The College Democrats at Hopkins (HopDems) hosted newly elected Baltimore City Comptroller Bill Henry on Nov. 18 to discuss his goals and initiatives.
Henry previously served on the City Council, Biennial Audits Oversight Commission and the Budget & Appropriations, Housing & Urban Affairs, Health and Labor committees. Henry is also a Hopkins alum who graduated with concentrations in urban studies and public policy.
Henry was elected as comptroller in the Democratic primary over Joan Pratt — who served in the role for 25 years — with 54% of the vote. His platform centered on advocating for the public’s interests and reforming the budgeting process to be more transparent and accountable to city voters.
During the HopDems event, he reflected on his approach to campaigning. Henry noted that voters were mobilized by his message of bringing change by electing new representatives.
“[It] was a really easy message to give people at the doors, ‘Hey, would you like Baltimore City to better? Well, you should elect different people,‘” he said. “You can re-elect the person who has been there for 25 years or you can try something new.”
According to Henry, Pratt had not performed effectively in the role because she refused to take action.
“I can just be tactful and say the current comptroller, my predecessor, didn’t really see being proactive as an important part of her job. She saw herself more as a technician. She saw herself as an administrator,” he said.
Henry emphasized how he is going to act differently than his predecessor and be more hands-on in his work as well as take more initiative to enact oversight over the city agencies.
“I’m just taking a very different approach... The predominant responsibility of the comptroller is to make sure the people are being served well by how we’re doing things,“ he said.
Henry detailed that the responsibilities of the comptroller include promoting financial accountability and ensuring the proper management of funds.
“[The comptroller] is the watchdog. The purpose of that job is to keep an eye on the mayor, make sure the mayor is doing good deals on behalf of the whole city not just for the mayor... and keep an eye on city agencies, make sure that they are being as effective and efficient as possible with city funds,” he said.
He proceeded to share how his involvement in community activism began when he was an undergraduate student at Hopkins working to mediate issues between the University and neighboring homes and businesses. He placed emphasis on the critical role the University plays in the Baltimore community.
“For all of the perfectly good reasons to be annoyed at the Johns Hopkins administration from time to time, one thing to be happy about is they promote investment in their area and they help to encourage people to invest more there,“ he said.
Junior and HopDems board member Paul Lam, who helped organize the event, explained why he thought it was important to host Henry in email to The News-Letter.
“This year, HopDems really wanted to give students more exposure to local politics, especially because it was an important election year in Baltimore City,” Lam wrote.
Lam also reflected on Henry as a speaker and his optimistic discussion of his plans.
“Councilman Henry was extremely friendly and open and he spoke a lot about his future plans for Baltimore City after he takes office as comptroller,” he wrote. “It seemed like he really believed change was going to come to Baltimore City, and I am excited to see what happens.”
In an email to The News-Letter, junior Riya Jain, who attended the event, highlighted that she found Henry’s views on politics and progress interesting.
“I enjoyed hearing his story as to why he got into politics,“ she said. “I thought it was really insightful that he took a practical approach to change making. Instead of setting his sights on changing the world, he decided to work on his community.”
Chris H. Park, the vice president of HopDems, is a News & Features Editor for The News-Letter. He did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.