Coalition effort aims to shrink City Council by four members

Proposed petition filed with city election board

November 29, 2001|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A broad-based coalition of unions and community organizations formally began yesterday the process of trying to change the City Charter to trim the City Council by four members and create 14 single-member districts.

The coalition, Communities and Labor United for Baltimore, filed a proposed petition with the city election board. The language of the petition, which requires 10,000 signatures to be placed on a ballot, must be reviewed and approved by election officials.

Norma Washington, chairwoman of Maryland's Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), said the change would make council members more accountable. The council now has three representatives from each of the city's six districts.

"City Council members will be responsive to their constituents or face the consequences on election day," Washington said in a statement.

In addition to ACORN, members of the coalition include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the City Union of Baltimore and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The League of Women Voters, which led a failed petition drive to create single-member districts last year, also has joined.

The coalition's proposed amendment to the charter would create 14 single-member districts. The council president would continue to be elected citywide.

Proponents of a smaller council argue that because Baltimore has lost thousands of residents in recent years, the council should shrink. They point to the city's dire financial situation and say money could be saved by reducing the number of council members. Each member is paid $48,000 a year.

The coalition aims to put the petition on the ballot next year. If passed, the change would take effect in 2004.

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