GOP brings change to council Bipartisan politics new to Baltimore Co.

November 12, 1990|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly reported that the Baltimore County Council has never included more than two Republicans. In fact, the first County Council elected in January 1957 had four Republicans.

* The Sun regrets the errors

In a brief and quiet ceremony in the Baltimore County Courthouse next month, an unprecedented event will take place -- three Republicans will be sworn in as County Council members.

Douglas Riley, William A. Howard IV and Berchie Lee Manley will be entering a courthouse where there has never been more than two GOP council members serving at the same time.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Joining them will be Roger B. Hayden, who will be only the second Republican county executive in the county's history. The first, Spiro T. Agnew, was elected in 1962.

The Democrats will still have a four-member majority on the council. But in a county historically dominated by Democrats, bipartisan politics is something new.

The arrival of three Republican legislators has many wondering how well the council -- which must pass a budget, establish zoning regulations and approve all major contracts -- will work together.

"This is a council where each member could be pulling in different directions, each one could be going its own way," said Donald P. Hutchinson, a former county executive.

Two Democrats, Don Mason of the 7th District and Vincent Gardina of the 5th, beat incumbents in the primary and will be joining the council. But it is the Republicans who are seen as keys in an administration headed by a Republican county executive.

"I had expected to be a lone voice, a maverick, crying in the wilderness. Now I think the Republicans will have some control over things, some real influence," said Mr. Riley, 37, a Towson attorney who won in the 4th District.

Mr. Howard, a 28-year-old real estate broker who pulled off an upset in the 6th District, made an unsuccessful bid for the House of Delegates in 1986. Mr. Riley and Mrs. Manley, a 61-year-old homemaker and civic activist from the 1st District, were in their first runs for elective office.

All three beat long odds when they defeated incumbent Democrats, campaigning as outsiders critical of the Democratic administration's spending habits.

The new council members, who will earn $30,900 along with a $50,000 allowance to pay assistants, emphasize that most issues will not be decided along partisan lines. But while they pledged to try to work smoothly with the Democrats, they also see a necessity for more belt-tightening.

"People just don't want spending to go up at the rate it's been going up," said Mr. Riley, a former president of the Towson Business Association.

Mr. Howard, a Towson State University graduate who is seeking a master's degree in public administration at the University of Baltimore, blasted County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen in his campaign for spending too much "publicizing himself" in brochures printed by the Office of Communications. He said last week that such sentiments were confirmed at the polls.

"I think the mandate from the voters is to cut expenses, lay off the taxpayers' pocketbooks, but at the same time not cut into essential services," said Mr. Howard. He said that to do his part, he will turn back the county car supplied to council members.

Mrs. Manley, who was out of town late this week and could not be reached, made controlling growth and property tax relief her two major campaign themes.

"The county's just going to have to look for sources of revenue other than the property tax," she said in an earlier interview.

The three Republicans plan to meet tomorrow with Mr. Hayden for an informal session to get to know each other and to discuss their priorities for the coming year.

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