Manley defends voting stance in battle with Moxley for Balto. Co. Council seat THE NOVEMBER ELECTION CAMPAIGN 1994

October 14, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Is Berchie Lee Manley a tough, vigilant, hard-working, effective advocate for her people who won't trade her principles for political expediency?

Or is the Catonsville Republican a naive, one-issue, anti-development councilwoman whose unwillingness to compromise has isolated her on the council and hurt her constituents?

The voters in her western Baltimore County Council district will render the verdict when they decide whether to return the 65-year-old community activist to office Nov. 8, or replace her with Democrat Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a 35-year-old attorney from Baltimore.

Mrs. Manley's supporters say she has delivered what she promised when she upset an entrenched Democratic incumbent during the voter revolt of 1990.

"Berchie has done exactly what she was elected to do -- fight development and stick up for people's rights," said Ann Heinrichs, treasurer and past president of the Relay Improvement Association. "People down here think she's effective. She doesn't play politics, and that's good."

But Mr. Moxley said her single-mindedness has hurt the district.

"My concern with her is her ineffectiveness, her isolation from the rest of the council and the executive -- the 6-1 votes on the council," he said, citing her opposition to modular schoolrooms and to the county's $1 million incentive to keep the federal Health Care Financing Agency in Woodlawn.

"I have not pleased everyone," Mrs. Manley said in a recent interview. "I have represented my people and served with integrity."

A Hagerstown native who moved to Baltimore when she was 8, Mrs. Manley graduated from Western High School. As an adult homemaker, she moved to Catonsville in 1964.

She became active in community groups over the years and jumped into politics in 1990 after becoming alarmed about congestion from new housing developments near Catonsville Community College, where her husband worked.

In beating 12-year Democratic incumbent Ronald B. Hickernell four years ago, she tapped into a rich vein of community opposition to Mr. Hickernell's ambitious plan to develop a new town center called Patapsco in the rural western county beyond Woodlawn.

She has fought to get community groups more say in county development procedures. She's said she's against overdevelopment, congestion on roads, crowded schools and pollution -- all stands she reiterates frequently in prepared speeches before the council.

Her opponent, Mr. Moxley, is a party activist who grew up in West Baltimore, attended Mount St. Joseph High School and University of Baltimore Law school, and spent eight years on the Democratic State Central committee.

Mr. Moxley said the Republican incumbent has taken anti-development sentiment too far and has become an ineffective obstructionist who winds up losing without being able to force compromises on issues she opposes.

Mr. Moxley said he thinks his chances are good because he isn't proposing the kind of massive development that brought Mr. Hickernell down.

"I'm not carrying Hickernell's baggage," he said.

His advantage, he said, is that he is new, and stronger for his alliance with other Democratic candidates.

There is little doubt that Mrs. Manley has often been a lonely voice on the council over the last four years.

A senior citizen herself who cares for an ailing mother at home, Mrs. Manley vigorously opposed the two important senior housing initiatives in a rapidly aging county. She fought zoning law changes that made it easier to create assisted living homes for elderly people and attacked the expansion of the Charlestown Retirement Community, home to 2,500 retired persons.

Charlestown founder John C. Erickson said Mrs. Manley has taken the "not in my backyard" syndrome to a new level. He called her a a "NOPE," meaning "never on planet Earth.

Mrs. Manley said she opposed Charlestown's expansion because the site is overdeveloped.

"Everything's overdeveloped to her. It's hard to understand. We're the largest taxpayer in her district, and she's been in direct opposition to everything we've done," said Mr. Erickson.

Mrs. Manley -- alone on the council -- also fought a proposed high-tech research park at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville.

"That is the wrong location," she insisted.

Her supporters in community groups agree.

"There's not going to be jobs [in the UMBC project] for people in our area," said Mrs. Heinrichs. "There are no unemployed physicists around here."

Once she takes a stand, she rarely backs down, and as a result has ended up on the short end of a number of 6-1 votes on a council whose members prize a willingness to work out problems.

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