Did you know that in two weeks Baltimore citizens will most likely extend their leaders current terms (which should end in 2015) until 2016?
You probably have not heard of Question K:
Resolution No. 12-03 for the purpose of confirming State Legislation, by providing for the election of the Mayor, the Comptroller, and the President and Members of the City Council in 2016 and in every succeeding fourth year; adjusting the terms of office for those elected in 2011.”
There is a pretty solid intention behind this charter amendment, but the implementation procedure is flawed and thus we need to vote against it. Baltimore wastes millions of dollars every four years by holding two local elections (primary and general) that do not take place during statewide election years (2010, 2014, 2018…) or presidential election years (2008, 2012, 2016…). In order to save money and possibly increase voter turnout that local election needs to be moved.
“The timing of the city’s general election can be changed by city voters through referendum, but only the General Assembly can change the year of the primary.”
The General Assembly out of pure political greed has already moved the September 2015 local primary election to March of 2016. Question K asks the citizens to complete the moving process and move the November 2015 general election to November of 2016. State and local leaders did not want to move the local election to the more logical state election year because it would prevent them from being able to run for state office and lose and still keep their local office. The reverse would also remain true- A state leader could run for local office and lose and still keep their state office. State Senator Catherine Pugh would not have been able to lose the mayoral race and keep her state senator position had the elections taken place at the same time. Mayor Rawlings-Blake will not be able to keep her current position if she runs for Lieutenant Governor under Anthony Brown in 2014 if the mayoral election were also held that year. The current system and the proposed Question K system gives our leaders unnecessary job security and decreases the chances of new blood entering the local or state political system. Question K also extends our current local leaders terms one year! Do Pete Welch, Warren Branch, and crew deserve a freebie extra year? A five year term is a reward, take a look at the city and tell me with a straight face that our local leaders deserve a reward for this mess.
Another ridiculous aspect of the proposed new system is that there will be an eight month gap between the March 2016 primary and the November 2016 general election. In theory a sitting city councilperson could lose the March Democratic primary and remain in office causing all sorts of trouble until weeks after the November general election (where in Baltimore the Democrat always wins because our leaders do not have the guts to alter the system in a way that will benefit the people like having open primaries). Imagine if Belinda (still lists her Randallstown address as her principal residence on SDAT) Conaway was given a lame duck eight months on the city council. We can only wonder what her publicity stunt creating father would have put her up to.
If Question K passes then local political season will take place during the dead of winter instead of the summer. That does not sound like a scenario that will encourage new leaders with no campaigning experience to enter the fray.
The establishment says that voter turnout will be higher in presidential years, but during certain presidential election years when there in an incumbent Democrat in office primary turnouts are just as pathetic as local primary elections.
If the voters of Baltimore vote against Question K then the Maryland General assembly will have to move the 2016 Primary that they created. They can either move it back to 2015 and basically admit they would rather waste millions of dollars than listen to the will of the people or they could move it to 2014 and we could have some sort of ballot initiative in 2014 that allows the citizens to officially move the local general election to 2014 and allow the local ballot they are voting on to be official. The General Assembly will not keep the primary election in 2016 if Question K fails because Baltimore would be left with a 2015 local general election that would turn into de facto open primary (yet at the same time a binding general) election where Independents, Republicans, and members of other parties would finally have a real say in local politics! That would be a cool scenario.
Baltimore voters should use their leverage in this situation to demand open local primaries where Independents, Republicans, and other party members will be able to vote in the local primary election. Elections should not be about making the entrenched establishment as comfortable as possible, they should be about giving the citizens an opportunity to select leaders from the largest possible pool of candidates. If Question K is approved then voters will be limiting their power and playing into the hands of the establishment. Like sheep to the slaughter.