While some politicians have political aspirations from an early age, many others gain interest in governing and enter the political realm after assessing the conditions of the community surrounding them. Recognizing there were basic improvements that needed to be made across Baltimore City, last year, Ryan Dorsey decided to run for the Baltimore City Council’s 3rd District seat. Despite never aspiring to hold political office, Councilman Ryan Dorsey was elected in November 2016 with the goal of advancing progressive policies benefitting Baltimore City residents. I had the chance to sit with Councilman Dorsey to learn about his background and how he plans to serve the Citizens of Baltimore City in the coming years.
Councilman Ryan Dorsey was born and raised in the Belair-Edison and Mayfield neighborhoods of Northeast Baltimore City. Growing up, Councilman Dorsey learned the value of hard work by watching his parents and grandparents operate his family’s business, Soundscape. Although Councilman Dorsey grew up in a hardworking environment, his interactions with government and politics were limited during his youth. Instead, Councilman Dorsey was drawn to art and the role it plays in influencing culture and society. Fostering his fascination with art and music, Councilman Dorsey attended the Baltimore School of the Arts where he studied violin. After graduating from high school, Councilman Dorsey would go on to study Music Composition at the Peabody Conservatory. Following his graduation from the Peabody Conservatory, he would follow in his family’ footsteps and would become a full-time project manager at Soundscape.
Although Councilman Dorsey does not have a background in politics or community organizing, growing up in Baltimore City he was well aware of the challenges the City faces. According to Councilman Dorsey, through the years he became personally disturbed by the City’s lack of progressive policies and the quality of governing. Councilman Dorsey also grew concerned that everyday working citizens were being underrepresented amongst the Council members. Believing that the City could benefit from having someone with little ties to political establishments on the Council, Councilman Dorsey decided to seek office in Baltimore City’s 3rd District. Speaking of his role on the council and how he relates to many of his constituents, Councilman Dorsey stated, “I’m just one like everybody else. I didn’t come from a background in a whole lot of community service. I don’t come from a background in government. I’m not an activist. I was just like everybody else. And that’s the kind of person I just didn’t see in government. A real life everyday person.”
Another driving force behind Councilman Dorsey’s desire to join the City Council was his desire to foster the relationship between the arts community and city government. Speaking of the importance of intertwining the arts and government, Councilman Dorsey explained, “Any representation of people without arts and culture as a part is missing something that makes us who we are as a people and individuals. We can’t separate art from humanity.” After winning his bid for elected office in November, Councilman Dorsey plans to unite city leaders with the arts community with the hope that, working together, they can advocate for newer and more progressive policies.
Like many of the newer Baltimore City Council members, Councilman Dorsey understands that there is a drastic learning curve awaiting him. However, despite his lack of experience, he fully recognizes that many of the City’s problems are interconnected. Speaking of how he and his colleagues can help facilitate change throughout the City, Councilman Dorsey explained, “It takes people seriously thinking about a bigger plan and a broader perspective. You can’t always go out here and say you’re here to fix a bunch of different issues at once. What you can do is find commonality amongst them.” As a result, Councilman Dorsey’s early focus will be on assessing basic living conditions and determining the root causes for disparities amongst them. These basic living conditions include equitable housing, employment, transportation, public health, public safety, and education. Moreover, Councilman Dorsey is excited to have an influx of new members joining the council who share similar goals.
In addition to focusing on policy issues in City Hall, Councilman Dorsey also recognizes how important the politics of public office can be. Councilman Dorsey has been steadfastly working with his colleagues and external stakeholders to form solid and fruitful relationships. Ultimately, his goal is to have everyone at the table together working towards solutions that are inclusive and supported by Baltimore City communities. “It’s all about relationships and understanding what other peoples’ interests are and what kind of partners they’re looking for,” says Councilman Dorsey. A little over a month into his first term, Councilman Dorsey is confident he and his colleagues are headed in the right direction. In his own words, “With the volume of intelligent people we have in Baltimore City, we have people with ideas and with enough energy to further good policy. Together we can move things forward.” It will be exciting to see what progress Councilman Dorsey and his colleagues can make for Baltimore City communities going forward. We expect Councilman Dorsey to remain an outspoken and hardworking member on the Council and remain hopeful he will help lead a resurgence in Baltimore City communities.
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