Unwarranted call for recall

Anne Arundel: Alderman should not be targeted for removal over his problematic anti-loitering bill.

May 19, 1999

CRITICS OF Annapolis Alderman Herbert H. McMillan are attacking the wrong target by campaigning to remove him from office.

The alderman's opponents disagree with his proposal to outlaw loitering as a way to combat open-air drug markets. They fear the measure would lead to discriminatory law enforcement against African-Americans.

The recall petition drive diverts attention from the real problem -- the drug markets themselves. It also unfairly castigates Mr. McMillan for proposing what he thinks would cure a malignancy that has victimized too many African-American communities.

As for the bill itself, we think the Annapolis city council should await a Supreme Court ruling expected next month on a similar anti-loitering statute in Chicago.

Illinois courts have struck down that 1992 law. Mr. McMillen's bill would allow police to order people from sidewalks and playgrounds owned by the Annapolis Housing Authority if they suspect drug-dealing.

Some people and organizations, including the Anne Arundel County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union, believe that the measure casts an overly broad net of suspicion. Some constituents, however, are pleased that Mr. McMillan is paying attention to their plight.

The debate should rightfully be about the problem and possible solutions, not whether Mr. McMillan is fit to represent Annapolis' Ward 5. Proposing an idea that some feel is objectionable isn't grounds for removal in a democratic government. That's what elections are for.

The first-term alderman will face re-election in 2 1/2 years. With more discussion and less heat, each side may learn something from the other and possibly devise a better solution. The problem is not the alderman.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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