th). "As youb may remember we never really had this problem of single member districts to place the oneous on us, as before with three members per district, usually the other two members of the district would suggest to the body who they felt was the right person to come in and serve out the remainder of the term," Stokes continued.
However not everyone agrees with this, or any other sentiments regarding allowing for such a convoluted and ill-mannered, antiquated process. Marvin 'Doc' Cheatham, the former President of the NAACP Baltimore Branch and current 44th district State Central Committee member said that he believed the system was flawed and believes something needs to be done about it? "While I feel that Baltimore City Council President [Jack] Young admirably handled the hearing, I felt that the process was and is flawed," said Cheatham. He later went on to suggest in a mass email sent to council members, City leaders and past district vacancy nominees that he felt that either the State Central Committee should handle filling the seats of future vacancies or that a new system be put into place allowing for electing a city-styled version of the state's central committee process, as these members are elected by the district's electorate to fill such vacancies.
However as Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. 'Jack' Young released a statement saying that he was well aware of the criminal past of Mr. Welch, as it is "well-documented" as he put it, he said that he felt that Pete has "paid his debt to society and should not continuosly be penalized for his past lapses in judgement." When asked about his decision making process regarding these four highly qualified candidates, Young said, "My decision was based largely on each candidate's ability to effectively serve the citizens of the 9th district, by way of a legislative process that requires intellect in addition to a level of political know-how, that often takes time to hone?"
However Young's replacement in the 12th district, Carl Stokes felt differently on the matter. "I mean come on now, we are not doing melicular biology over here in the council; the nominee, which-ever of the four overly qualified candidates it shall be, should learn fairly quickly about how to get things done in his or her district." Yet a continued Young press release in the matter wrapped it all up saying that "At the end of the day, I, and the other members of the council's Vacancy Nominating Committee, placed first the interest of the residents of the 9th district."
Yet Michael Eugene Johnson, a candidate for this post, supported and seconded by another 9th district nominee Dr. John Bullock, said that though the rest of the candidates weren't made aware of the fact, as Pete was obviously tutored to do, that letters of support from district residents and businesses would make it seem as though you were the district favorite? "Hell, we could have had a letter of support battle and I bet I would have come out on top of that war," said Johnson. This right here is one of the main factors behind 'Doc' Cheatham's and others concerns regarding this Charter-controlled process. "Right now thirteen Council members along with the Council President will decide on who will replace a council person from a district NONE of them live in or serve? This is preposterous! It is hi-time we reviewed this City Charter and make improvements where permissable, possible and legally feasible. Doing nothing is no longer a solution," said a very frustrated Cheatham.
If you want to send a message to your local legislators as to how you feel about their selection, the process that governs vacancies currently or any other dilemna you deem inappropriate or something that needs to change, you can call or email them through GCOMM Media or via your own devices here.
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