Vote Against Question K

October 05, 1994

Baltimore voters will be falling for a major hustle if they approve a local term-limit in the Nov. 8 election. Question "K" is a measure that would saddle the city charter with an ill-advised amendment holding the mayor, the comptroller and all City Council members to two four-year terms.

Term limits are bad enough for the choices they take from voters, for the way they retire good politicians along with the bad, for producing flocks of lame ducks and for killing enthusiasm in an electorate that already has trouble getting excited about elections, as the depressingly low turnout rates of recent years attest.

But this particular initiative is made even worse by the cast of characters who obtained the signatures to get it on the ballot and now aim to sneak it past the public.

The backers and organizers include C. Nelson Warfield, a Montgomery County lawyer tied to a Chicago public relations firm that has assisted the campaign; Penn Parking owner Lisa Renshaw, an Anne Arundel County resident who ran unsuccessfully in the 1992 Republican primary in Maryland's First Congressional District; former U.S. Ambassador to Austria Ronald S. Lauder of the Estee Lauder cosmetics dynasty, who failed in last year's Republican mayoral primary in New York; and Baltimore activist Morning Sunday, who paid petitioners for each signature they got.

They have hailed their $28,000 crusade as a "grass roots" expression of the public's disgust with incumbent politicians. Bull.

What their campaign really expresses is the frustration of people who have been unable to win elective office. Their interest in Baltimore amounts to using the city as a test market for future term-limit initiatives.

Most of the effort's funding has come from Washington-based U.S. Term Limits, a national organization that is linked to the Libertarian party and is under investigation in several states for allegedly using fraudulently obtained signatures in term-limit ballot drives. The controversy has caused Maine and Washington to pass laws against the payment of cash for petition signatures.

City and state authorities should likewise take a hard look at the Baltimore petition drive to determine whether it has been operated on the up-and-up. Baltimore voters must not fall for this artificial grass roots initiative.

We urge a strong vote against Question K.

Tomorrow: Bond issues on city ballot.

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