In Baltimore, DSA Member Ian Schlakman Hopes to Turn the City Council Green

by Alec Shea

ed. note: in the original published version of the article, Ian Schlakman's name was misspelled.Ā 

It is rare for third party candidates, even those that end up winning, to outdo their opponents in terms of fundraising. In Baltimoreā€™s 12th City Council District, Green Party candidate and DSA member Ian Schlakman has achieved that rare milestone; he raised almost $10,000 more than his Democratic opponent, Robert Stokes. Schlakman is an IT worker who runs a small company that manages software systems in Baltimore schools. A fixture in Baltimoreā€™s organizing community, he has succeeded in uniting a number of the groups on Baltimoreā€™s left in support of a campaign based on issues of housing, anti-racism, and workersā€™ rights.

Talking to him today, it isnā€™t obvious that concerns about American foreign policy first drew Schlakman into left-wing activism. He speaks about local issues like housing policy and gentrification in specific and precise terms. His campaign is based on concerns that local Democratic politicians are failing to provide Baltimoreā€™s communities with the services they need more than on concerns about cybersecurity or US actions abroad. A particular focus for Schlakman, and one that he says has had particular resonance with voters in his district, is housing. His campaign has put forward aĀ planĀ that includes measures like the creation of a system of rent control and guaranteeing housing to Baltimore residents as a human right. Knocking on doors and canvassing, Schlakman says that voters in the 12th district are realizing that ā€œelecting progressive Democrats who go to City Hall and end up being loyal to the big developers isnā€™t working.ā€

Schlakman is running to replace retiring City Councilor Carl Stokes. His opponent, Robert Stokes (no relation), has long been the current City Councilmanā€™s Director of Constituent Services. He says that constituent services in the district have been so poor that his opponentā€™s history has been more of an opportunity than a liability. According to Schlakman, voters in the district who have complained about utility problems or cockroach infestations have received no response from their city councilman. Those failures, he believes, have made room for a third-party candidate. He says ā€œin a lot of my district, all I have to say is ā€˜Iā€™m running against Robert Stokes,ā€™ and people will say that theyā€™re willing to vote for me.ā€ Housing and constituent services are far from the only issues important in the district and Schlakman has also focused his campaign on issues of police reform and the Fight for $15.

Schlakman first got involved in politics when he supported Dennis Kucinich and (reluctantly) Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign. Shortly after that, he left the Democratic Party. Since choosing to leave the Democrats, Schlakmanā€™s activism has been anything but sectarian. A co-chair of the Maryland Green Party, he has been active in the Fight for $15 and worked with a number of other groups and parties on different issues. That non-sectarian approach, which has included organizing with everyone from progressive Democrats to members of the Pirate Party to Marxist-Leninists organizing in Baltimore appears to have paid off. Schlakmanā€™s campaign has earned the support of Baltimoreā€™s DSA chapter and the local chapter of Socialist Alternative. In his campaign, Schlakman is hoping to replicate the successes of SA member Kshama Sawant, who won election to Seattleā€™s City Council where she was a vital player in the passage of a law instituting a $15 minimum hourly wage.

The election for the City Council seat in Baltimoreā€™s 12th district is likely not the one that will attract the most national attention on November 8th. It will, however, be a test of the electoral strength of Baltimoreā€™s organized left and the Green Partyā€™s potential as a political force at the municipal level. Ian Schlakman, fresh off a lead in fundraising, feels confident that his straightforward socialist policies might just propel him to victory.

Alec Shea is a YDS member and junior at Wesleyan University, where he studies History, Economics, and French.

Showing 3 reactions

commented 2016-10-25 12:25:59 -0400 · Flag
Good to hear!
commented 2016-10-20 05:17:13 -0400 · Flag
Tambien coaliciones con green ecologistas. Somos un partido de Centro progresista y una izquierda moderada Que una fuerzas con El Centro derecha y liberal.
commented 2016-10-20 05:12:42 -0400 · Flag
Espero y deseo Que LA social democracia Como LA democristia se unan porque una gran coalicion acaba con El marchismo leninismo y populismo por ello animo a PP-PSOE a que Hagan fuerzas gran coalicion y acabar con El racismo y El populismo.

Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump

February 17, 2017 · $20.00 USD

Location: MayDay Space
Where:Ā 176 St Nicholas Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
When: Friday, February 17th at 6 PM to Sunday, February 19th to 4 PM

Political Context

This Presidentsā€™ Day weekend, the Young Democratic Socialists will gather for our annual winter conference in New York City titled Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump. We did not choose the name lightly. In doing so, we call for leftists to collectively confront Trump and Trumpism at every possible opportunity. When a Trump administration attempts mass deportations of undocumented workers, when it attempts to register Muslims or roll back worker protections, when it attempts to take away reproductive, LGTBQ, civil, or any other rights, then we must militantly resist to prevent such measures.

To succeed, this must be explicitly socialist resistance. With liberalism having repeatedly shown itself incapable of combating the far right, it is now the time for socialists to openly declare our place in building the mass, multi-racial, and working class movement necessary for defeating the Trump administration. In this struggle, millennials will play an outsized role. That is why this conference comes at such a critical timeā€”together we must create spaces for democratic and strategic discussion, spaces to gain organizing skills, and most importantly, spaces to form networks of young radicals for the future struggles ahead. These spaces will only come together if socialists come together. Join us this Presidents Weekend and help ignite the movement to defeat the Trump administration, continue the political revolution, and build the socialist alternative.

Key Deadlines

  • January 8th: Travel Scholarship for Air Travel (for application see below)
  • January 15th: Travel Scholarship for Non-Air Travel (ex: bus, car, train, etc.)
  • February 3rd: Early Bird Registration Ends - Tickets prices go up from $5 to $10
  • February 10th: Free Housing - We have limited free housing. You need to first register, then you will be sent an application for free housing.

Apply for a travel scholarship here! (First Deadline January 8, 2017)

Check out the working program (subject to change)