Cutting City Council down to size

Petition drive: League is collecting voters' signatures for a nine-member council.

July 20, 2000

A QUESTION for Baltimore voters: Why is it that none of the 18 City Council members supports the League of Women Voters' initiative to cut that legislative body in half?

Could it be their salary, which council members themselves increased last year by a whopping $11,000, to $48,000? (This in a town where the median family income is $35,200 a year.)

Or could it be the council members' knowledge that this gravy train is likely to be endless because incumbents are seldom defeated?

Or the part-time nature of a cushy job with several lengthy breaks, including a 14-week summer recess?

The politicians' self-serving opposition should be reason enough for registered voters to support the proposal to cut the City Council in half.

Nine members for this shrinking city of 625,000 is plenty.

Two more populous counties, Montgomery and Prince George's, both function quite well with nine-member councils. And Baltimore County has had seven members for the past several decades, during which time it surpassed the city in population and much economic activity.

Nine districts would achieve desirable things:

Because only one council member would be elected from each district, that person would have to show greater responsibility and responsiveness.

Single-member districts also would make it more difficult for incumbent time-servers to be re-elected after they have lost their effectiveness because they could no longer rely on the strength of a joint ticket.

New leadership would emerge as a result of more frequent turnover.

Nine districts, each with about 72,000 residents, would afford better representation than the current six, which represent an average of 108,000 residents.

This weekend's Artscape festival in Bolton Hill is one place where league members are collecting signatures. Call 410-464-1901 for other locations. The main thing for registered voters is to act on this important step toward better representation.

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