Council unchanged in low turnout

By Justin Boron

Riverdale voters on Tuesday retained the membership of a City Council largely characterized by infighting and a cloud of discrimination claims that led to a Justice Department investigation in 2004. But despite its shaky past, Councilman Rick Scoggins said the vote signaled that the public is confident the council can stride toward a brighter horizon.

With less than 8 percent of registered voters turning out, Scoggins overcame his opponent Cynthia Stamps-Jones 312-263. Councilwoman Wanda Wallace beat Stephanie Campbell 308-268.

Although most stayed away from the polls, some felt obligated to vote because of recent events in the city.

Rosemary Brown, 44, a bank employee, wouldn't reveal for whom she voted but said she showed up to ensure the city was spending her money properly.

Jerry Croutch, 45, a federal government employee, said the “bickering” on the council compelled him to turn out for the election.

“I think it needs to stop,” he said. “There needs to be some new blood.”

Croutch voted against Scoggins but for Wallace, who he said seemed “above the bickering.”

For the losing candidates, unity was also an important issue.

Campaigning Monday through bronchitis, Campbell said allaying tension on the council would have been an early goal of hers.

“First and foremost you've got to come together,” she said. “I will work with anybody I have to get the city going full steam ahead.”

Stamps-Jones said if she was elected, she would like to shore up the city's budget concerns and have a full citizen-input session to determine her ultimate direction.

She also said the citizens are ready to put Riverdale's problems behind it and move forward.

“The city is longing for that,” she said, adding division on the council needed to come to an end. “There is no need for there to be a wall between us.”

Scoggins said he is hoping for better relations on the council.

But even during the final hours of the race, a faction still appeared clear.

Hours before the results were released, Scoggins and Stamps-Jones led their campaign teams in the political sign waving on opposite sides of the street.

Both sides flagged down drivers, urging them to vote.

But Scoggins got some help from Campbell whose win would have bumped off Wallace. Scoggins and Wallace have squabbled on the council before and in divisive votes usually end up on opposite sides.

Asked if Campbell and he would be part of the faction on the council, Scoggins said, “Things change, this is 2005, there's a new togetherness.”