Baltimore City Council
President Elected at-large to a four year
term of office, the President presides over and is a voting
member of the Council. In addition, this officer serves as
president of the Board of Estimates. Vice-President By a
majority vote, the Council chooses from among its members a Vice
President, who chairs Council meetings in the President's
absence. Members In each of Baltimore's six Councilmanic
Districts, three representatives are elected to the Council for
a four year term.
To qualify for a position on the Council, a
person must be above the age of twenty-one, a registered voter,
a U.S. citizen and a resident of Baltimore and the district.
If a position on the Council is vacated, a
new representative from the Councilmanic District is elected by
a majority vote of the Council.
City Council's History
The Beginning of Baltimoretown
In 1729, the Maryland General Assembly
authorized the erection of Baltimoretown on the north side of
the Patapsco and appointed a group of commissioners to govern.
During this time, Catholics were denied the right to vote in
Maryland as they were in many of the colonies.
In 1797, the General Assembly granted a
charter that created the office of Mayor and City Council. The
Council was divided into 2 branches, and membership required
heavy property qualifications. It was not until 1826 that the
Constitution of Maryland was changed to allow Jewish citizens
the right to vote or hold public office.
First Black Elected To The Council In
Harry Sythe Cummings was elected to
the City Council of Baltimore in 1890 and became the first Black
elected official in the state of Maryland. For forty years after
1890, six different Black Republicans won elections for the
Baltimore City Council in 13 of 18 elections. Baltimore was one
of the few cities in which Blacks held high public offices. This
was because Maryland after the Civil War did not deny Blacks the
right to vote as many states did. This was attributable to the
population distribution of Blacks in the city. Baltimore
Obtained Home Rule In 1918
Before 1918, the General Assembly enacted all
local laws affecting the city. Since 1918, the Mayor and City
Council have had this power.
In the November election of 1922, the voters
through petition replaced a two branch council with a unicameral
one. Baltimore abolished its old system of small wards,
replacing them with much larger districts. Today there are six
council districts, each represented by 3 council members.
First Woman Appointed to the Council In
Not until after women had the right to vote
for nearly 20 years was the first woman appointed to serve in
the City Council. This woman,
was appointed to her husband's term of office. In 1943, she
became the first woman elected to the City Council. During the thirties and forties no African Americans
were elected to the City Council.
Although many African American voters
gradually joined the Democratic Party after World War I, their
numbers were not sufficient to regain a City Council seat until
the 1955 election victory of
Walter Dixon for the 4th
District. Since 1955 African American representation has
continued through the present. In 1991, redistricting enabled
eight African Americans to become elected to the City Council.
1967 and 1987 Are First For Women
Prior to the 1967 election of
Adams [photo above left], only four women served on the City Council. All four
had been appointed to complete the terms of their husbands. Of
these four women two ran for office and won. It was not until
Victorine Adams that a woman was elected to the City Council
without being appointed. Since the inception of the City
Council, only 13 women have ever won election to the council.
Today, seven of those women are currently serving on the
Mary Pat Clarke
was the first
woman to run citywide and win the elected office of President of
the City Council.
For 250 years in Baltimore, women, African
Americans, Catholics, and Jews were all denied the right to vote
and to serve on the Council. Today, they are all represented on
the City Council and work together toward a better Baltimore for
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updated !9 March 2010