“This council needs someone like Marc Elrich to bring things like this onto the agenda,” said Council member Hans Riemer (D-At-Large).
The wage bill, which raises the legal minimum to $11.50 an hour by 2017, is one half of the remarkable legislative double play he completed on Nov. 26. The council also formally endorsed plans for a bus rapid transit network he’d been championing for years.
And yet for all the accolades, Elrich (D-At-Large) remains an outlier. His name was missing when the council announced its 2014 leadership this week, electing Craig Rice (D-Upcounty) and George Leventhal (D-At-Large) the new president and vice-president respectively.
The posts have no real power. The president shapes the weekly legislative agenda — although items can be placed with five votes — and is often the public face and voice of the council. There is also some behind-the-scenes care-and-feeding of members to keep the institution running smoothly. Beyond that, the jobs are strictly ceremonial. Per tradition, Rice, who served as vice president this year, was in line to become president.
But the selections were a reminder that while colleagues may admire Elrich’s passion and drive, they are leery of placing him on a track to the council presidency, where those same qualities could morph, they fear, into stubbornness and abrasiveness. While Rice was new to the council in 2010, Elrich has been there since 2006 without serving in any leadership capacity. Leventhal is headed for his second go-around, having been vice president in 2005 and president in 2006.
Elrich also remains the senior-most member of the council who does not chair a committee.
“Sometimes you have to ruffle feathers to make an impact,” said Riemer. Elrich has ruffled many and plucked a few.
For his own part, Elrich expressed ambivalence Thursday, first saying he was interested in becoming vice president, but adding, “By the time I was interested, the asking had already been done. ...That stuff is not important to me.”