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The Nose

2nd in Command

Posted 11/7/2001

It doesn't take a nose as discerning as the Nose's to catch the whiff of cronyism emanating from the appointment of Pamela carter to finish the late Bea Gaddy's City Council term. The council named Carter to the 2nd District seat Nov. 5, but the scent had been all over City Hall since at least Oct. 30, when the council staged a dog-and-pony show disguised as a forum for candidates to state their cases. If it wasn't clear already to supporters of Baltimore Times associate publisher Anthony McCarthy (namely, residents of the district's west side) and Gaddy's daughter Sandra Briggs that they had no chance of derailing the Eastside Democratic Organization's (EDO) designs on the seat, that session sealed the deal.

As if to dispel any lingering doubt that the fix was in, the council formalized the appointment at the first opportunity following the forum. After the Oct. 30 hearing senior 2nd District council member Paula Johnson Branch told the Nose that the decision would take "at least" a few weeks, by which she apparently meant "six days."

We wonder why Johnson even bothered to pretend there was a decision to make. At the forum, she and 2nd District colleague bernard "Jack" Young, in whose hands the appointment rested, didn't seem interested in hearing from any candidates other than fellow EDO stalwart Carter. (Anti-poverty advocate Gaddy, who was elected to the seat in 1999, was not a member of the Democratic club headed by state Sen. nathaniel mcfadden.) When Briggs talked about doing work for the poor that would have a "ripple effect" throughout the state, the council members' eyes glazed over. When McCarthy made an impassioned if soupy speech about his vision for economic revitalization and using the seat to serve rather than to posture, they all but yawned.

Branch did rouse briefly during Clayton Guyton's spiel. Guyton, co-leader of the Rose Street Community Center and one of East Baltimore's most prominent and respected grass-roots activists, acknowledged that he was appearing less as a candidate for office than as an "agitator" seeking more responsiveness to the district's struggling residents. Branch cut him off and dismissed him from the hearing, ostensibly because he was not using his time to state his qualifications for office. But she and Young only truly perked up (and were full of smiles to boot) when Carter, director of an East Baltimore prenatal care program, took the dais. The former Democratic State Central Committee member and Martin O'Malley aide (during his pre-mayoralty council tenure) talked about her familiarity with "the process" of local government and her desire to "go to work" with her would-be 2nd District comrades.

Carter's elevation from loyal political foot soldier to office-holder does fit the recent profile for 2nd District appointments. Young was named to the council in October 1996 (to replace Anthony Ambridge) after working for EDO major-domo McFadden as well as former council president Mary Pat Clarke and ex-member Carl Stokes. When The Sun reported that some 2nd residents (mostly Charles Villagers) were disgruntled at the east side's political domination of a district that stretches across the center of the city into central and West Baltimore, Branch responded with a bristling missive to the paper. "We represent everyone, whether they want us to or not," she wrote, adding that residents who thought otherwise don't "have the courage to confront us face-to-face."

The Nose brings up all this history only to note that when it comes to filling the current vacancy, the past is definitely prologue. And when it comes to confronting Branch "face-to-face," it seems, critics are just as damned if they do as if they don't. Just ask Clayton Guyton.

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