Bell proposes salary measure

Council president suggests 10% raise for top city elected officials

April 20, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III proposed yesterday a 10 percent increase in the salaries of Baltimore's top elected officials in hopes of staving off a larger increase down the road for the next mayor.

Bell, who has expressed a strong interest in becoming mayor, said the city's elected officials should receive pay increases no higher than those given to rank-and-file municipal employees -- about 10 percent over the past four years.

"The most important thing about leadership is leadership by example," Bell said. "We should receive no more than the rank-and-file receive."

Bell struggled to get five co-sponsors of his bill, indicating that he could have trouble getting the necessary 10 votes needed to pass it in the 19-member council.

Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector of Northwest Baltimore immediately challenged Bell's bill by calling for a special council committee to explore the salary issue.

The issue of mayoral salary has become a sensitive one for Bell, who hopes to succeed Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke as Baltimore's 47th mayor.

Supporters of NAACP President Kweisi Mfume have suggested raising the mayor's $95,000-a-year salary to as high as $150,000 to entice Mfume into the mayor's race.

As NAACP president, Mfume makes $220,000.

Bell, Mfume's second cousin, struck first in the salary battle by proposing the 10 percent increase for mayor, council president, comptroller and council members. Under Bell's plan, the next mayor would earn about $105,000.

Across the nation, the median salary for the top elected official in a city of 500,000 to 1 million residents is $100,700, according to a survey by the International City/County Management Association. Baltimore planners estimate the city's population at 670,000.

For cities with more than 1 million population, the salary median for mayors is $133,000.

When Schmoke steps down in December, he will have served 12 years.

His departure creates the first Baltimore mayor's race without an incumbent in 28 years. Bell has not filed for the position, but has expressed strong interest.

Mayoral hopefuls include Carl Stokes, a former 2nd District councilman; Mary W. Conaway, the city register of wills; and community and social activists A. Robert Kaufman, Robert Marsili and Phillip Brown.

Over the weekend, 200 supporters of Mfume took out newspaper advertisements encouraging him to run.

Mfume has repeatedly stressed he is not interested in running and is focusing on leading the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In other action yesterday, the council approved legislation that will transfer the enforcement responsibility of the city's adult entertainment from the Department of Housing and Community Development to the Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

Liquor Board Executive Director Nathan C. Irby Jr. said the measure will provide uniformity in the enforcement of adult entertainment laws.

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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