Bell alters his stance on federal loan funds City Council president may call special session on $34 million aid bill

June 20, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III reversed field yesterday and said he would consider calling a special council session to give final approval to a bill allowing $34 million in federal loan funds to flow into East Baltimore neighborhoods.

Bell spoke after meeting with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and a delegation of community representatives who were among about 80 residents who packed the City Council chambers yesterday morning to protest the council's failure to pass the bill last week before adjourning for the summer.

"I empathize with the concerns about the programs" that would be affected by the bill, Bell said. "For that reason, we are considering a special session."

Community leaders said they would hold off on further protests until Bell decided.

"We're going to give him time to think about it," said state Del. Hattie N. Harrison, a 45th District Democrat at chairwoman of the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, a public-private redevelopment effort that plans to use the money to demolish and renovate hundreds of vacant houses around the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

On Tuesday, Bell said he did not want to hold a special session on the bill. The council gave preliminary approval to the bill June 10, and Bell said it would be brought up again when the council reconvened in September.

But yesterday he said he would consider a special session only if the federal loan bill were the only item considered.

Some council members have expressed concern privately that 2nd District council members Paula Johnson Branch and Robert L. Douglass would use a special session to help rush through the selection of a replacement for Anthony J. Ambridge, who resigned his council seat last week to become the city's real estate officer. But Branch said yesterday that the only reason she wanted a special session was to pass the federal loan bill.

Bell also said the mayor had assured him that the council would receive detailed written responses from the city's housing department to council members' questions about the federal loan program. "We're trying to make this a win-win for everybody," he said.

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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