Bill to alter residency rule expanded

City-initiated proposal would include change for Montgomery candidates

January 27, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Kweisi Mfume hasn't said publicly he wants to run for mayor, but the prospect of his candidacy has legislators from the city ready to reduce the residency requirement not just for Baltimore but for Montgomery County as well.

State Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a West Baltimore Democrat, said yesterday that Montgomery was being included in legislation to shave six months off the city's residency requirement to meet a constitutional mandate that changes in local charters made by the General Assembly must include more than one subdivision.

Also, under the legislation to be introduced this week, the City Council and Montgomery County Council would have the right to override the bill and restore their existing one-year residency laws, said Rawlings.

Montgomery County officials reacted with surprise -- and some bemusement -- to the inclusion of their jurisdiction in legislation. "We're just learning now that we're going to be affected by the legislation. We'll take a look at it," said David S. Weaver, a spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Del. Kumar Barve, head of Montgomery's House delegation, said, "This is the first I've heard of it. I wished [Rawlings] had called me first. I'd be happy to talk to him about it."

Sen. Ida G. Ruben, chair of Montgomery's Senate delegation, said Montgomery's inclusion was "news to me" but said she had no problem with the idea.

Rawlings, who has called the list of announced and expected mayoral candidates "frightening," said city delegates decided to include Montgomery in the bill because, like Baltimore, it had a one-year residency requirement for its chief executive.

Mfume, president of the NAACP, lives in Baltimore County. He has said he is looking at property in Baltimore, but has said he is not a candidate for mayor. But officials who have spoken to him privately say they believe he will run.

Other major jurisdictions with charter forms of government -- Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Prince George's counties -- have residency requirements of four or five years for chief executive.

"You always go to the area of least resistance," Rawlings said.

Meanwhile, a number of legal and public policy experts and civic leaders are questioning the wisdom of changing the charter to accommodate the potential candidacy of one person.

"I'm as enthusiastic about Mfume as anybody," said Lenneal J. Henderson, a political science professor at the University of Baltimore. "But I don't believe we ought to alter the process to make that happen."

Millie Tyssowski, president of the Baltimore City League of Women Voters, said she had "reservations" about the legislature making changes in the charter -- a prerogative typically decided by referendum. "I think if it's in the charter, it should be presented to the voters," she said.

Baltimore voters last adopted charter revisions in 1994.

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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