Welch under fire in challenged ninth district
William “Pete” Welch has represented the 9th district, which includes West and Southwest Baltimore, on the city council since January 2011. He was appointed to finish the term of his mother, Agnes Welch, who retired in December 2010 after nearly three decades.
Two challengers – John Bullock and Jerrell Bratcher – accuse Welch of not doing enough for the district. There are three other challengers in the April 26 Democratic Primary; Nathaniel Anderson, J.B. Kenney and Shawn Key.
Bullock says there are “innumerable” problems in the district, which has some of the poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore. Those problems include vacant, blighted properties and high unemployment.
“If you look at those vacant houses, we look at trash; we look at rats,” he says. “We look at services that are unreliable.”
Bratcher mentions many of the same problems as Bullock and adds public safety and neighborhood revitalization to the list. He also says there is no incentive for small businesses in the district.
“There are a lot of small businesses in the ninth district,” Bratcher says. “But as soon as many of them open; they are closing their doors because they are not supported.”
Both men say Welch is not doing his job.
“We have not had a voice. We have not had an advocate. We have not had representation,” Bratcher says adding that the district has not had anyone “speaking and fighting [for] and working and communicating with us.”
Bullock says there is not a whole lot to point to when it comes to what Welch has done for the 9th.
“He’s very famous, or infamous, for doing resolutions,” Bullock says. “They feel good, but it’s not necessarily the substance of anything happening.”
He’s referring to resolutions congratulating citizens for reaching milestones like graduating high school or winning a sports championship.
The Welch Record
Welch has proposed 28 laws during his tenure, according to the city council website. The majority of them deal with zoning. He also has called for committee hearings to push issues. For example, he’s pushing for the city to consider a park for dirt bike riders who currently ride their bikes on the streets illegally.
But The Sun reported last year he missed 32 percent of his committee votes. That’s equal to more than 100 votes.
Welch says the zoning bills he sponsored help to create affordable housing in the district. He also says he helped start a culinary training program at St. Mark’s Institutional Baptist Church in Midtown Edmondson.
At a recent candidate forum at the Black Cherry Puppet Theatre in Hollins Market, Welch said that his challengers have not done any work in the district.
“I’ve been in office for almost six years and I’ve watched people come every four years to the table,” Welch told the crowd. “They have these wonderful ideas but then you never see them again.”
He called that “a statement of fact.”
“Sitting on a board, doesn’t really constitute doing anything or being the president of an organization when you can’t really cite any projects that you were involved in,” he says adding that he hasn’t “seen the things or heard of the things [Bullock or Bratcher] have done.”
Challengers in the Community
Both Bullock and Bratcher say they have been working in the district too.
Bullock, a past neighborhood association president, points to his seat on the board of the Empowerment Academy charter school and his position as board president of the Coppin Heights Community Development Association, where he is overseeing the rehab of the old Hebrew Orphanage Asylum.
“[It’s] a $14 million project to renovate a historic building and use it for a center for health care and healthy living; that’s some of the stuff I’m doing,” he says.
Bratcher says he has been volunteering heavily in the district since middle school. And he adds he advocated for a school safety plan and helped found the Monarch Academy charter school.
“When you talk about safer schools and safer communities, I helped to make that happen,” says Bratcher. “Not as a councilman, but as a regular citizen.”
The Money Race
Welch reported recently having more than $45,000 on hand, the most of any candidate running. Most of the money was raised last year.
Bullock reported having less than $37,000 on hand, but he has fundraised the most in the recent reporting period. He also has more endorsements than anyone; including from Maryland Working Families, SEIU and the Sierra Club. Welch’s sole endorsement has come from the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police.
Bratcher has reported having just more than $900 in the bank.
Nathaniel Anderson and Shawn Key said in affidavits they do not plan on raising or spending more than $1,000.
J.B. Kenney has not filed an updated finance disclosure form.