The Baltimore City Council, given the choice between three upright citizens and one convicted felon to fill a vacancy in the Ninth District, chose the felon.
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In February 2000, Willam Arthur “Pete” Welch Jr. received probation after guilty pleas to charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and discharging a firearm in the city limits. Other charges, including one for first-degree assault, were dropped in the plea bargain.
Welch fired the gun into the ceiling of his mother’s campaign headquarters during an argument with poll workers who wanted their “walkaround money”—cash slipped to campaign “volunteers” for handing out literature in front of the polls, driving voters to a polling place, and other election-day duties.
“Walkaround money” was illegal at the time.
In 2004, Welch pled guilty to two counts of failure to file campaign reports—he was treasurer of his mother’s campaign at the time. He also pled guilty to a perjury count for filing a false affidavit—the one that certified that his campaign reports were complete and truthful. Welch, by the way, is a certified public accountant.
But Welch is the son of longtime Councilwoman Agnes Welch, and lineage hath its privileges. The seat is being handed down like a fiefdom to the first son of a feudal lord.
Nine council members: Nick D’Adamo (Second), Bobby Curran (Third), Sharon Green Middleton (Sixth), Belinda Conaway (Seventh), Ed Reisinger (10th), William H. Cole IV (11th), Carl Stokes (12th), Warren Branch (13th) and City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young voted to move Welch’s nomination for his mother’s seat to the full Council for action, and the council voted Welch in Monday evening.
Councilman Jim Kraft (First) nominated Abigail Breiseth, who helped found a neighborhood charter school; Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (14th) and Councilman Bill Henry (Fourth) also voted for other candidates.
The other candidates, besides Breiseth, were John T. Bullock, a political science professor at Towson University, and Michael Johnson, executive director of the Paul Robeson Institute, a nonprofit that works with disadvantaged youth. All of them have clean police and courts records.
After all of its fundraising scandals of the past few years, you would think the Baltimore City Council would try to upgrade its image, but no.
Given three outstanding alternatives to Business As Usual, they went for BAU. They chose the crony.
“Although Mr. Welch’s criminal past is well-documented, and much discussed, the fact of the matter is that he has long since paid his debt to society and should not continuously be penalized for his past lapses in judgment,” said Young in a formal statement.
That’s fine, Jack. I don’t think anyone wants to deny housing, or the opportunity to make a living, or any other fundamental right to Mr. Welch. But a seat in the city’s legislature? A high office of public trust? Yes, let’s deny him that, particularly since his crimes have to do with his political career.
Anyone remember Sheila Dixon? Helen Holton? Geez, it’s only been a few months.
I wish the Baltimore City Council would do the citizens of Baltimore the courtesy of nominating someone worthy of representing them, but it didn’t happen.
Maybe it’s time to consider throwing the bums out. There is an election coming up in the fall. Think about it.
By Jacqueline Watts