Council chaos

May 01, 1991

The City Council may know what voters want, but at this point -- with revenues dipping, homeowners fuming, the middle class leaving and services slipping -- it seems totally incapable of carrying out their wishes. In short, the process of governing has degenerated into chaos.

This week alone, the council -- considering a bare-bones budget that denies pay raises to city workers and retains an onerous property tax rate -- voted to cut revenues by rescinding the container tax, without putting anything in its place. Not that there aren't ideas. There is a plan to levy a tax on trash haulers, which almost everyone agrees won't bring in enough money to compensate for the loss of the container tax. Another would reinstate the container tax at half its present rate. Still another would tack a few dollars' tax onto the cost of major appliances in the name of recycling, but it is sure to backfire. (City residents could, after all, buy their new refrigerators in Baltimore County.)

All this would be bad enough, but add to it Mary Pat Clarke's proposal that council members be paid more in the next term. Now the city solicitor says that Clarke's bill would be illegal. So Clarke has had to withdraw the bill. Good.

It has become obvious that the fight over redistricting has caused many council members to fear what politicians fear most -- that they might not get re-elected. Some may not be. But if they don't, redistricting surely won't be the cause.

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