Baltimore voters in the city’s 1st District got a taste of the three council candidates running to represent them Thursday night when the contenders met for a debate ahead of what may be Baltimore’s most competitive City Council election.

Moderated by veteran journalist Jayne Miller, the forum touched on issues related to public safety, population loss and infrastructure. Candidates Mark Parker, Liam Davis and Joe Koehler — all running as Democrats — looked to draw on their vastly different strengths and experiences during the nearly 90-minute event, which was sponsored by a host of Southeast Baltimore neighborhood associations.

Parker, a bilingual pastor at the progressive Breath of God Lutheran Church in Highlandtown, touted his relationships and experience with the community, including its growing immigrant population. He and Davis, who is a Baltimore City Department of Transportation legislative affairs manager, have been closely competing for donations and endorsements; Parker clinched the coveted backing earlier this week from AFSCME Maryland Council 3, one of the state’s largest unions for public employees. And Koehler, a political newcomer and accountant, hopes to upset the two with relatively fewer endorsements and a smaller campaign bank account.

Koehler said his pessimism about the direction of Baltimore led him to pursue public office. He warned that, without more attention to critical problems including population loss, the city would “end up like Detroit” and go bankrupt.

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“That’s why I’m running,” he said. “I really want to turn it around.”

Davis and Parker struck a more hopeful tone about the state of the city, with both saying they were optimistic about its future.

The forum at times took on a feistier tone, particularly during a line of questioning about the Red Line, the proposed east-west transit line that Gov. Larry Hogan famously canceled during his time in office and that Gov. Wes Moore has pledged to reinvigorate.

Koehler said Moore is using the project for political grandstanding purposes.

“I understand that Wes Moore wants this to go through, that he wants to have something to put on his resume for when he runs for president,” Koehler said. “But honestly, we need to pump the brakes, we need to redo the federal study and make sure that’s practical, that we’re maximizing the ridership and that we actually have the money to do this.”

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“Anybody want to rebut that?” Miller asked.

“They gotta build the Red Line,” Davis replied, drawing cheers and applause from the crowd.

— Hallie Miller

Groups push governor on vetoes

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has, by our count, 933 decisions to make between now and May 28.

That’s the deadline for the governor to take action on the bills presented to him by state lawmakers, whether he chooses to veto them, sign them or allow them to become law without his signature.

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Advocates are pressing their case for the governor to veto some bills.

The Maryland Youth Justice Coalition gathered in Annapolis on Thursday to call on Moore to nix a bill making changes to the state’s juvenile justice system.

The bill would actually “directly harm kids, especially kids of color,” rather than help them, according to the coalition.

The juvenile justice bill was a major focus during the recent General Assembly session, and some of the provisions in the final version passed by lawmakers includes: expanding the crimes that children aged 10-12 can be arrested for to include carrying guns and stealing cars; giving courts the ability to extend probation for longer periods; and creating an oversight commission on juvenile justice.

Gov. Wes Moore and House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones sign bills earlier this month. (Wesley Lapointe/for the Baltimore Banner)

Moore appeared alongside lawmakers when they unveiled the first version of the bill. As it went through the legislative process, he said that he would sign the bill as long as it includes accountability for both youths and the adults who run the juvenile system.

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Republican leaders, meanwhile, are asking the Democratic governor to veto a bill that allows for government lawsuits against gun-makers, and another intended to promote offshore wind farms.

The Gun Industry Accountability Act would allow the attorney general or the legal offices of the state’s counties and Baltimore to file civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers when their products are used in crimes.

Top Republican delegates wrote to Moore on Friday saying the measure is “almost certainly” in violation of federal law and shifts the focus away from criminals who should be held accountable.

The wind power bill is “an incredibly generous financing package” intended to boost the prospects of offshore wind after one company withdrew a Maryland proposal, the Republicans wrote to the governor. Instead of rushing to help the industry, the state instead should “pause and review the viability and true costs and benefits of offshore wind,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association wants the governor to veto a bill that would allow registers of wills to post certain legal notices on a new central website, instead of in local newspapers. Those legal ads are a source of revenue for news organizations, and the press association warns the measure “will create a seismic change in the local media landscape that will decimate and potentially prompt the closure of local news outlets.”

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(Disclosure: The Baltimore Banner is a member of the press association but does not publish legal ads.)

Maryland lawmakers approved 1,053 bills and Moore signed 120 of them into law the day after the session ended.

— Pamela Wood

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