If the Mount Royal Democratic Club is any bellwether, candidates for City Council in 1995 will run in single-member districts.
Mount Royal last night overwhelmingly endorsed a proposed City Charter amendment -- Question L on the Nov. 5 general election ballot -- that would create 18 single-member councilmanic districts.
L Currently, the charter requires six, three-member districts.
"One of the problems with the current setup is that your three district council representatives can pass the buck between them," said Craig Muller, an attorney and club member. "None of them wants to take the responsibility."
The proposal reached the ballot through a petition drive sponsored by a group called Baltimoreans For Fair Representation made up primarily of members of the city Republican Party. The group collected over 15,000 signatures from registered voters.
The petition drive started after the council approved a controversial councilmanic redistricting plan that kept the six three-member districts but drasticly altered three of them.
"This is really a bipartisan affair because the majority of those signatures we got came from Democratic voters," said David R. Blumberg, chairman of the city GOP.
Blumberg, who addressed Mount Royal last night, said the charter amendment has received the support of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Single-member districts will give blacks, Republicans and others a more even playing field to compete for seats in the council," argued Blumberg.
The only person to argue against the charter amendment was Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd. Ambridge said single-member districts would lead to each member pursuing parochial interests to the detriment of the city as a whole.
"The city's problems cut across racial lines so we need representatives who can understand how these problems affect both communities," he said.
Ambridge admitted that there is no organized effort being made by current council candidates to oppose Question L.
Mayor Kurt Schmoke said this week that he opposes Question L but that he did not plan to launch a concerted effort to defeat it.
Schmoke said he preferred to let a charter review committee, which is studying proposed charter amendments, make recommendations on changing the makeup of councilmanic districts.
A WBAL-TV poll taken two weeks before the September primary elections found that single-member districts were favored by 42 percent of the respondents with 37 percent against and 20 percent undecided.
State Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-City, who heads Mount Royal, predicted the charter amendment would pass. But he said that the number of council members should be decreased.
"When both the state and the city are being forced to reduce their budgets, it seems unseemly to have a council that large," said Lapides.
The other ballot questions did not fare as well with club members. These authorize the city to seek loans for various projects.
For example, club members voted to oppose Question A, an $8 million Community Development Loan, because they felt the question on the ballot was too vague.
The $8 million loan would fund low income housing projects and would provide both grants for neighborhood projects and matching funds for federal Community Development Block Grant programs.
Mount Royal also opposed loans for asbestos removal from city buildings, and to construct and renovate a number of school buildings.