City Council angered by report of ex-colleague Hall says legislators don't understand budget

September 29, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Council members, returning from summer recess, reacted angrily to a recent report from a former colleague, who criticized the lawmakers for failing to understand the municipal budget.

Former council Vice President Vera P. Hall made the comments in a yearly review of the council that she issued to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in July.

Hall, who served as Schmoke's council liaison for the past two years, also pointed out that certain council districts support the mayor while others consistently oppose him. The supporting districts contain mostly black members while opponents are mostly white.

As council members griped about the review, Council Vice President Agnes Welch, who serves as Schmoke's council floor leader, commended the 19-member council. Schmoke also distanced himself from the report last week, saying that he did not agree with the assessment.

"This is the hardest-working council I've ever worked with," said Welch, who has served West Baltimore for 16 years.

Welch's 4th District colleague, Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., said Hall criticized only council members who failed to side with Schmoke.

"We do work hard, we do understand the budget, and we don't vote based on what somebody tells us," Mitchell said.

Hall criticized the council for supporting a 3-cent property tax cut during its last session in June. The cut came despite warnings from Hall and Schmoke about the growing possibility of a budget deficit in two years that could reach $50 million. Hall also noted that some council bills have been lingering for three years.

Hall, who served in the council for eight years, stood by her report yesterday with one exception. She said she never intended to imply any racial overtones in showing how district support for Schmoke broke down.

"I wasn't thinking of any of these other than as districts," said Hall, who recently changed posts to monitor government efficiency for Schmoke. "What I did was a confidential report to the mayor."

Last night's meeting started with fireworks as police escorted civic activist A. Robert Kaufman from the council chambers.

Kaufman, 67, showed up at the council meeting dressed as Diogenes, an ancient Greek philosopher who taught that the virtuous life is the simple life and was noted for his contempt for his generation. Kaufman has been asking the city to invest $250,000 and authorize a $9 million bond issue to create an insurance co-op that he claims would save city residents billions in auto insurance premiums.

Pub Date: 9/29/98

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