City Council Election Reads Like Mystery 'Whodunit?'

May 15, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The outcome of Monday's City Council election raises nearly as many questions as it resolves.

What will become of the controversial $5.3 million budget and property-tax rate the current council passed Monday night?

Will mayoral powers removed by the council be restored? What willresult from the upcoming reshuffling of council committees? What isthe future of the city manager post? Who will be the next council president?

And, of course, how will the tumultuous relationship between the council and Mayor W. Benjamin Brown be transformed when new members are sworn in?

The wave of anti-incumbency that arose last week in Sykesville's election hit this city Monday, as a record 1,224 voters removed Samuel V. Greenholtz and Mark S. Snyder, both seeking a second term on the five-member council.

Supplanting them are Kenneth A. Yowan, a former councilman, and newcomers Rebecca A. Orenstein and Stephen R. Chapin Sr., who won four-year seats in their first attempts at elective office.

The third seat opened when Council President Kenneth J. Hornberger decided not to seek a third term. DennisFrazier, a high school teacher, along with Oakes, a builder, came upshort.

With 5,270 voters registered, the totals were: Yowan, 887;Orenstein, 713; Chapin, 634; Frazier, 585; Snyder, 322; Greenholtz, 261; Michael Oakes, 162.

That's a contrast to 1989, when 472 out of 1,339 registered voters cast ballots.

The higher turnout was credited to the new, universal registration procedure which meant thosevoters registered with the county automatically could cast ballots in the city.

Another landmark was established with the election of Orenstein, a commercial photographer, as the city's first councilwoman.

"It's history," said Orenstein, her voice choked with emotion. "The first woman in 153 years -- it hasn't sunk in yet."

In the voting aftermath, many loose ends remain, some of which will be addressed at Monday's special meeting of the new council.

The three winners have joined Brown in calling for lowering taxes. The ordinance thecouncil passed Monday kept the rate at 91 cents per $100 of assessable value.

The council also passed the budget, which includes a controversial proposal to apportion $1.3 for additional office space for city government. (See story, Page 5).

Both the budget and the tax rate likely will be recalled by the new council.

The first orderof business Monday will be selecting a new council president.

Hornberger capped his eight years on the council with a brief and unceremonious statement Monday, saying it had been "a privilege and a pleasure" to serve.

Tradition says the front-runner for president is the senior council member. That's William F. Haifley, who expressed interest in the job yesterday. All three newcomers said they'd support Haifley.

Another matter on the agenda is review of seven council committees, a topic around which the bickering between the mayor and council was born two years ago.

Brown, who, as mayor makes nominations to the committees, said yesterday that he foresees a great deal ofreshuffling.

"It's wise to give council members experience in many different areas of government," he said.

With the defeat of Greenholtz and Snyder, two committee chairmanships -- public safety and public improvements, respectively -- will become vacant. A third -- finance -- would open up if Haifley becomes council president. Beyond existing vacancies, Brown said he thinks all committees, as well as other council appointments, should be reviewed.

Also, look for the council to study restoring the mayor's supervision of day-to-day operations of the city government.

When Manager Philip Hertz was hired,he was given oversight of all agencies and told to report to the council.

From the start, Brown has protested the arrangement, as wellas Hertz' $57,000 salary. Yowan and Orenstein have registered their objection to the council's restructuring of government; Chapin said the issue needs study.

"My feeling is the mayor should be the chiefexecutive," said Yowan. "I'd like to see that restored."

Hertz, meanwhile, enters a holding pattern of sorts. He said yesterday he hasnot discussed the potential new definition and salary -- much less the future -- of his position with Brown or the new council members.

"If they want to do something different, they'll have to let me know and I'll adjust accordingly," said Hertz, who began February.

Atthe least, the relationship between the council and mayor appears certain to change, most likely for the better.

Greenholtz and Snyderwere among the mayor's chief adversaries, and the warfare between the the council and Brown became a central campaign issue.

The threewinners all said Monday they'd be working to improve the situation.

"We'll work on answers rather than problems," said Chapin.

Monday's losers were left to ponder their pasts and futures.

Greenholtz was reserved in defeat, joining in the applause thatgreeted the winners when the results were announced.

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