Leaders working together

City Hall: President Dixon revamps City Council

Mayor O'Malley vows cooperation.

January 26, 2000

MAYOR Martin O'Malley's first State of the City address to the City Council was hyped enough to make sure it would get maximum television coverage. Yet his was a remarkable appearance.

Since their swearing-in in early December, City Council President Sheila Dixon and Mr. O'Malley have been working to improve relations between the legislative body and the chief executive. One of her initiatives was a Jan. 14 letter inviting the mayor to the council to give his appraisal of the city's problems and promise.

Mr. O'Malley, who served in the council for eight years, made such an overture easy. Before Christmas, the mayor talked to each of the council members about his decision to nominate Ronald L. Daniel as the new police commissioner. The courtesy shocked council veterans who could not remember the last time they were consulted.

Because of Baltimore's strong-mayor form of government, the council often plays second fiddle in municipal decisions. Aware of this, Mr. O'Malley has done his best to massage fragile egos by giving council members top billing in public appearances. All this is now paying off.

For her part, Ms. Dixon has been busy transforming the 18-member council into a more purposeful forum. Last weekend she convened an unprecedented council retreat in Mount Washington. Over three days, mission statements were worked out, goals set, training given.

"I felt there was a need to do this," the newly elected president explained. "In the last four years, we didn't get too much accomplished."

Given the reality of politics, the mayor and the council will have disagreements. Nevertheless, their new spirit of cooperation is a welcome change that should benefit taxpayers.

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