Mayor All Smiles After Monday's Cliff-hanger


May 19, 1991|By Edward H. Shur

"In about 24 hours, we'll see just who is doing the smiling."

That's where I left off last week's column about Westminster's day of reckoning being at hand during Monday's City Council election.

It was sort of like the season's cliff-hanger in a TV series: Youhad to wait to find out the answer.

Well, the biggest smile came from Mayor W. Benjamin Brown. To say he was thrilled would be an understatement.

Other smiles, of course, came from Kenneth A. Yowan, aformer councilman, and newcomers Rebecca A. Orenstein and Stephen R.Chapin Sr., who won four-year seats in their first attempts.

Not smiling were incumbents Samuel V. Greenholtz and Mark S. Snyder, bothunsuccessful in seeking a second term on the five-member council. Tobe fair, no one really saw Snyder's face, since he was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as part of a business trip to the Persian Gulf andwas told of the results by his wife by telephone. But I can't believe he was smiling.

A few days before the election, Brown had "a sense of a large turnout."

"If voters aren't motivated to vote, I don't know what would motivate them," he said. "Certainly we have issueson the table."

And so a record 1,224 residents voted. They clearly were dissatisfied with the actions of the incumbents and wanted to see an end to the tumultuous relationship between the council and mayor.

What also is clear is that the $850 Brown took out of his pocket (including $175 in contributions) to mail letters to all 3,100 households with registered voters was money well-spent. And even the Westminster post office's delay in

delivering several hundred of the letters, which gave the mayor's viewpoint on the election, did not dilute the effort's effectiveness.

Tomorrow night, a new chapter in city government begins.

Yowan, Orenstein -- the first female council member -- and Chapin will be sworn into office. A new council president -- most likely veteran William F. Haifley -- will be chosen, along with appointments to seven committees, a topic that gave birth tothe feud between the mayor and council two years ago.

Then the new council must get down to work on two major issues:

* Will the new council uphold Brown's veto of the 91-cent property tax rate and accompanying budget approved by the outgoing council moments after polls closed? Brown cast the veto -- likely his first to stand -- because he wants the current 91-cent rate lowered by using the $1.6 millionin cash set aside for additional office space for city government.

Yowan, Orenstein and Chapin oppose spending the cash. They said no decision should be made until a consultant's report -- released Friday (please see our story on Page 4) -- is reviewed. Furthermore, if construction is needed, all three agreed bonds should be sold instead of using cash.

The council will have to work quickly and do its homework, because officials must adopt a budget and tax rate by month's end. With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, they'll likely need a special session or two.

* Will the three newcomers restore the mayor's supervision of day-to-day operations of the city government? Yowanand Orenstein have committed to that; Chapin said the issue needs study.

If the council decides to restore Brown's powers so his office has the same authority as his counterparts across Carroll, it's likely Manager Philip Hertz should begin drawing up his resume again. That's no reflection on the man, but just reality, because the mayor has opposed the arrangement and

Hertz's $57,000 salary from the start.

Since the mayor's position has been strengthened, it's likely we'll see a new manager's job description written with fewer powers --and significantly fewer dollars.

So now the ball is bouncing backinto the mayor's court. And with the apparent support of the electorate, the council should work with him.

If the council gives Brown the opportunity to be a real mayor, then two years from now we'll seeif the voters made the right decision.

In 1993, we'll again be looking to see who's smiling -- and how that season's cliff-hanger turns out.

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