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Councilman's Comments on Race Leave Colleagues Flummoxed

Baltimore City Council members respond to Councilman Carl Stokes' comments to WYPR about race's role in constituent service.

Councilman Carl Stokes, D-District 12, told WYPR in a story about the impact of the Baltimore City Council’s shift to single-member districts that African-American council members work for neighborhoods and other council members protect businesses.

“The African-American council persons are working to ensure neighborhood strength and a number of the non-African-Americans are working on the interests of the business development community. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but it has become a divide in terms of resources. And, you’re seeing much less resources going to communities of color,” Stokes said in the article.

Stokes' comments have left some council members scratching their heads.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, D-District 14, a white council member who is supporting Odette Ramos’ campaign for Stokes’ seat, said, “That doesn’t sound like Carl Stokes and it doesn’t feel like me,” Clarke said.

Councilman Bill Henry, D-District 4, said he hadn’t heard Stokes' comments so he didn’t want to address them directly. But Henry, an African-American, mentioned Councilman Robert Curran, D-District 3, as an example of a white council member who works very hard at constituent service.

“I don’t think anyone would accuse Bobby of being down there to promote business interests,” Henry said.

Councilman William Cole, D-District 11, called Stokes’ comments "unfortunate."

“I certainly don’t believe that if you polled my constituents they would feel that way,” said Cole, who is white.

Cole, who was Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s choice to replace her as city council president, said he works well with Stokes, but took a shot at Stokes’ abandoned mayoral campaign.

“Councilman Stokes must still think he’s running for mayor,” Cole said.

ralahinn1 August 19, 2011 at 12:20 AM
I hate when anyone seems desperate enough to bring " race" into any issue when it is unwarranted. If a person is qualified for a job, they should get it, no matter what the race, or if in politics, the race of his / her constituents.
The Observationist August 19, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Now the next thing you need to look into is the lead paint lawsuit against Stokes. Not only has he ducked media inquiries, but earlier this month a judge found him to be in default for failing to respond to the plaintiff's filings.
A F James MacArthur August 20, 2011 at 03:21 PM
For the record, Bill Henry is bi-racial. Your article calls him African-American, but I'm not sure of the accuracy of this since he's just as white as he's black. But perhaps this argument of semantics is a larger issue than to be discussed on a comments board.
jill August 20, 2011 at 05:04 PM
I don't believe less resources going into poorer, low voting, neighborhoods is new. It has been the case for decades. Race comes into play because there are more black neighborhoods suffering long-standing diminished resources than white. Why not do a little research on which neighborhoods receive most city services et.al....All one has to do is look at the upcoming grand prix,championed by Councilman Bill Cole, to which the city has dedicated millions in resources, while negotiating no benefit for neighborhoods. While, it is expected to be a short term boon for downtown businesses, it is not expected to profit Baltimore in the short term, and it will do nothing to enhance neighborhoods or quality of life for residents in the long term. Some may disagree with Stokes' characterization of division of resources as being a race issue. But, Stokes is not wrong about the city's non-people centered government.
A F James MacArthur August 20, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Now that we have the attention of the esteemed state Del. Jill P. Carter in the comment above, I would suggest the author of the story do a follow up, including an interview with the three term state legislator, former mayoral candidate. Baltimore sad's story of putting it's majority population on the back burner has a long dark history. While Councilman Stokes comments may have evoked an emotional reaction from many, upon close examination of the way things seems to really work in this city, it's hard to disagree with some of the facts.
jill August 20, 2011 at 07:26 PM
I agree that follow up may be warranted. But, it should examine city government' spending & allocation of resources, and disclose any disparities in resources to neighborhoods. I'd also like to see an examination of tax breaks to businesses, developers, and non-profits, and the direct & indirect benefits these favored entities provide to city residents.
Adam Bednar (Editor) August 21, 2011 at 01:21 PM
If anyone would like to start a blog so they can address the issues raised in this comment thread let me know. We're trying to build a community at North Baltimore Patch. That means we want to give everyone that lives here a voice. Also, I appreciate the ideas for follow up stories and will do my best to make them happen. Please feel free to reach out to me via phone (443) 253-0086 or adam.bednar@patch.com, or DM me on Twitter @Northbmorepatch.

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