Brown Takes Command Of Council, Pulls Off 2 Coups

Embattled Westminster Mayor Survives President's Opposition

November 13, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — For more than three hours Monday night, Mayor W. Benjamin Brown tookcontrol of the City Council.

Political rival and Council President William F. Haifley inflicted some scars -- but the mayor did manageto pull off two coups, one almost a year in the making.

"I was happy with the meeting," the mayor said yesterday afternoon. "That is, I was happy after getting home, sipping some tea and watching some football."

Brown was savoring the council's introduction of an ordinance that would give the mayor power to create additional polling places for city elections.

The meeting's tone was reminiscent of the days when the council called for Brown's resignation andbasically regarded the mayor as unnecessary.

Only this time it was the mayor who was able to regard Haifley in those terms.

NeitherBrown nor Haifley wanted to make much of the showdown. But the council votes on the polling-place ordinance and on tabling discussion of an ordinance allowing non-binding voter referendums indicated, for one night at least, the mayor's control.

For more than 11 months, Brown has been critical of the city's reluctance to authorize a second or third polling place, saying nearly 5,000 registered voters in one district is unacceptable.

The council had given the mayor additional election judges -- there are now nine -- and additional voting machines but had remained firm in not opening another polling location -- until Monday night.

The council refused to second a motion made by Edward S. Calwell and endorsed by Haifley that would have sent thematter to the finance committee without being introduced. It then gave the go-ahead to a change in the city charter and an ordinance to enact that change.

And although the matter was eventually sent to the finance committee for study, it no longer can be killed outright.

"I'm not objecting to additional polling places," the council president said. "The only thing I'm asking for is analysis."

"You have18 months before the next election," the mayor said in response. "If18 months is not enough time, then certain people will never have enough time to make these kinds of decisions."

Although the city is spread across three of the county's 35 precincts in state, county andnational elections, it is considered only one precinct for municipalelections.

The average size of a precinct in Carroll is 1,600 registered voters, according to the county Board of Elections. By comparison, the average size of the 438 precincts in Baltimore is about 800voters.

Brown said yesterday he is confident an additional polling place will be in place by the next city election, without having tohire

any additional election judges.

Another Brown-endorsed piece of legislation was tabled -- at the mayor's request.

At issue was whether the city should approve non-binding advisory questions oncity election ballots. Haifley has been an outspoken opponent of such a move, saying that allowing them would "only serve to delay the legislative process."

Haifley, without contacting the mayor or council members, had the issue placed on the agenda.

Brown said he was not prepared to discuss the issue, and the council tabled it.

"It's up to the president of the council to place items on the agenda," Haifley said yesterday. "It's the same old story. The mayor seems to think he's chief of both the executive and legislative branches of government."

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