Smaller is better

City Council: As campaigns start, candidates should pledge to cut size of 19-member legislative body.

April 17, 1999

FOR A WHILE last year, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke talked about downsizing Baltimore's 19-member City Council. But after he decided not to run for re-election, he let the matter drop.

Now that election campaigns for mayor and City Council are beginning, candidates should speak out on this issue.

Our opinion: Baltimore needs a smaller City Council.

Nothing is sacred about the council's configuration. Indeed, starting in 1898, Baltimore for several decades had a two-chamber council.

After that concept was scrapped, the current configuration evolved, reflecting a city that had close to a million residents.

Those days are gone. The city's population is below 645,000 and falling. The time has come to cut the size of the council.

When he raised the issue, Mr. Schmoke mentioned the possibility of a nine-member council. The number of police districts is nine, so is the number of city service centers.

But the council could be even smaller: Baltimore County is doing just fine with a seven-member legislative body that has a rotating chairmanship.

A smaller City Council would be more vigorous. It would provide citizens better representation.

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