City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector (5th District) took some lip from colleagues Monday night after introducing a bill calling for a return to multimember council districts. The City Council was revamped a decade ago when "Question P" reduced the body to 15 members—a president and a single member from 14 districts. Previously the council had six three-member districts plus the council president.
Spector's bill calls for a charter amendment that would reduce the council to four three-member districts. The bill says the single-member districts have not created more competitive elections, as promised, but have made constituent service more difficult. At the council meeting, Spector pointed to the departure of William Cole, who left last summer to head the Baltimore Development Corporation. Cole represented the 11th District that encompasses downtown and Federal Hill. Before Eric Costello was appointed to fill his seat, Spector said, Cole's district had no councilmember for more than a month.
Councilman Bill Henry (4th District) co-sponsored Spector's bill. He said before the meeting that he was in favor of larger districts to reduce parochialism, and during the meeting he joked that there had never before in his seven years on the council been a bill that only he and Spector sponsored. "While we may not want to move forward" with Spector's bill, he said, "we still should have a conversation about whether Question P is working as it was supposed to."
Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton (6th District) then rose from her seat and, with Spector sitting right in front of her and looking up at her face, said that she totally disagrees. "This is not the way to say that you want to have a conversation," Middleton said, adding that the bill would take the council "backward."
"You have to be a certain kind of person to hold this job," Middleton said, looking at Spector, whose face remained impassive. "If you can't do it, you have to do something else."
In December Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young stripped Spector, who famously does not actually live in her Northwest district, of her committee assignments. Spector had cast the lone vote against two City Council bills—one calling for police to get body cameras and the other to ban plastic bags—after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake expressed opposition. Spector was left with just one committee assignment—Executive Appointments—while other members have at least three committees each.
Spector is the council's longest-serving member, having been appointed in 1977 after the death of her husband. She refers to herself as "the dean of the City Council."
At Monday's meeting, Councilman Nick Mosby (7th District) spoke after Middleton, saying he also opposed Spector's bill because it "does nothing but bode well for people who want to hold on to power for a long time."