Baltimore Co. Council elects Riley chairman

January 08, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

Douglas B. Riley, a political newcomer and one of five new members of the Baltimore County Council, became yesterday only the second Republican ever elected its chairman.

Mr. Riley, an attorney who represents the 4th District around Towson, was voted in 6-1 despite a 4-3 Democratic edge on the council.

His supporters included Councilman Donald Mason, D-7th, a fiscal conservative who said he nominated Mr. Riley because the elections proved voters want a change, particularly in how the county manages "one of our most precious resources, our tax dollars."

"This is not about party philosophy," said Mr. Mason, a Dundalk Democrat.

Mr. Riley was praised yesterday by fellow Republican Councilman William A. Howard IV, R-6th, who described him as a "supreme leader," and by former Chairman C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, D-3rd, who cited a need for a smooth working relationship in voting for Mr. Riley.

The dissenting vote was cast by Councilman Vincent Gardina, D-5th, who said although he believes Mr. Riley is "qualified, diligent and concerned," his inexperience will hurt his effectiveness.

The chairman's job involves leading meetings and work sessions, and playing a key role in deciding which issues come before the council and how they are decided. As chairman, Mr. Riley also must work closely with County Executive Roger B. Hayden, the first Republican to hold the post since Spiro T. Agnew was elected in 1962.

The only other Republican council chairman was Gordon G. Power, another Towson attorney, who served from 1957 to 1958, when charter government was first adopted.

Mr. Riley pledged yesterday a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, saying party labels will mean little as the council struggles to ensure quality services at the lowest possible cost.

He acknowledged that Republican successes at the polls in November have prompted talk of a county GOP "flexing its muscle."

But he said the issues facing the council "are not Republican issues or Democratic issues. To the extent that there is any muscle flexing going on, it is by those voters and their elected representatives."

In another matter yesterday, Mr. Gardina withdrew a resolution asking the executive to look into the feasibility of paying military reservists who are county employees the difference between their county pay and military pay if they are called to active duty.

Mr. Gardina said there was insufficient support among council members for the measure. He added that sentiment was about 2-1 against the proposal in the 20 to 25 calls and letters he received in response to news reports about it.

The council also heard criticism of a Jan. 4 editorial in The Sun that blasted the three GOP council members for their remarks at a Dundalk taxpayers' meeting. In a two-page letter read aloud to the council, Diane Carliner, a Republican activist, also blasted The Sun for its "irresponsible news reporting."

"The lashing out in an unsigned critique against individuals simply because they express the thought that property taxes are too high or unjustified is a manifestation of cowardice beyond contempt," she wrote. Councilman Howard also criticized the editorial as "outrageous."

The council also confirmed Elwood Banister of Phoenix to the $82,000-a-year post of fire chief. Mr. Banister rose from the rank of firefighter in 1956 to become chief deputy, the department's second-in-command. He was nominated by Mr. Hayden, who has since eliminated the chief deputy's position in a cost-cutting move.

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