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Harris Jones & Malone: Spotlight on Councilman John T. Bullock

Baltimore City Councilman John T. Bullock, Chair of the Housing & Urban Affairs Committee (Photo: bullockforcouncil.com)

In November 2016, eight new members were elected to join the Baltimore City Council. Being that the City Council is made up of fifteen members including the City Council President, the landscape of Baltimore City politics was set to change significantly. With the highest rate of turnover since 2003, some of the City’s longest tenured councilmembers, such as Robert Curran and Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, will conclude their decades-long service on the Baltimore City Council. In their stead, a host of invigorated newcomers will be eager to set their mark and affirm the public’s trust in their leadership abilities. Among the newly elected council members, John Bullock stands out as an established community advocate and political aficionado. As an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Towson University and former President of the Evergreen Protective Association, Mr. Bullock is excited to begin his new role as a public servant to the citizens of Baltimore City. Following his victory in November’s general, I took the opportunity to talk with Councilman Bullock about the upcoming general election and what he hopes to accomplish representing the City’s 9th District.

“I went from West Philadelphia to West Baltimore,” says Councilman Bullock when describing his background. Originally born and raised in Philadelphia, Councilman Bullock witnessed firsthand many of the issues that plague urban communities across the Country. It was these early life experiences which helped stimulate Councilman Bullock’s fascination with policy making. Speaking directly of his upbringing, Bullock says, “I saw friends and family struggle with crime, incarceration, unemployment, and addiction. I always wondered why my neighborhood looked the way it did. I saw that part of the reason is because its people like me in the community who weren’t at the table. That’s why I chose to study political science.” Hoping to gain more insight into the political process and how urban communities are affected by politics, Bullock accepted a full scholarship to study political science at Hampton University. Following college, Councilman Bullock would attain his Master’s in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Doctorate in Government & Politics from the University of Maryland-College Park. While Bullock gained superior knowledge of the political process while attending school, he recalls that he first began to learn about the world of politics and his community from his parents.

As early as six years old, Councilman Bullock remembers watching the news with his father and witnessing historic events such as Jessie Jackson’s presidential run and Wilson Goode’s election as the first Black mayor of Philadelphia. In addition to his parents’ political awareness, Councilman Bullock’s mother and father were active participants in his community growing up. Councilman Bullock’s mother was a member of the neighborhood association, volunteered at church, and also volunteered in local schools. Despite neither of his parents graduating from college, Councilman Bullock credits his parents with encouraging him to achieve academically and helping him become the man he is today. Speaking of his parents’ influence, Councilman Bullock says, “You think about what your parents do and how they really shape you. You know I’ve always been involved in the community from seeing them model and now I’m following that too.” Thus, while attending school and upon finishing his academic studies, Bullock devoted his professional career to public service.

While studying to attain his Master’s degree and Ph.D., Councilman Bullock served in various capacities both in the District of Columbia and Baltimore City governments while becoming a college professor. In the District of Columbia, Councilman Bullock served as Planner in the Department of Transportation an
d in the Executive Office of the Mayor as a Capital City Fellow. During this time, Councilman Bullock met his wife Jacquelyn who expressed interest in moving to Baltimore to teach in public schools. As a result,
Councilman Bullock decided to move to Baltimore and served as a Baltimore City Mayoral Fellow. As a Mayoral Fellow, Councilman Bullock worked with the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development in the Office of the Commissioner. Despite being new to Baltimore, Councilman Bullock continued to build on the foundation established by his parents and quickly became his neighborhood’s association president, joined several boards of directors, and became a member of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee. Councilman Bullock began teaching political science, urban government and politics, metropolitan studies and community development and organizing at Towson University. While he enjoyed influencing the minds of young college students, Bullock had a growing desire to do more to change living conditions in the city he now called home. As a result, he decided to run for Baltimore’s 9th District council seat.

Well-versed in city planning, land use, housing, and community development, Councilman Bullock is intent on
using his expertise in these areas to play a constructive role when working with his colleagues on the Council. Despite the record turnover the City Council faces, Councilman Bullock is encouraged that he and his coworkers will be effective advocates and point Baltimore City in the right direction. In the lead up to being elected in November, Councilman Bullock worked on forging stronger relationships with both expected and remaining Councilmembers. In speaking with Councilman Bullock prior to taking office, he mentioned the importance of forming relationships with his colleagues. “We are beginning to have those kind of conversations. It’s good and not even so much about policy at this point but just in terms of meeting each other and learning about each other’s backgrounds. I just want to make sure I really keep my ears to the ground for the most important issues, so when it is time to take office, we’ll be able to have an agenda that is actually backed by the people and also getting a hand on citywide issues.”

Since taking office in December, Councilman Bullock has had his sights set on improving the quality of life for constituents in his community. Though not necessarily a glamorous endeavor, Councilman Bullock plans to focus his initial efforts on reducing the amount of litter, dumping, and trash related concerns throughout the City. According to Councilman Bullock, residents regularly complained of issues with trash and litter during his campaign. “Some people think of that as a low level issue but its very important from the environmental aspect. Litter in the streets, waterways. Dumping in alleys, streets, and vacant lots. In the 9th District, there are so many challenges with vacant and abandoned houses and neighborhoods have really been neglected. I really want to be great in terms of responding to concerns and also cleaning up this environment. No one should be around trash whether it’s a senior or a young person.” Councilman Bullock hopes that by breaking the culture of littering and eliminating the build up of trash, individuals will learn to have a more positive attitude regarding their community and living conditions. Initiatives like this, he hopes, will lead to less acts of violence and more positive community relations. Beyond Councilman Bullock’s legislative priorities for 2017, he remains excited to raise his sons Thomas and George in Baltimore City. Through hard work and dedication on the Council, Councilman Bullock hopes to provide his children with the same glowing example of community involvement his parents provided for him.

By:  Kenneth N. Harris, Jr.


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