Let city voters, not residency rules, determine next...

Letters to the Editor

February 02, 1999

Let city voters, not residency rules, determine next mayor

The voters of Baltimore will elect our next mayor. Whether a candidate has lived in the city for the 12 months immediately prior to the election is a factor that they can consider. It should not be an absolute bar to seeking the office.

We are sponsoring legislation that would reduce the residency requirement for mayor of Baltimore from 12 months to six. The bill further provides that the City Council could enact an ordinance reaffirming the one-year standard, provided it does so no later than four weeks prior to the filing deadline for mayor.

Since the Maryland Constitution requires that legislation on home rule matters may not affect only Baltimore City, the bill would similarly affect Montgomery County, where the existing residency requirement is also one year.

"Most people understand that residency requirements are important," wrote Kay Dellinger in a recent op-ed article. "A candidate needs to have knowledge of, and be committed to, the people and issues of a given locale."

Having lived in the city for virtually his entire life and represented it in both the City Council and the Congress of the United States, Kweisi Mfume has an extraordinary knowledge of and commitment to the people and the issues of Baltimore City. He is no carpetbagger.

Moreover, residency requirements are closely scrutinized by the courts because they burden "two different, although overlapping, kinds of rights: the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs and the right of qualified voters, regardless of their political persuasion, to cast their votes effectively. Both of these rights, of course, rank among our most precious freedoms."

Perhaps it was best stated by the Supreme Court: "In approaching candidate restrictions, it is essential to examine in a realistic light the extent and nature of their impact on voters."

Concern has been raised that our legislation damages the relationship between state and local governments. That is not the case. The Home Rule Amendment of the Maryland Constitution expressly sanctions this type of legislation, the attorney general's office has advised us.

The General Assembly passes a number of bi-county bills each session, and we have previously acted in the area of residency requirements. A 1995 law prohibits a county or municipal corporation from requiring that an employee reside within the county or municipal corporation as a condition of employment.

Kweisi Mfume's record as a city councilman, member of Congress and president of the NAACP uniquely qualifies him for the challenge of governing Baltimore City. Whether or not he becomes mayor is a question the voters should be able to answer. Our legislation would give them the opportunity to do so.

Nathaniel McFadden

Salima Siler Marriott

Howard P. Rawlings

Samuel I. Rosenberg


The letters writers are members of the Maryland General Assembly.

Why does the governor ignore parochial schools?

As a taxpayer minutely responsible for the grand surplus our governor is seeking to so gleefully spend, I find it infuriating that he has again given the back of his hand to those seeking a miniscule amount of financial assistance for parochial school parents.

Does he really think that parochial schools are not really schools because they operate at no cost to the taxpayer? Would he deny that they provide the same public service as government schools in terms of educating children? If he wants to be the "education governor," how can he ignore a whole class of children and parents, especially when they're doing what he clearly considers to be the state's job at no cost to the state? Does he dispute the fact that the state has benefited for years from the products of these schools without contributing one red cent to their operation or maintenance? Where does he get the idea that the only parents the state should help (by providing a totally free education) are those who use government schools?

Perhaps the governor would prefer to see such schools disappear. He could then spend 15 times the amount of taxpayer money now being requested to educate current parochial school children in government schools.

In the face of this kind of obstinate injustice, I personally think it's time the parents of parochial school children should consider registering their children to attend their local public school next year. Maybe that would get the governor's attention.

John D. Schiavone, Kingsville

`Disturbed' by comments about United States, Iraq

I was deeply disturbed by the comments of Syed H. Ashruf ("Bitterness marks end of Ramadan," Jan. 20). Dr. Ashruf asserted, "At the slightest provocation, you're bombing Iraq. Why not bomb Serbian targets?"

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