August 30, 2011

City incumbents show little interest in business voter guide

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Baltimore-area businesses are trying to stir up interest in the low-voltage city election with a special voter guide for employees distributed by e-mail and website. But most of the incumbents are showing as little interest in the get-out-the-vote effort as the voters themselves.

Baltimore's Washington monument

Baltimore's Washington monument

The Voter Information Project, paid for by the Prosperity Fund of BIPac, the national Business-Industry Political Action Committee, has put together a 38-page voter guide covering all the city races.

Among the no-shows responding to questions in the guide are Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Jack Young and two-thirds of the 14 council incumbents.

UPDATED: After the article was posted, Council President Young wrote in an e-mail, “I didn’t receive a questionnaire. I have checked my e-mails and I have not received it. I have responded to every one that I have received with the exception of one and that was because of transmittal problems.”

The leaders of the Voter Information Project are not upset that few candidates actually responded to their questions on city property taxes and transportation funding.

“I guess I could have gone on her website” to get some answers from the mayor, said lobbyist Chris Constello of the Public Sector Consulting Group, who coordinates the project. “But I didn’t want to do that without her permission.”

“They’ve got stacks of all these [questionnaires],” said Jeffrie Zellmer of the Maryland Retailers Association, who heads the steering committee. The principal objective is to get “completely non-partisan” information to employees through their employers.

“We’re very supportive of anything that encourages people to vote,” Costello said. “We think they’re going to vote their best interest.”

Zellmer said, “There have been studies done and one of the biggest non-voting entities is middle management,” because they are too busy to vote.

The business group has been doing the guides since 2006. In last year’s election, Costello said they got one million hits on the website.

Costello emphasized that despite being part of Prosperity.org, the group has no connection to Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group that includes many members and organizers of the Tea Party.

Other members of the Maryland steering committee include the National Federation of Independent Business, the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association, the Restaurant Association of Maryland, the Associated Builders & Contractors, GEICO, Maryland Business for Responsive Government and the Maryland Industrial Technology Alliance.

The only whiff of pro-business advocacy in the guide is a one-page statement on issues the businesses support. They include less government intrusion in the energy marketplace, more competition and fewer mandates for health insurance, controls on frivolous lawsuits, better transportation, and a tax policy that favors private sector job growth over higher taxes.

Many of the candidates for mayor and council favor lower property taxes in the city and more funding for mass transit.

The League of Women Voters of Baltimore City has also produced an election guide for the primary. (Baltimore has no elected Republican officials in any office.)

All the major candidates and all the incumbents except for one council member responded to the five questions on the league’s guide, including questions on crime, housing, jobs, school buildings and revenues.

—Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

  • I have interest in any organization that takes the time to reach out to me.  I will be at The League of Women Voters of Baltimore City “Candidate Forum” on Sept. 7th.  More info can be found here: http://avbforbcc.com/events.html