Mintz wooing foes of 'old style politics'

September 07, 1994|By Pat Gilbert | Pat Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

From the time Melvin G. Mintz made his public announcement for county executive in April, he has called on people to join his "new style politics" and reject the "old style" that has "characterized county government in the past."

Mr. Mintz of Pikesville, an eight-year County Council veteran from the 2nd District, applies the "old style" label to his main opponents in next week's Democratic primary -- Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III of Cockeysville and John C. Coolahan of Halethorpe, a former state senator and retired District Court judge. The other Democrat is Kevin Pearl, 28, of Woodlawn, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche.

The winner almost certainly will face incumbent Roger B. Hayden, a heavy favorite in the Republican primary.

Asked to compare "new style" and "old style," Mr. Mintz said the latter involves a select few making the decisions and "back room deals while the new style under my administration would be letting the stakeholders share in the decision-making process."

For example, Mr. Mintz said, he would create an advisory committee and consult it before making key decisions. It would be patterned after a neighborhood leadership committee he set up in his council district.

While acknowledging that taking actions to a committee would slow decision-making, he said, "it's important for citizens to have a stake in their government."

Along those lines, Mr. Mintz has a good reputation for responding to constituent concerns.

"He . . . is a good friend to the community," said Diane Goldbloom, president of RENEW, a Randallstown community umbrella group. "He runs a very efficient council office."

Mr. Mintz, 48, said he learned the importance of helping others from his mother while growing up in West Baltimore near Mulberry Street where she ran a neighborhood market. For instance, his sensitivity to concerns of the disabled led Ken Canterbury, a nearly blind hot dog vendor whom Mr. Mintz

helped three years ago, to organize a political rally for him this summer in Dundalk.

Mr. Canterbury remembered that Mr. Mintz was the only one to speak up in the council about the need to help disabled citizens. "I told Mel that night that if I could help in any way, I would," he said.

At political events, Mr. Mintz tells voters he wants to do the same things for the county that he has done for his district. However, his parts often do not equal a whole.

* For example, Mr. Mintz says he initiated a tenfold increase in police presence in his district, implying that the increase was permanent.

In fact, the increase lasted 10 1/2 weeks and applied just to the Liberty Road corridor -- details Mr. Mintz doesn't usually share with voters. The increased police presence came from Liberty Road Accident Reduction Project, funded with a state Department of Transportation grant.

But the project accomplished its primary goal of reducing speeding and accidents on Liberty Road and also succeeded in reducing crime -- for example, commercial armed robberies declined by 59 percent -- according to police statistics.

"More police on the streets and more jobs and expanding economic development are the top goals of the Mintz administration," he said.

* He states that he brought $11 million in economic development and many jobs into his district.

The development came from efforts Mr. Mintz made to get infrastructure improvements. The result, he said, was revitalization of Pikesville and Liberty Road, which stemmed the exodus of businesses.

However, the economic development efforts, like the Liberty Road police project, are similar to what other council members have undertaken in their districts.

Adam Wasserman, deputy director of the county Department of Economic Development, said revitalization projects also are under way in Catonsville and Essex.

"Council members in those district are just as interested and involved in this kind of economic redevelopment as Mr. Mintz was in the Pikesville and Liberty Road redevelopment," said Mr. Wasserman.

The Mintz county economic "game plan," short on details, calls for redeveloping older business districts and attracting new industry.

* He tells voters that he sponsored legislation that increased citizen involvement with the school board. The legislation -- a resolution drafted with three co-sponsors -- called for the creation of an associate school board of representatives from PTAs, educational advisory councils, colleges and teachers to work in parallel with the regular board. What voters don't hear is that the resolution never was voted on because the school board refused to have anything to do with the citizen board.

"I still stand committed to the principle of more citizen involvement in school matters and in more accountability from the school board," said Mr. Mintz.

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