Chairmanship issue dividing Arundel council

Leader challenges selection policy, seeks second term

November 15, 1999|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Next month's vote to name the new County Council chairman is becoming a divisive issue for members, who had been counting on an easy transition as one of them assumes the council's most prominent seat.

The council's five Democrats made the unusual decision last year to rotate the yearlong position among themselves during their four-year terms, beginning with Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman. He says he wants to keep it for one more year.

That pits him against Pamela G. Beidle, also a Democrat and the council's vice chairwoman, who wants the position.

Council members decline to say which way they will vote Dec. 6, but outside observers expect a close call, based on the close ties the two share with individual members. The past year's voting patterns show equal support for Klosterman and Beidle when either submits legislation.

"The campaigning is moving into high gear," said Democrat Bill D. Burlison. "It will be very difficult for me because [Klosterman] has done a good job and I'm sure would continue to do a good job. But at the same time, we had a commitment to have a revolving chairmanship."

Most pressing for all members, though, is to resolve the matter before council meetings are telecast live into 150,000 cable-viewing homes, possibly as soon as Dec. 6.

"It would certainly be best to get a consensus first, instead of looking foolish in front of all the cameras," said Klosterman, who expects a close vote on the issue. "You want to show unity."

The cameras were scheduled to start taping a practice run today with the live telecast to begin at the Dec. 6 meeting.

But last week two cameras malfunctioned and were taken for repairs Friday. That could push the start date as late as Dec. 20 -- which is fine with most council members.

Though historically most votes for chairman are unanimous, they mask the infighting that occasionally accompanies the vote behind the scenes. The chairmanship can be the most sought after position because that person often speaks for the council and administers the hearings, and can set the council's agenda.

Beidle said she's interested in the seat because she wants to increase communication between the council and the county executive, as well as encourage members to talk with each other more.

"I would like to see more communication," she said. "But if I talk to people and have the support, that's great. If I don't, that's fine too."

Klosterman said he feels like he has just gotten started. He wants another year now that the council is up to speed. Last year's election sent six new members -- including himself -- to the council.

"We said we'd rotate it back then, and that's fine," Klosterman said.

"But it seems like a different situation now. It's a tough job, but I think I have been fair to everybody and have been on top of everything going on in the county. You have to be able to work with all the other members," he said.

Without an early consensus, as was reached when Klosterman assumed the role last year, legislative support can sometimes turn sour.

John J. Klocko III, who is one of two Republicans on the council and the only returning member from the last term, remembers two battles for chairmanship in the last term that left the council divided. This year, he could be one of the deciding votes.

"The majority party needs to sit down and talk," the Republican said, "because the issue here isn't who's going to be chairman but what's best for the citizens. Because if it's a divisive group, it can get in the way and personal issues can carry over to other things."

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