Schmoke backs Hall as floor leader Schmoke aides' lobbying for Vera Hall stirs some anger.

October 10, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has chosen Councilwoman Vera P. Hall to be his floor leader in the City Council in an effort to improve his relations with the legislative body.

Larry S. Gibson, the mayor's campaign manager, and Daniel P. Henson 3rd, another top campaign aide, apparently have been calling council members and asking them not only to support Hall for vice president but also to state their preferences in terms of committee assignments.

But the administration's effort to lobby support for Hall, D-5th, has angered at least one council member.

"It disturbs me greatly that people who are not elected to city government, who are not officially part of the administration, are getting involved in what is internal council business," Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, a strong Schmoke supporter, said yesterday. "It makes me feel there is a hidden agenda here."

The vice president is chosen by the council and the post pays $1,500 more than the regular council member's annual salary of $29,000.

Historically, the vice president has acted as the mayor's floor leader, guiding administration bills through the council.

The council president, who is elected in citywide balloting, appoints committee chairs and committee members with the approval of the full council.

Schmoke confirmed that some of his campaign aides had called council members to lobby for Hall.

But he denied that the aides had also asked them about committee assignments.

"That's the council's business," the mayor said. "The campaign staff did ask the council members about printing joint Democratic unity ballots for the general election and what they wanted to do about Question L."

Question L is the referendum asking voters if they want See COUNCIL, F9, Col. 1COUNCIL, From F118 single-member councilmanic districts. The City Charter now requires six three-member districts. The question will appear on the ballot in next month's general election.

Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, said he was called by Gibson and asked if he could support Hall. But no mention was made about ballots or Question L, he said.

He said Gibson didn't ask about committee assignments. But under the circumstances, DiBlasi said, he thought it was prudent to tell Gibson that he wants to remain chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Stokes said that Henson called him to ask "what I wanted in the council re-organization, which I took to mean committee assignments. I told him I was interested in the vice presidency. He said he was hoping to get my support for Vera then asked me what my second choice would be in the re-organization. I told him I had none, and the conversation ended there."

Asked if he had called council members to lobby for Hall and to question them about committee assignments, Henson told a reporter, "It's none of your business who I call."

When told that assertions about the calls came from Stokes and other council members, Henson replied, "I've got more important things to do than deal with this silliness."

Schmoke acknowledged that other council members were interested in the vice presidency, but he said he chose Hall because "I've worked well with Vera in the past on legislation not only in the council but also in Annapolis."

"I also think that Vera has the political clout for the job . . . by virtue of her position as vice chair of the state Democratic Party," TC the mayor added.

In 1987, Schmoke wanted Councilwoman Iris G. Reeves, D-5th, to serve as vice president. Following a bitter battle over control of committee appointments, the council chose Councilwoman Jacqueline F. McLean, D-2nd, as vice president.

McLean got the post in return for throwing her support to other council veterans who voted to strip the council president's power over committee assignments.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke regained that power earlier this year after she spearheaded the effort to get redistricting legislation enacted.

McLean did not seek re-election to the council and instead ran for and won the Democratic nomination for comptroller.

In his first term, Schmoke did not rely solely on the vice president to guide his legislation through the council. Instead, he called on various council members to do that.

If he is re-elected, Schmoke said, he would rely on one floor leader and would make himself more accessible to council members. His first term was punctuated by criticism from council members who said he shunned them.

"I'm going to return more phone calls personally," Schmoke said. "Council members always got phone calls returned by my staff but there were times they felt it important to talk to me directly and they didn't always get that opportunity."

Clarke said she could support Hall "if that is the consensus of the council. Certainly, the mayor and I want to see that the administration and the council work closely together during the next term because it is vital to the city."

Clarke said recent published reports about friction between her and Schmoke "have by mutual agreement been put behind us and the mayor and I are ready to move forward together."

Although praising Hall's work in the council, other council members wanted to reserve comment on supporting her for the vice presidency.

"The council first has to decide if it wants the vice president to be the mayor's floor leader," said Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, who had also expressed interest in the post.

"We need some further discussion about all this," said Reeves, who remains interested in the job. "It would be nice to keep the vice presidency within the 5th District delegation."

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