Elected at-large to a four-year term of office, the President presides over and is a voting member of the City Council. In addition, this officer serves as
president of the Board of Estimates, the City's spending board.
By a majority vote, the Council chooses from among its members a Vice President,
who chairs Council meetings in the President's absence.
In each of Baltimore's fourteen single-member City Council districts, representatives are
elected for a four-year term. To qualify for a position on the Council, a person must be twenty-one years of age,
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 Council
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 1890
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 office. 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.
Appointed To The Council In 1937
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, Ella Bailey, was
appointed to complete her husband's term of office. In 1943, she became the
first woman elected to the City Council.
African-American Presence on the 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 be elected to the City Council.
1967 and 1987 Are First For Women
In 1967 Victorine Q. Adams was the first woman elected to the City Council. Prior to this, only four women had served on the City Council, and all had been appointed to complete the terms of their husbands. Only 14 women have been directly elected to the Baltimore City Council, and six of them are current members. In 1987, Mary
Pat Clarke was the first woman to run for citywide office and was elected
City Council President.
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 all.