Gardina's proposals find little welcome

March 20, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, preparing for a tough re-election campaign this year, suffered a series of legislative defeats at this week's council meeting, the most tangible sign yet that he's become the council's odd man out.

The Perry Hall Democrat saw two bills he'd hoped to use to introduce himself to new constituents go down without even a second to his motion.

The same thing happened to an amendment he proposed to tighten security at a nightclub in Towson, a new part of the district he would run in this fall. And he barely got enough support for a resolution asking the Planning Board to study vacant houses in the county, the sort of measure that usually passes without a hint of dissent.

"It's all a game," Gardina said.

The other councilmen didn't reject the proposals out of hand - they debated the merits. But the votes are a sign that on a council where collegiality trumps personality and party, Gardina is on his own. Signs of estrangement have been present since at least the redrawing of council district maps.

Gardina and Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican, were put in the same district, a move that allowed the creation of a black-majority district on the west side with no incumbent.

Skinner is a first-term councilman from the minority party, but Gardina is a Democrat and the senior member of the council. Not only does the new district force him to run against another incumbent, it also fails to give him a numerical advantage - the new district is at least as favorable to Skinner as it is to Gardina, based on past voting patterns.

For months after the redistricting, Gardina seemed to want little to do with the council. He arrived late at meetings, left early or didn't show up at all.

In the fall, Gardina worked with two councilmen on a bill and sponsored several on his own. But the division occasionally resurfaced as Gardina sparred with councilmen.

Monday, the estrangement played out in policy. One bill he sponsored would have required the county to build jails in manufacturing zones. The other would have forced the county to go through the same development hearings a private builder would when it builds a jail, landfill or incinerator.

Other councilmen said the first bill would make certain areas more likely to be the site of a jail. No one seconded Gardina's motion.

The second bill would have been a dangerous erosion of the county's powers, said Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat. It also died for the lack of a second.

Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, said Monday's votes do not mean the council defeats anything Gardina proposes.

But a legislative defeat like the one Gardina suffered is almost unheard of on the council. At the least, it shows that Gardina is operating differently than colleagues. Bills typically don't fail because councilmen circulate drafts among themselves before introducing them.

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