Five council no-shows doom veto override try

June 28, 1994|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Suppose the Baltimore City Council held a meeting and not enough council members showed up to take action?

That's what happened last night at a special council session called to attempt to override Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's vetoes of bills to allow municipal professional workers to unionize and to set up an office to regulate privatization of city services.

Under the City Charter, an override of the mayor's veto requires 15 votes of the 19-member council. Last night, only 14 council members showed up.

Those missing were 3rd District Democrat Martin E. "Mike" Curran, who colleagues said was hospitalized over the weekend; 4th District Democrat Agnes Welch; and the entire 5th District delegation of Democrats Vera P. Hall, Iris G. Reeves and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector.

With no chance of overriding the veto, the council went ahead and voted anyway. For the record, the vote was 10-4 to override the bill to allow professional workers to unionize, five short of the votes needed; and 11-3 to override the regulation of privatization, four short of the votes needed.

The votes produced some heated words -- about the missing council members as well as the bills.

"The 5th District must have taken the same cruise out of Dundalk Marine Terminal," said 1st District Democrat Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who called last night's special session, characterized the absence of more than a quarter of the council's members "unprecedented."

"We're not third-graders in school," she said after the meeting. "It's not recess until the work is done."

Hotter still was the rhetoric over the bills themselves -- particularly the bill to amend the charter to set up an office within the Finance Department to oversee privatization. Under the bill, the office would have made sure the efforts saved money and that any displaced workers would be helped to get new jobs.

Fourth District Democrat Lawrence A. Bell III likened Mr. Schmoke's failure to support the bill to what he characterized as former President Reagan's efforts at "union busting" and cutting government.

"If you hated what Ronald Reagan did in 1980, you ought to hate what Kurt Schmoke is doing in Baltimore City in 1994," said Mr. Bell, a frequent critic of the mayor.

His comments brought sharp rebukes from 4th District Democrat Sheila Dixon and 6th District Democrat Melvin L. Stukes.

"I know the difference between a stand and a grandstand," Mr. Stukes said.

Peter Marudas, the mayor's legislative aide, called Mr. Bell's comparison "absurd."

"I'd just say it reflects clearly an inaccurate judgment," Mr. Marudas said.

Last week, Mr. Schmoke said he vetoed the bill because it "created a cumbersome and wasteful new agency of city government" that would cost up to $250,000 annually. He noted that the chairman of the charter review commission opposed the bill and said the attempt to override his veto "got beyond just the substance" of the bill.

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