Since Daryl Jones began his jail sentence in January following his tax evasion conviction, District 1 Anne Arundel County residents have been without a County Council representative.
The remaining six members of the council have repeatedly tried, but failed, to agree on a replacement, creating angst among residents who worry that their concerns will not be heard as the council begins discussions on key issues.
“We have no representation. What’s with that?” said Jim Thomas, a retired Army colonel and Hanover resident. “I think this whole political game, it all seems to put the needs of the people on the back seat. What’s a community if it doesn’t have leadership? I just think things are crazy.”
The council has gone through more than 100 rounds of votes but has been deadlocked, with three council members supporting Severn resident Peter Smith, and three supporting Mike Wagner of Glen Burnie. The council is scheduled to meet again Monday.
Delegate Pam Beidle (D-Linthicum), who preceded Jones on the council, said she was “embarrassed” by the whole affair.
“We could have had a councilman almost a month ago, and they wouldn’t be wasting energy on this,” Beidle said. “They could be focused on other things.”
Beidle said her biggest concern is that the council will soon enter the often sticky negotiations involving the county budget. She said she would push for a new councilman to be selected even if Jones succeeded in legal efforts to return to his seat once he is released from jail in June.
“Regardless [of what happens with Jones' motion], we're without a councilman,” Beidle said. “That means that through budget season, we’re going to be without representation. I have a real problem with that.”
Many residents placed blame not with the council, but with the county charter, which does not outline a specific procedure for breaking a tie vote, or any real mechanism to force the county to reach an agreement.
“You'd think that since they're at a standstill, they'd let the people of [the] district vote,” Jenny Campbell of Severn said.
Among residents of the district, there is support for both Smith and Wagner. For some, they respect Wagner’s previous time as a state senator and view him as a well-regarded businessman.
Others, however, saw Smith as a better option because of his youth, military service and desire to seek reelection if he is selected.
“Peter Smith should be given a shot. The guy seems to be very well-respected,” Thomas said. “The old boy network has got to stop. I have nothing against Wagner. He’s been around a while, but just because he’s the owner of Michael’s Eighth Avenue and has been a state senator, that’s no reason to ride that coattail.”
Thomas and Beidle both pointed to the issue of maintaining diversity, as Smith and Jones are black.
“The African-American community will be very disheartened if [the council] ignores this guy,” Thomas said.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the party affiliation of Delegate Pam Beidle. She is a Democrat.