Costello sworn in as council members explain their votes

The City Council voted 12-0 and then Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake confirmed Eric Costello as the 11th District city councilman tonight, after a series of speeches in which council members explained that, while they did not think the process by which Costello was selected was excellent, it did produce a candidate and was unlikely to produce a different one.

Costello, who heads the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association, was chosen by a selection committee appointed by City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young two weeks ago after no debate. There were 14 candidates to fill the seat vacated by William Cole, who left to head the Baltimore Development Corporation.

Dozens of Federal Hill residents signed a petition attempting to block Costello's selection, and several of the candidates called for the committee to revote the matter. None of that happened, though several council members felt compelled to explain their assent.

"We read the biographies and the information that was provided to us by these candidates," 1st District Councilman James Kraft, who was also on the selection committee, said during a monologue that slowed the roll call by several minutes. "I have no hesitation whatsoever."

Bill Henry, the 4th District councilman, spoke longer, saying he was explaining his vote, in part, "to myself." He voted for Costello, in part, he said, because the previous system by which the city council filled a vacant spot consisted of the council itself selecting (William "Pete" Welch, the son of the retiring incumbent), which sparked cries that "there were a bunch of us up here asking question about a district that none of us lived in."

Henry added that the process that produced Costello, while contrary to his expectations, was done by the book. The fault was not in the process, but in his (and other idealists') expectations, Henry said: "Nothing that we were expecting was actually written down."

Councilwoman Helen Holton from the 8th District complimented Young for his even-handedness. "You chose all the members [of the selection committee] as 11th District residents," she said, "which was not a requirement of the rules."

After the council vote, Costello went down two floors to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office to be sworn in. There he swore an oath to serve on the council "without partiality or prejudice." He thanked his fellow councilmen "for voting their confidence in me," then repaired to the fourth floor, where he took his seat.

The first bill he signed onto as a co-sponsor, 14-0445, "Prohibited Open-flame Cooking – Enforcement by Citation." The bill was introduced by 13th District Councilman Warren Branch, who said the problem of people barbecuing on their porches and sidewalks "can be a real hazard," and is already prohibited by city ordinance. 

The law says you can't put a gas grill anywhere within 10 feet of the property line, which would seem to suggest that no one in Baltimore whose yard is less than 22 feet wide can ever have a cookout.

"I know there will be amendments," Branch said. 

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