City Council President Sheila Dixon named a 15-member commission yesterday to study the future role of the council in light of decreasing population and pressures to cut the council's size.
A referendum effort by the League of Women Voters, aimed at reducing the 19-member council by half and create single-member districts fell about 1,200 signatures short of the number needed to make the November ballot.
Dixon commended the league for its efforts and noted that the league is represented on the President's Advisory Commission on Council Representation. "We want their input," she said.
Former City Councilman Carl Stokes, named earlier to chair the commission, said he wants to make sure the council does not shelve the report.
"We expect that the City Council will act on the recommendations that the commission brings," said Stokes, a former city school board member who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year. "I think there's a possibility that the commission could come back with a reorganization of the council, including reduction. ... I have an open mind towards it."
Those who want to reduce the size of the council point to the city's population loss - about 300,000 people since 1950 - and its financial problems.
The council's budget this year is nearly $3.5 million, $946,000 of which is for salaries of the 19 members. Members make $48,000 a year; the vice president, $50,000; and the president, $80,000.
The last time the size of the council was reduced was 1967 - from 21 to 19 members.
Dixon said she wants the commission to consider all options, including reducing the size of the council. She noted that even though Baltimore has lost thousands of people, the need for services remains high because of the dire problems brought on by drug addiction and poverty.
The commission has no budget. It will get staff support from the council.
The other commission members are: Victor Bonaparte of the Hillsdale Community Association; Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, chairman of the city Board of Elections; Victor Clark Jr., chairman of the city's Republican Central Committee; Matthew A. Crenson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University; Howard County Councilman C. Vernon Gray; Ernest R. Grecco, president of the Metropolitan Baltimore Council of the AFL-CIO; Lenneal J. Henderson Jr. of the Baltimore Urban League; Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, a former city councilman; Michael H. Millemann of the University of Maryland Law School; Sheila Richardson; City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector; Millie Tyssowski, president of the League of Women Voters; City Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch; and a representative from the governor's office.