Baltimore City Council

The Baltimore City Council is the legislative branch that governs the City of Baltimore and its more than 600,000 citizens. It has 14 members elected by district and a president elected at-large; all serve four-year terms. The Council holds regular meetings on alternate Monday evenings on the fourth floor of the Baltimore City Hall.[1] The Council has seven standing committees, all of which must have at least three members.

Baltimore City Council
Council President
Brandon Scott, Democratic
since May 6th, 2019 (succeeded Sharon Green Middleton)
Political groups
Electoral districts with four-year terms
Last election
November 8, 2016
Meeting place
Baltimore City Hall
Council Chamber
Baltimore, MD

To qualify for a position on the Council, a person must be 21 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.[2] As of 2018, the President receives an annual salary of $119,000, the Vice President gets $77,000 and the rest of councillors receive $69,000.[3] The current city council president, Brandon Scott, was sworn in on Monday, May 6, 2019.


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 it. 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. During its early history the council was composed exclusively of white, non-Jewish males.[4]

In 1826, the Maryland General Assembly passed the "Jew Bill", which allowed Jews to hold public office in the state. Two leaders in the fight for the law were Jacob I. Cohen Jr. (1789–1869) and Solomon Etting (1764–1847), who subsequently won election to the Council and became the first Jewish officeholders in the state.[5]

In 1890, Harry Sythe Cummings was elected to the council, becoming the state's first black elected official. In the 40 years after 1890, six black Republicans won elections to the council.

In 1918, the General Assembly enacted all local laws affecting the city; since then the Mayor and City Council assumed those responsibilities. In the November election of 1922, the voters through petition replaced a two-branch council with a unicameral one and Baltimore abolished its old system of small wards, replacing them with much larger districts. In 1943, Ella Bailey became the first woman elected to the City Council.

In 2003, as a result of the ballot initiative, Question P, the Baltimore City Council went from six three-member districts to 14 single-member districts or from 18 members to 14 members. The council president continued to be elected at-large.

Since 1926, Baltimore City elections occurred the year following the gubernatorial cycle with elected officials taking office in the same year as the election. From the 1920s to the 1970s City elections were held in the Spring, with primary elections in March and the general election in May, with the winners also taking office in May. In the 1970s the elections were changed to the Fall, with the primary occurring in September and the general in November and the winners taking office in December. In 2012 the City's elections where moved to coincide with the Presidential election cycle. This changed the 2015 election to 2016 and gave councilmembers elected in 2011 a five year term.[6]

City Council President

The council president is elected citywide. In addition to their role on the council, the Council President is also President of the Board of Estimates. If the mayor's office is vacant, the Council President automatically becomes mayor. If the position of council president is vacant, the members of the council elect the new council president.

Term Name Party Notes[7]
1923–1930 Howard Bryant† Democratic Had been the President of the 2nd Branch of the City Council, prior to the change to a unicameral council. Died in Office in September 1930.
1930–1931* James O'Meara Democratic** *He was the Vice President of the Council and served as acting president following Bryant's death in September 1930. **He was a Democrat, however he was elected and supported by the Republican members of the council, who he primarily voted with
1931–1935 E. Lester Muller Democratic Lost re-election in the primary coming in third behind Sellmayer and John Meyer.
1935–1939 George Sellmayer Democratic In the 1935 election, John Meyer initially was called the winner on election night with 24 votes, after a recount, Sellmayer won.[8][9] Lost re-election in the primary to O'Connell in 1939
1939–1943 Richard O'Connell Democratic Lost re-election in the primary to Conlon in 1943
1943 Thomas Conlon† Democratic Died in office. Served from May to October 1943
1943–1951 C. Markland Kelly Democratic First elected as Council President by the council in October 1943, following Conlon's death. Was re-elected in 1947. He chose to run for mayor as an Independent in 1951 instead of re-election and lost in his bid for the mayoralty. Resigned as Council President 10 days early.
1951–1955 Arthur B. Price Democratic Elected by the voters in the 1951 election, and elected by the council to fill the last 10 days of Kelly's term. Ran for mayor in 1955 and lost the primary to Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr.
1955–1959 Leon Abramson Democratic Running on a ticket with Mayor D'Alesandro, Abramson lost re-election in the primary to Goodman.
1959–1962 Philip Goodman♯ Democratic In 1959 he ran on a joint ticket with J. Harold Grady for mayor and R. Walter Graham Jr. for comptroller, and all 3 won. Resigned as Council President in December 1962 to become mayor upon Grady's resignation of the mayoralty to become a judge
1962–1967 Thomas D' Alesandro III Democratic First elected Council President by the council in December 1962. Re-elected in 1963. Ran for mayor in 1967 and won.
1967–1971 William Donald Schaefer Democratic Ran for mayor in 1971 and won
1971–1982 Walter Orlinsky♯ Democratic Resigned as Council President on October 18, 1982 due to conviction on bribery and corruption charges.
1982–1987 Clarence "Du" Burns Democratic Du Burns was the first African-American Council President. He was Council Vice President and first elected as Council President in October 1982 by the council following Orlinsky's resignation. Resigned as council president to become mayor in January 1987 following Mayor Schaefer's election as governor
1987 Frank X. Gallagher Democratic Served from January to December 1987. He was a 3rd District councilman and was elected Council President upon Burns' resignation to become mayor. He did not run for re-election in 1987, retiring from politics.
1987–1995 Mary Pat Clarke Democratic Mary Pat Clarke was the first female Council President. She had previously served as a 2nd District councilwoman from 1975–1983 and had run for Council President in 1983, losing the primary to Burns. She ran for mayor in 1995 and lost the primary election to Mayor Kurt Schmoke
1995–1999 Lawrence Bell Democratic Ran for mayor in 1997 and lost the primary election to 3rd District Councilman Martin O'Malley
1999–2007 Sheila Dixon Democratic Resigned in January 2007 to become mayor following O'Malley's election as governor
2007–2010 Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Democratic She was the 6th District Councilwoman and was first elected Council President by the council in January 2007 following Dixon's resignation. Resigned as council president to become mayor on February 4, 2010 due to Dixon's resignation as mayor following a corruption trial.
2010–2019 Bernard C. "Jack" Young# Democratic He was the 12th district councilman and was first elected Council President by the council in February 2010 due to Rawlings-Blake's elevation to mayor. Resigned himself in May 2019 to become mayor.
2019 Sharon Green Middleton Democratic She served as Council President Ex-Officio from April 2, 2019 until May 6, 2019 while President Young served as Mayor Ex-Officio and between the time he succeeded to the mayoralty and the Council voted on Young's successor. She held this position as viture of serving as Council Vice President and she was the 6th district councilwoman.
2019–present Brandon Scott Democratic He was the 2nd district councilman and was first elected Council President by the council on May 6, 2019 due to Young's resignation to become mayor

† Died in Office ♯ Resigned as Council President


The records of the City Council, dates ranging from 1797 to 1987, reside at the Baltimore City Archives in Record Group BRG16.[10] The collection includes administrative files, volumes of proceedings, joint council session reports, correspondence, ordinances and resolutions, committee bills, hearing schedules, and other records.

Recent election results

All 14 seats on the city council were retained by the Democrats in the 2016 election.[11]

Baltimore City Council Elections, 2016
Party Candidates Votes Seats
No. % pp No. No. %
Maryland Democratic Party 14 174,070 85.44 +2.48 14 0 100.00
Maryland Republican Party 8 16,529 8.11 +1.47 0 0 0.00
Maryland Green Party 4 5,749 2.82 +0.57 0 0 0.00
Unaffiliated 3 3,650 1.79 N/A 0 0 0.00
Write-in N/A 2,633 1.29 −5.98 0 0 0.00
Ujima People's Progress Party 1 1,107 0.54 N/A 0 0 0.00
Maryland Libertarian Party 0 0 0 -0.89 0 0 0.00
Total 203,738 100.00 ±0.00 14 ±0 100.00

In addition to retaining absolute control of the City Council, the Democrats held the separately elected position of City Council President.[12]

President of the Baltimore City Council Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Bernard C. "Jack" Young 173,065 76.0
Republican Shannon Wright 27,408 12.0
Green Connor Meek 11,119 4.9
Independent Sharon Black 8,368 3.7
Libertarian Susan Gaztanaga 6,380 2.8
Other Write-ins 1,300 0.6
Total votes 227,640 100.00
Democratic hold

Members of the Baltimore City Council

DistrictLocaleBornMemberPartyElectedPrimary Committee
1 Southeast Northampton, MA[13] Zeke Cohen Democratic 2016 Education and Youth (Chair)[14]
2 Northeast Baltimore Danielle McCray Democratic Appointed June 2019
3 Mayfield Baltimore Ryan Dorsey Democratic 2016 Public Safety (Vice Chair)
4 North Baltimore Bill Henry Democratic 2007 Budget, Housing & Urban Affairs, Labor
5 Northwest Baltimore Isaac "YItzy" Schleifer Democratic 2016 Housing & Urban Affairs (Vice Chair)
6 Park Heights, Roland Park Baltimore Sharon Green Middleton Democratic 2007[15] Council Vice President, Finance & Economic Development (Chair)
7 Mondawmin Baltimore Leon F. Pinkett III Democratic 2016 Budget (Vice Chair), Finance (Vice Chair)
8 Edmondson Village, Forest Park Baltimore Kristerfer Burnett Democratic 2016 Executive Appointments (Vice Chair)
9 West Baltimore John Bullock Democratic 2016 Housing & Urban Affairs (Chair)
10 Southwest Baltimore Edward Reisinger Democratic 1995 Land Use & Transportation (Chair)
11 Downtown New York Eric Costello Democratic 2014 Budget (Chair), Judiciary & Legislative Investigations (Chair)
12 Greenmount, Jonestown Baltimore Robert Stokes Sr. Democratic 2016 Executive Appointments (Chair)
13 McElderry Park Philadelphia Shannon Sneed Democratic 2016 Labor (Chair)
14 Charles Village Providence Mary Pat Clarke Democratic 1975–1983, 1987–1995, 2004 Education (Vice Chair), Judiciary & Legislative Investigations (Vice Chair)
Council President Baltimore City Baltimore Brandon Scott Democratic 2011 (Council member), 2019 (Council President) Council President

Past Members of the City Council

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
2004–2007 James (Jim) Kraft (D) Nicholas (Nick) D'Adamo (D) Robert (Bob) Curran (D) Kenneth Harris (D) Rochelle (Rikki) Spector (D) Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D)*

Sharon Green Middleton (D)

Belinda Conaway (D) Helen Holton (D) Agnes Welch (D) Edward (Ed) Reisinger (D) Keiffer Mitchell (D) Bernard C "Jack" Young (D) Paula Johnson Branch (D)*** Vernon Crider (D) Mary Pat Clarke (D)
2007–2011 Bill Henry (D) Sharon Green Middleton (D) Agnes Welch (D)^

William "Pete" Welch (D)

William "Bill" Cole IV (D) Jack Young (D)^^

Carl Stokes (D)

Warren Branch (D)
2011–2016 Brandon Scott (D)^^^ Nick Mosby (D) William "Pete" Welch (D) William "Bill" Cole IV (D)**

Eric Costello (D)

Carl Stokes (D)
2016–2020 Zeke Cohen (D) Ryan Dorsey (D) Isaac (Yitzy) Schleifer (D) Leon Pinkett (D) Kristerfer Burnett (D) John Bullock (D) Eric Costello (D) Robert Stokes (D) Shannon Sneed (D)

*Elected Council President by the council in January 2007. Sharon Green Middleton was elected by the council to fill Rawlings-Blake's seat.

^ Agnes Welch resigned her seat December 2010. The council elected her son William "Pete" Welch to fill her seat in January 2011. He was re-elected in 2011 and lost the primary in 2016.

** Bill Cole resigned his seat on August 30, 2014 to become the president of the Baltimore Development Corporation. Eric Costello was elected by the council in October 2014.

^^Bernard C. "Jack" Young was elected Council President by the council in February 2010. The Council elected former councilman Carl Stokes to the seat.

***Paula Johnson Branch resigned her seat on March 2, 2007. The council elected Vernon Crider to the seat on April 16, 2007 and he lost re-election in the primary later that year.

^^^Brandon Scott was elected Council President by the council on May 6, 2019.


  1. "Rules of the City Council of Baltimore" (PDF). Baltimore City Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  2. "Baltimore City Charter" (PDF). Baltimore City. 2008. pp. 77–78. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  3. Platcher, David (2018-04-02). "What's causing Baltimore's population loss? It's no mystery". The Sun. Baltimore, Maryland. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
  4. "History of the Baltimore City Council". Baltimore City Council. Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  5. Wiernik, Peter (1912). History of the Jews in America: From the Period of the Discovery of the New World to the Present Time. New York: Jewish Press Publishing Company. p. 127.
  10. "Guide to Government Records BRG16". Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  13. "About Zeke". Zeke Cohen For Baltimore. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  15. Middleton was appointed in 2007 and subsequently was elected to the position.
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