Coalition of activists, unions begins push to trim City Council by 4 members

November 09, 2001|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Saying that the Baltimore City Council is bloated and unresponsive, a broad-based coalition of community activists and public employee unions launched a campaign last night to trim the 18-member body by four.

The coalition wants to change the City Charter to create 14 single-member Council districts, instead of the current arrangement of six three-member districts. Under the proposal, the council president would continue to be elected citywide.

The issue of shrinking the council was most recently raised last year by the League of Women Voters, which failed to gain the 10,000 signatures needed to put the question on the ballot.

Last night, Millie Tyssowski, president of the league, joined the leaders of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Association of Community Organizations For Reform Now and the City Union of Baltimore as they announced the new campaign.

"We are here to tell Mr. Mayor and Mr. and Mrs. City Council that we need change," Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of AFSCME Local 44, told about 100 activists gathered at an East Baltimore church. If not, "we will train all our members to unelect the City Council and unelect Mayor Martin O'Malley."

The coalition, which organizers said had been forming for about a year, will undertake a petition drive to get the charter amendment on the ballot next November.

A report issued in July by a committee appointed by City Council President Sheila Dixon recommends that the council be trimmed to 14 members in seven two-member districts and a council president.

The new coalition is urging City Council members to reject a deal designed to encourage CitiFinancial, a company accused of predatory lending, to keep its operations in downtown Baltimore.

The group also opposes O'Malley's decision to privatize some city jobs.

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