Nine candidates vie for city office
All incumbents seek re-election
Greenbelt's City Council race officially began Tuesday with nine contenders vying for seven seats.
Monday marked the filing deadline for candidates. The five incumbents — Judith "J" Davis, Rodney Roberts, Edward Putens, Konrad Herling and Leta Mach — are joined by four challengers Emmett Jordan, Che Sayles, Silke Pope and Kelly Ivy.
Jordan and Sayles are the first black candidates to run in the city election since 1993. In 71 years, there has not been minority representation on the council. The last black candidate to run unsuccessfully for city office was in 1979, and a second withdrew from the 1993 city elections.
Following a request for an investigation in January 2008 from Mel Franklin, president of the Greater Marlboro Democratic Club, the American Civil Liberties Union found that the Springhill Lake area, which is largely minority, had the lowest voter turnout in the city. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 21,186, with 41.3 percent black residents, 39.3 percent white residents, 12.1 percent Asian and 6.4 percent Hispanic. Greenbelt West, which includes the Empirian Village area, has a population of 5,536, according to a document from Celia Craze, Greenbelt's director of community planning and development.
In May, the current council made an effort to increase the possibility of diversity by increasing the number of council seats from the current five to seven, dividing the city into five voting precincts instead of the current four and adding early voting to the city charter. The voting precinct change splits precinct 13, which previously included Greenbelt East, in order to reduce the lines during voting.
"The lines were horrendous," said Mayor Judith Davis. "…The elections before, the lines were disorganized and it was difficult to get everyone processed."
The new council will handle important issues like the construction of the new Greenbelt Middle School, which is currently slated for completion in fall 2011, bus route cuts in Greenbelt, which will likely begin in 2010, and next year's real property reassessment, which updates property values every three years in Maryland.
"The real property reassessment will more likely than not set new values on properties and the values might be lower than they were assessed last time," Davis said.
In order to be voted to the City Council, each candidate must gain 40 percent of all votes filed, and the highest vote-getter will become mayor.
At the last election in 2007, Davis and Roberts were separated by only 20 votes to become mayor. In 2005, the race for mayor was also between Davis and Roberts who were separated by 49 votes.
The last day for Greenbelt residents to register to vote is on Oct. 5, and the first day to receive an absentee ballot is Oct. 14.
Early voting begins in Greenbelt East on Oct. 17 and 18, in center city at the Municipal building between Oct. 19 and Oct. 30, and in Greenbelt West Oct. 24 and 25. Early voting is new, but absentee ballots are not.
City council candidates will be meeting for four candidates' nights on Oct. 1, 6, 13 and 15. Residents are welcome to meet with the potential candidates and ask questions.
"Candidates' nights can be revealing, but I think a candidate's history in the city is also a good indicator of how they will serve in the future," said Jordan.