Party Politics Polarize Council, Doom Term-limitation Bill

But Cabletelevision Subsidy For Poor Ok'd

March 06, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

For the first time since the November election, the County Council voted along strict party lines Monday, defeating a proposal that wouldhave prevented council members from serving more than 12 years in office.

Partisan politics also were expressed prior to a unanimous vote to help subsidize cable television rates for the poor, and on a motion to kill adequate facilities legislation which was tabled in November. Measures sponsored by Darrel Drown, R-2nd, would have limited council membership to three four-year terms and would have asked the state's congressional delegation to support a constitutional amendment putting a 12-year limit on service in the House and Senate.

His resolutions would "guarantee good government" and have a limiting effect on political action committee dollars, Drown said. "I believed it (when the resolutions were introduced) and I believe it now."

"What Mr. Drown said, he does believe," said Shane Pendergrass, D-1st. "But his bill would take away citizen power. It's a bad government resolution."

The council voted down the bill, 3-2.

Undaunted, Drown said he was sure his congressional resolution would fare better. "Shane's going to vote for this," he said, because there has been so little turnover in the Congress that "political gridlock has occurred."

Pendergrass again voted against him, however, saying she had said all she needed to say about the issue.

Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said that while he had supported Drown's previous resolution but "couldn't get excited about it," he could get excited about this one.

"My biggest fear in life is machine politics -- 32 to 28 yearsof machine politics," he said, referring to the length of time some people have served in Congress. This resolution "destroys machines that take 16 years to build."

Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, was not convinced.

"I like to define a problem before I vote on it," he said. In this instance, no problem exists, Farragut said. "People are very intelligent. There is no need for this."

Council chairman C. VernonGray, D-3rd, said term limitations are "purely partisan matters" andas such are not needed. "People who do not like their representatives can vote them out, as we've seen happen in the last few years," he said.

As with his council term limitation proposal, Drown's federal term limitation proposal was defeated by a 3-2 vote.

Earlier, Republicans Drown and Feaga reluctantly supported Gray's bill to discount basic cable television rates for households with incomes of $20,500 or less.

Feaga said he voted for the bill because households in Columbia are not allowed outdoor TV antennas. Otherwise, he said, he would have been "reluctant to continue this subsidy."

"To me, thisis not a necessity," Drown said. "If we want to help people of limited means, there are better ways to do it -- training, education, other things."

After the council voted its regular agenda, Gray suggested that some tabled measures, including four resolutions supporting failed adequate facilities legislation proposed by the previous administration, be withdrawn.

Pendergrass prefaced her vote by calling attention to an editorial Sunday in The Sun that accused the council of burying adequate facilities legislation in "meaningless subterfuge."

Council members had promised during the campaign that they would either enact adequate facilities legislation by March or extend a bill restricting residential housing permits. Instead, the new councildumped the building cap in January because of the recession.

Democrat Pendergrass called The Sun editorial unfair, saying if subterfuge exists, it exists in the Republican administration of County Executive Charles I. Ecker. She accused the administration of prolonging a bill-writing process she had begun the previous October.

Democrat Farragut said he, too, was stung by The Sun editorial and, like Pendergrass, would be monitoring an Ecker-appointed study group to make sure they complete their work on adequate facilities legislation in "a timely fashion."

Democrat Gray said he doesn't let newspapers influence him. Republicans Drown and Feaga remained mute. The council then voted 5-0 to kill the tabled resolutions.

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