1-year residency bill gets Schmoke's support

With Mfume out of race, old rule for candidates gains favor among leaders

May 28, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday he supports a City Council measure that would restore the one-year residency requirement for mayoral candidates.

Last month, Gov. Parris N. Glendening signed a law approved by the Maryland General Assembly that reduces the residency requirement for mayoral candidates from one year to six months. The measure, introduced by some Baltimore legislators, was intended to entice National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Kweisi Mfume into the mayor's race.

But Mfume, who purchased an Inner Harbor condominium last month, announced Monday that he would not be a candidate.

Councilman Norman A. Handy Sr. introduced a bill last month that would nullify the state law.

At the time, Handy and Council President Lawrence A. Bell III -- who announced his mayoral bid yesterday -- appeared to lack the 10 votes needed to restore the one-year requirement because 12 council members were members of a committee trying to recruitMfume to run.

With Mfume out of the race, Handy said he believes the votes to restore the longer residency status exist, and Schmoke said yesterday he would sign the measure into law if the council approves it.

"It's pretty clear to me that the action in the legislature was taken to assist Mr. Mfume and his decision-making," Schmoke said. "But a lot of us had always felt that that was a matter that should have been decided by the voters."

Bell canceled a hearing on the residency requirement last week after learning that Mfume would likely not run. But he and Handy said yesterday that they intend to move forward with the bill.

"I think it's a symbolic issue," Handy said. "But I think it's necessary simply for the sake of being clear that this city will not change its charter by fiat [but] through the electoral process."

Other council members, however, said they are not sure the support exists to address what they consider a dead issue.

"We'll still probably shoot it down," said Council Vice President Agnes Welch.

The residency change caused a groundswell of opposition from residents who felt it unfair to change the law for one candidate.

Southeast Baltimore Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo said yesterday that he would support restoring the one-year requirement, fearing that the six-month one could attract last-minute, celebrity candidacies.

"I think it would be a smart thing for us to do at this point," D'Adamo said. "We don't need one of those wrestlers."

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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