Misguided bill

City manager: Baltimore needs a professional administrator, but it's not Annapolis' job to create post.

February 11, 1999

GROWING concern and frustration among Baltimore's state legislators are leading them into matters that are best handled by city officials. The latest example is a well-intentioned but badly executed effort to give the city a strong, professional manager.

The notion of creating a city manager is sound. In fact, it is overdue in Baltimore, which has lacked the kind of top administrator that counties hire to run the daily operation of government. But any move to create a manager should be proposed by the mayor and City Council, not imposed forcibly on the city by the General Assembly and state voters in the form of a state constitutional amendment.

Legislators have reason to be alarmed by the lack of strong leadership from City Hall and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's long-standing resistance to creating the post of city manager.

However, the bill sponsored by Del. Tony E. Fulton of Baltimore, which receives a hearing today, is seriously flawed. It would strip the mayor of most of his power and turn over the operation of the executive branch to the City Council. That is an unthinkable abridgment of the traditional separation of powers. It also makes no sense.

We urge state lawmakers to give Mr. Fulton's bill a quick burial. At the same time, Mayor Schmoke should heed the warnings from Annapolis and appoint a chief operating officer. If he doesn't start to move more assertively, lawmakers in Annapolis could become more vocal and aggressive about shaking up city government for him.

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