Panel hears from delegates seeking residency law change

February 12, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

With hopes of drawing NAACP President Kweisi Mfume into Baltimore's municipal election, three state delegates urged a General Assembly committee yesterday to support a change in the city's residency requirement for mayoral candidates.

"We need in Baltimore City a world-class leader, one who also affirms Baltimore City as the economic engine for the state," Del. Salima Siler Marriott, chairwoman of the city's House delegation, told the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.

Marriott is the lead sponsor on a bill to reduce the city's residency requirement for mayoral candidates from one year to six months. She was joined yesterday by city Dels. Samuel I. Rosenberg and Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Since Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced in December that he would not seek a fourth term in office, Rawlings has pushed Mfume to run for mayor, calling the list of about a dozen people who have declared or voiced interest in running "frightening to people."

Minimal opposition to the bill was offered at yesterday's hearing, although some committee members expressed misgivings about making a City Charter change to benefit one person.

Del. Tony E. Fulton, a West Baltimore Democrat, also is concerned about the list of candidates and asked the same House committee yesterday to support a bill that calls for Baltimore's government to add a city manager, who would run the city's business.

But that bill has strong opposition from the Schmoke administration and other key city and state political leaders.

The two bills are raising the ire of some city political leaders, who criticize the bills as attempts to usurp the city's home rule.

"I take it very personally and find it utterly ridiculous to be characterized as `frightening,' " Mary W. Conaway, the city register of wills who has declared herself a candidate for mayor, said in a statement after the hearing.

For Mfume to run, state lawmakers would have to push the bill into law by the end of the General Assembly session in April.

Mfume lives in Baltimore County. The City Charter would have to be amended in time for him to move into Baltimore to qualify as a candidate. Mfume has publicly said that he is not running for mayor.

Rawlings said the bill could also allow voters to pick another prominent Maryland business or political leader.

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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