© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Baltimore City voted for a City Charter Review Commission. Two years later, where is it?

Baltimore City Ballot.jpg
Maureen Harvie/WYPR
A Baltimore City mail-in ballot.

During the November general election, over 86% of Baltimore voters supported the creation of a Charter Review Commission, enshrining the commission into city law. It should have been established by May 1st, 2021.

Two years later it’s nowhere to be seen.

“Nobody else seems to think that this is a big deal, and that’s the part that I find frustrating,” said Comptroller Bill Henry, who said he put forward his nominations in June 2021. “When we don't follow the charter, and when we don't follow our own city code, our own laws, when the city government is the one not doing what it's supposed to be doing, it lowers the bar for everybody else.”

Several councilmembers told WYPR that they have sent in their nominations, some of them close to two years ago, and that they haven't heard anything either. In December of 2021, the council passed a resolution to establish the commission but nothing has happened since.

The city charter directs legislative and city policy; essentially it’s Baltimore’s constitution. The Charter Review Commission is a body appointed by members of the city council, the mayor, the council president, and the comptroller. The city council members all get one appointee each while the mayor, council president and comptroller each get three.

When the commission was up for a vote, the argument went that having a review commission would increase efficiency and keep the charter up to date. Every 10 years, a commission is supposed to be convened to review the charter and then suggest additions, deletions or revisions to the mayor and city council. Ultimately, the public still votes on those changes.

Councilmember James Torrence said he put forward his nomination in December 2022. He doesn’t think the original May 1, 2021 deadline was realistic, considering the city vetting process for commissions can take months. There are nearly sixty boards and commissions listed in the City of Baltimore, many of which require appointees and confirmations.

“I think that two years is unintentionally too long,” said Torrence, who represents the seventh district. “The reason why is because you don't want to get it wrong. You’d disappoint with people who just sit there and just don't do anything… because they're not sure what to do or where to start from.”

Councilmember Odette Ramos, of the 14th district, worries that some of the council will have to renominate new people as so much time has already gone by, further delaying the process. “I think it's important, very important to have a review [of the charter] every so often,” she said. She said she sent in a nomination in September 2021.

The wording in the charter is vague– it doesn’t assign the responsibility of staffing or convening the commission on the Mayor or City Council President as is common in many other commissions.

In a statement to WYPR, Mayor Brandon Scott wrote, “The Charter Review Commission plays a vital role in our city by examining our City Charter and ensuring that it serves the best interests of our residents. The Administration follows a rigorous review and vetting process to select candidates for all city boards and commissions, including the Charter Review Commission. This guarantees that we appoint highly qualified individuals who will make well-informed decisions that positively impact our community.”

City Council President Nick Mosby's office wrote to WYPR in an email, after this story was originally published, that Mosby has sent in nominations. Mosby's office did not return a request for details on when those were sent.

Mayor Scott did not confirm if he had sent in his three nominations, which are needed to complete the commission.

“I hope we can get it going,” said Ramos. “It’s not good that we aren’t following our own law.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional details from President Nick Mosby's office. 5/4/2023.

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
Related Content