City Council rejects election-year change Plan offered by Curran would have had city, national votes coincide

December 05, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's next mayor will not be getting a five-year term as some City Council members had proposed.

The council voted 9-6, with three members abstaining and one absent, late Thursday night to defeat a plan to move city elections to coincide with the presidential vote.

Northeast Baltimore Councilman Robert Curran said the proposal could save $4 million while doubling city voter turnout and drawing more candidates. Council members unwilling to be pushed to the bottom of a ballot topped with presidential races disagreed, pointing to everything from possible blizzards to holiday plans.

Under Curran's plan, the 2003 city election would have been pushed to 2004, giving the next council members and mayor a one-time five-year term.

Much of the dissatisfaction with the bill focused on the timing of the presidential primary, which is held in March. City election primaries, held in September, would have had to move.

Several council members noted that council members defeated in a March primary would remain lame ducks for close to a year, allowing them to vote on a final city budget while not being held accountable for the spending.

Southeast Baltimore Councilman John L. Cain voted against the proposal because of the weather. Cain said that if the city primary was moved, campaigning would begin in colder months such as November and December. Inclement weather during those months could lead candidates to conduct much of their campaigning by mail, forcing them to raise more money, Cain said.

Northwest Baltimore Councilwoman Stephanie Rawlings said moving up the primaries could wreck council members' holiday plans because they would be forced to campaign over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Council Vice President Agnes B. Welch opposed the bill, saying that putting council members on a ballot with presidential candidates would result in duplication. Welch said she could appear on the ballot as a delegate to a presidential convention, a council candidate and a state political committee candidate.

"It would be Welch, Welch, Welch," she said.

Southwest Baltimore Councilman Edward L. Reisinger dismissed his colleagues' complaints, saying that saving money as the city faces a $25 million deficit over the next two years outweighs any reason for not changing the election.

The city elections bureau and the Baltimore League of Woman Voters supported the move.

"The past two years, this body has been debating the close of recreation centers," Reisinger said. "Here's an opportunity; we're looking at $4 million."

Supporting the bill were Curran, Reisinger, Martin O'Malley, Rita R. Church, Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. Opposed were Welch, Cain, Rawlings, Melvin L. Stukes, Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., Paula Johnson Branch, Robert L. Douglass and Helen Holton. Councilwoman Sheila Dixon was absent.

Council members Lois Garey, President Lawrence A. Bell III and Norman A. Handy Sr. declined to vote.

Pub Date: 12/05/98

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