Charging that the County Council has become a "closed clubhouse" dominated by Democrats, council candidate John J. Klocko III, a Republican from Crofton, yesterday called for a three-term limit for the office.
"The councilmen are our lowest political officeholders. These are intended to be citizen legislators, not career politicians," said Klocko, who is running against three-term incumbent Virginia Claggett D-West River.
"A limit on terms would breathe new life into the council. There's no debate over issues, no opposition. The council is a closed clubhouse now, and it's been operating like that for a while," Klocko said.
Klocko said, if elected, he would introduce legislation for a charter amendment to limit terms that could go to referendum in the next scheduled general election in Nov. 1992.
Along with the term-limitation proposal, Klocko, a lawyer, called for: * Sweeping reforms to open up the budget process. These would involve more detailed and clearly stated public notices for new legislation and the abolition of the practice of submitting a "supplemental budget" after the County Council finishes public hearings on the annual budget.
* An end to the county's early retirement plan that allows senior officials --including council members -- to retire with full benefits at age 50.
* New legislation to regulate the dumping of untreated sewage and sludge on farmland.
AMENDMENT FOUGHT BY ENVIRONMENTALISTS
A coalition of environmental watchdogs has joined the opposition to a proposed charter amendment that would limit property tax revenues.
The measure, on the Nov. 6 ballot, would cap growth in property taxes to 4.5 percent or even lower, depending on the inflation rate.
Budget officials estimate that the proposal would cost the county more than $8 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1, assuming a stable tax rate.
"We figure it will save (the average household) 16 cents a day," Mary Rosso, president of the Maryland Waste Coalition, said Thursday. "Is it worth 16 cents a day to throw away the environment?"
Rosso was joined at a press conference overlooking sewage-fouled Marley Creek by representatives of Save Our Streams, the Sierra Club and Fairness to All County Taxpayers, a group organized to fight the amendment.
They warned that long-standing programs would be threatened along with hard-won environmental initiatives. These include the effort to combat gypsy moths, the fire department's hazardous materials unit, recycling and school storm water management.
People who expect the tax measure to stop development in the county are only fooling themselves, said John Regional of Clean Water Action.
"The more I hear about this, the more afraid I get that that kind of shallow thinking will end up in one more degraded creek," he said.
By limiting total revenues, the county would have to lower the property tax rate and lose potential money expected from planned growth. Eventually, the quality of services will suffer as new residents move in and the county is limited in its ability to tax them, said former state Delegate Robert Kramer, who served as the county's first drug policy coordinator.
"Does anyone think they're legally going to be able to stop the 10,000 to 15,000 new homes coming to West County?" he asked.
"You'll never stop growth, but you can bring it under control," said Robert Schaeffer, president of Anne Arundel Taxpayers for Responsive Government, the group behind the tax limit. "If you're a fiscally conservative county, then the developers won't see you as an easy mark.
They won't come rolling in, because they they don't have anybody in their hip pocket."
He repeated the argument that the county can absorb an $8 million (1.3 percent of the current $617 million operating budget) loss on expected revenues without hurting vital services.
"Our greatest success in this thing has been in changing the psychology of spending," he said.
The local anti-tax movement will get a boost Oct. 26, when National Taxpayers Action Day kicks off in Annapolis. The protest, scheduled to spread nationwide the following day, is sponsored by the Coalition Against Government Waste, a Washington-based group headed by Alan Keyes, a former State Department official in the Reagan administration who ran for the U.S.
Senate from Maryland in 1988.
Meanwhile, Schaeffer will debate County Councilwoman Carole Baker, D-Severna Park, Thursday night at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church on Benfield Boulevard.