Council president a no-show for hearings on city elections

Bills to make voting coincide with state likely to become law

February 26, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Despite his call for Baltimore City Council members to go to Annapolis and voice their opposition to state bills that would change how city elections are run, council President Lawrence A. Bell III didn't show up himself.

Councilman Robert Curran stood alone. Asked why his colleagues didn't show up for yesterday's hearings on the bills, Curran shrugged.

Council members oppose the bills, which include a plan to hold city elections -- now held in odd-numbered years, like 1999 -- at the same time as state elections in even-numbered years. One bill would amend the City Charter and the other would amend the state constitution.

A bill to reduce the city's residency requirement for mayoral candidates from a year to six months was also heard yesterday.

Bell said he didn't attend the hearing because he had to respond to Wagner's Point residents who showed up at City Hall to complain about the city's deal to take their homes by eminent domain.

The bill to shift the city's elections to coincide with the state elections is being sponsored by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and co-sponsored by other influential lawmakers. That support -- and the fact that only one of 19 council members showed up in protest -- is likely to move the bills into law.

Miller said during the hearing that aligning the city and state elections would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, while strengthening Baltimore's political base with greater voter turnout.

"We need to increase Baltimore City's political clout as much as we can," Miller said.

The residency bill -- introduced so that Baltimore County resident and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume or some other prominent leader can join this year's mayoral race -- also has support from key lawmakers.

But council members argue that state efforts to change the residency requirement and the timing of the elections are infringing upon the city's home rule.

Pub Date: 2/26/99

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