Halle Proves It's Easy To Buy Election

IN OTHER WORDS

Developer's Employees Vote Asthey're Told

November 17, 1991|By CANDY THOMSON

What does Odenton have in common with many Latin American countries and Chicago?

Elections.

Normally, community improvement association members get together every other year to decide which of them will take a turn on the board of directors. It's kind of like rotating tires: Fred moves from thedriver's side to the passenger side, Kathy slides to the passenger side rear, Tom skips over to driver's side rear, Dave scoots up to thefront and Nancy sits one out in the trunk.

Very simple. No PAC funds. No conventions. No exit polls.

No big deal.

Enter Steven Fleischman, a big-time developer with big-time plans. Fleischman's outfit -- The Halle Cos. of Silver Spring -- wants to plunk down 4,700 houses and a mini-city Habitrail in Odenton.

Odentonians, who had enough excitement when the seedy Boomtown Strip was hot, were shaken at the thought of thousands of newcomers flooding their hometown.

Through their community association, the Odentonians ques

tioned Halle's plans, and when they didn't like the answers, used the group's considerable clout to block those proposals.

That didn't sit well with Fleischman, who, for the record, lives in Burtonsville.

So this year, Fleischman decided to even the odds in that great Chicago-Latin American tradition called fixing the election.

The day before the balloting, the Halle group whipped up a little flier touting a batch of candidates who had kept their political aspirations a deep, dark secret until the very moment when Steve "Sign on the Star and I'llMake You a Dotted Line" Fleischman called.

The flier failed to mention Halle's connection, which Fleischman explains was an oversight.That's like Exxon saying it forgot it owned the Valdez.

The fliersaid the Halle candidates wanted to work on issues like education and drug education and the plight of the homeless. If Halle wanted to address Odenton's homeless problem, it didn't need to buy an election,it could simply designate a couple of those 4,700 homes for them. Heck, if you sprinkled them around, the neighbors would have trouble spotting them.

A loophole in the Odenton Improvement Association bylaws permits any Maryland resident with $3 and a burning desire to influence Odenton's future to cast a vote.

Had I known about the loophole, I would have told my Aunt Betty. She loves to vote. Of course, she's dead, but that never stopped them in Chicago.

Instead of theusual 35 voters, 150 showed up. Fleischman, taking no chances, had "urged" his employees vote, too.

After a citizenship test that consisted of finding the fire hall, each of these newly enfranchised Odentonians slapped down $3 for the privilege to do what they were told, which makes them dumber than their Latin American counterparts, who get paid to vote.

I wonder if Fleischman allowed his employees to put the $3 on their expense accounts?

The outcome was as you would have expected. The Halle candidate for president won by two votes, and two others slipped in as well.

Fleischman insisted his company was not trying to control the election. "If I wanted to do that, I could run myself as president and I could have 1,000 people here to votewithout a problem."

Now THERE'S a great idea whose time has come.Put the developer in charge, cut out the middle man.

Maybe in 1993, Odenton ought to ask Jimmy Carter to monitor the balloting. If Halle hasn't suspended free elections by then.

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