Disregarding requests from BHCA and a city council majority to revise his proposed council redistricting plan to keep our neighborhood intact, Mayor Brandon Scott vetoed a modified city council plan which accomplished just that. The mayor, instead, opted for political gamesmanship over transparency and community opinion.
“The mayor did not take your position into consideration,” 11th District Council Member Eric Costello told BHCA’s November membership meeting. As of January, the northern half of Bolton Hill will be carved out of Costello’s district and added to District 7, represented by Council Member James Torrence.
Costello called the mayor’s actions “irresponsible and petty.” Not only did Scott refuse to discuss the changes the council majority made to his council map, but he also timed his veto of the council’s plan in a way to stop the council from taking further action or negotiating with him. Scott did so in spite of a request by Council President Nick Mosby to meet or otherwise find a way to work toward a compromise.
The council majority sent the mayor a letter after his veto. “So many communities from each of our districts stepped up and made their voices heard … They wanted leadership, and to feel well represented in this building for the next decade,” the council members wrote. “They deserve that as an absolute bare minimum, but this result fails them … The council’s process was transparent, included feedback from the community members and ensured that the citizens of our city had a seat at the table. Your process did not.” Costello signed the letter.
Torrence, although he attend BHCA’s October meeting where redistricting was discussed, voted against the revised plan, siding with the mayor and against BHCA’s wishes.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years under rules laid out in the city charter. It is an inherently political process. It’s no secret that Mosby, who leads the council, and Scott, who is running for re-election next year, are equally ambitious politicians, not drinking buddies. Costello has, at least publicly, usually stayed out of their lines of fire.
The charter requires the mayor to draw up a plan for equalizing council districts after each national census. Baltimore continues to lose population. That shrinkage left Costello’s 11th district and vacating Council District 1 Zeke Cohen’s district with surplus residents and most other districts with too few.
Without holding public hearings or reaching out to affected neighborhoods, Scott at the last minute dropped his plan on the city and left the council little time to respond. BHCA’s Executive Committee, after polling the board, sent a hurried letter to the council and the mayor asking that Bolton Hill be left intact, either in Costello’s district or in Torrence’s. BHCA board member Jim Prost attended council hearings that resulted in the changes putting all of the neighborhood in Torrence’s 7th district. Costello agreed to that change.
Costello said he saw no recourse in the charter rules and law to contest the mayor’s actions. Mosby promised to try to amend the charter and change the process going forward, after the 2030 Census. The Democratic primary, which is paramount to city elections, will be held May 14, 2024. BHCA does not endorse candidates or engage in elections. It does what it can to influence city policies and plans that affect the neighborhood, from bike lanes to crime to park maintenance.
So, is the headline at the top too harsh? Older residents may recognize it as something of a literary allusion. In 1975 then-President Gerald Ford received a request by New York City’s near-bankrupt government to have the federal government help with a bailout. Ford refused, sparking an infamous New York Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” We may feel ill-used, but the association will not be endorsing either Scott or an opponent.