O'Malley signs measure to reduce size of council

Voters to see 2 rival plans on the November ballot

August 17, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Voters will face two rival plans to shrink the City Council in the November election, one backed by a citizens group and the other a council bill that Mayor Martin O'Malley signed yesterday. O'Malley also vetoed another council-endorsed proposal that would have added a third option to the ballot.

The mayor signed a bill that was introduced by council President Sheila Dixon that would cut four seats from the 19-member council. His signature guaranteed that Dixon's measure will appear before voters on Nov. 5, along with a council-cutting initiative brought by a coalition of community activists and labor unions that also would trim four seats.

O'Malley vetoed a bill backed by Councilman Robert W. Curran that proposed cutting two seats. The mayor could not be reached for comment yesterday. Curran said O'Malley had expressed concern about having three different council reforms on the ballot.

"He did not want it to seem like it was an effort to confuse voters," he said, adding that the mayor knew his plan was offered "in good conscience."

The coalition said the council was trying to sabotage its plan by voting Monday to add the Curran and Dixon measures to the ballot. The conflicting initiatives will appear as separate ballot questions and would cancel each other out if voters approve more than one, according to legal opinions from the city solicitor and state attorney general.

While the coalition's plan and Dixon's proposal would both cut four seats, they differ in how councilmanic districts would be arranged. The coalition's initiative would change the city's three-member district system to single-member districts while Dixon's plan would create seven two-member districts. Under both, the president would continue to be elected at-large.

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