City Council sticks with mayor's budget Bell and O'Malley fail to force Schmoke to cut $15 million in capital plan

June 09, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

In a close vote, the City Council last night refused to change the mayor's proposed $1.8 billion budget, prompting the chairman of the budget committee to accuse some members of "rolling over for the mayor."

"Right now, we have accomplished nothing," said Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., budget committee chairman. "Nobody wants to do anything, nobody wants to make tough decisions. We have to go back to our districts and say that we are rolling over for the mayor."

D'Adamo and seven other council members, all loyalists of the council president who is leading the charge to force Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to pay for more police, recreation centers and education materials, were defeated last night in a contentious meeting that centered around the mayor's spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The council's move to leave the mayor's proposal unchanged could show that there is not enough will among members to cut the property tax, which special interest groups want at a time when a healthy economy has meant increased tax revenues.

The mayor, instead, has proposed a budget that spends nearly $60 million more than last year on capital improvement projects and pay raises for city employees.

The city's fiscal 1999 budget is expected to be approved by the council Thursday, leaving little time for members to come up with their own plan.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and Councilman Martin O'Malley, chairman of the taxation and finance committee, attempted to force the mayor to cut $15 million -- nearly half the amount budgeted -- from capital improvement projects to pay for their pet projects.

Bell and O'Malley want to spend the money on 100 new police officers, totaling about $3.6 million; new schoolbooks for grades K-5, about $3.4 million; 50 new police cars, $1 million; and more recreation equipment, about $5 million.

After last night's vote, Bell charged that some council members were more "concerned about offending the mayor."

Because the council can only cut money from the budget, the members have to rely on the mayor to agree to add money to fund their pet projects. Last night's council action was a request to the mayor to fund specific projects.

As has often happened, the council split into two factions -- one rTC that traditionally supports the mayor and another that supports Bell and O'Malley. The vote was 8-8, with two council members abstaining and another absent.

Sheila Dixon, a West Baltimore councilwoman who voted against the budget measure, rebuked D'Adamo for calling his opponents tools of the mayor.

D'Adamo "was castrating his colleagues," Dixon said. "I was totally offended. Some of us read the budget books ourselves and some of us think for ourselves."

Yesterday's council meeting could be an indication that, as in the past two years, council members will war with each other over the budget and disintegrate into name-calling, near fisticuffs and screaming matches.

Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, who represents Southwest and South Baltimore, nearly came to blows with East Baltimore Councilman John L. Cain over Cain's remarks at last year's meetings. Last night, Stukes warned that if words aren't tempered, "things could really get out of hand."

East Baltimore Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch, who voted against Bell and O'Malley, said that allowing the mayor to cut $15 million from the capital budget leaves too much to chance for her district.

But Bell and O'Malley said they intentionally left it up to the mayor to cut whatever capital projects he felt most comfortable with.

Pub Date: 6/09/98

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