Tanner, in Council bid, to demand accountability

June 29, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

Republican Evelyn Louise Tanner, who announced her run for the County Council yesterday, said that if elected, she will demand greater financial accountability of council members and work to strip them of their Zoning Board responsibilities.

"It is inappropriate for County Council members to wield both legislative and zoning power," she said.

Ms. Tanner, who will face Republican Gary Prestianni of Jessup in the September primary, opposes making comprehensive rezoning subject to a voter referendum, however. Mr. Prestianni is collecting signatures on a petition to do that.

The method of appealing Zoning Board decisions now is to take the case to Circuit Court. Ms. Tanner said she favors the appellate procedure over voter referendums.

Having an independent zoning board of two members appointed by the council, two by the county executive, and a fifth person chosen by the board, would remove politics from the zoning process, she believes. The council or an independent zoning board should be able to make decisions without having those decisions second guessed on the ballot, she said.

"If there were more accountability and accessibility [demanded of council members], voters would not feel so disenfranchised," she said. It is that sense of disenfranchisement, she said, that is leading to the current petition.

"County Council members must be held accountable," she said. "The voters of Howard County are deprived of basic information they need to judge whether their County Council members are personally spending our tax dollars prudently."

Ms. Tanner said she would commit herself to establishing separate budget accounts for each County Council member so that voters can see what each council member spends on things as car phones, stationery and postage. "It is easier to know how our tax dollars are being spent if we have separate accounts," she said."

When asked if her accountability remarks were directed at Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, who is seeking re-election as the east Columbia representative on the council, Ms. Tanner said they were not. "Dr. Gray is a good person," she said, "but I think it's time for a change. If he wins again, he will have been on the council 16 years. The voters need a change."

Ms. Tanner said she would not focus on Mr. Gray unless she opposes him in the general election. Mr. Gray also has a primary fight and will face Democratic Central Committee member and former Planning Board Chairman Kathryn Adair Fish Mann in September. "Ms. Mann is a formidable candidate," Ms. Tanner said.

Ms. Tanner, who became a Republican June 10, said her switch is not as sudden as it appears. She said she was a Republican prior to coming to Howard County and that local Republicans have been working on her for months to change parties. "This is not something I decided on the spur of the moment," she said.

A native of Pittsburgh, Ms. Tanner, 53, attended public and parochial schools there before going to work for the Board of Public Assistance. She was widowed after the birth of her daughter and began going to school nights.

She earned a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh in 1980 and a law degree from Duquesne University in 1984.

She joined Westinghouse Electric Corp. as a contract adviser and was sent to the company's Howard County branch in 1984. In 1988, she applied to fill a vacancy on the Board of Appeals and was appointed to the post by the County Council. She has served two terms as chairwoman.

She said she is especially proud to have had a hand in streamlining the Board of Appeals process.

During her tenure on the board, she has established herself as a consensus builder, Ms. Tanner said. "I believe I can work well with other council members for the betterment of this community," she said.

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