Council votes to prohibit cigarette giveaways

Solicitor is confirmed, charter panel approved

March 04, 2003|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Council voted unanimously last night to ban distribution of free sample cigarettes at Merriweather Post Pavilion this summer and to confirm County Solicitor Barbara M. Cook for a new four-year term, and it split 3-2 along party lines to create a Charter Review Commission.

The audience at the meeting included about 25 anti-war activists, who wore bumper stickers on their chests that read "War is not the Answer."

Members of the Howard County Coalition Against the War sat silently at the meeting, hoping their presence would encourage the introduction of a resolution against an U.S. war with Iraq.

"We want them to see there are people here who care," said Leslie Salgado, the group's leader. "We cannot ignore the fact that the war will affect all of us."

Council Chairman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, recognized the group publicly - along with two Boy Scout troops and a local church leader - but the matter of a war resolution was not added to the agenda.

The 15-member charter commission sparked a heated debate. Republicans Allan H. Kittleman, from the western county, and Ellicott City's Christopher J. Merdon voting against its creation to protest what they said was a lopsided representation by Democrats.

The group named included 10 Democrats, 4 Republicans and an independent.

"That is certainly not the makeup of Howard County," Merdon said, complaining that not even the "Republicans that Republicans wanted" were appointed by the majority Democrats. "That bothered me," Kittleman added.

Guzzone said later that council members were invited to submit as many names as they wanted, and said Merdon and Kittleman submitted the names of two Republicans, a Democrat, and one person not registered to vote. Fellow Democrats David A. Rakes, from east Columbia, and Ken Ulman from west Columbia defended the process.

The commission is to report on recommended charter changes by May 2004.

All five councilmen agreed to end the practice of giving out free cigarettes at Merriweather or anywhere else in the county.

R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has handed out Camel cigarettes in a booth at Merriweather dubbed the "Camel Casbah." The aim, spokesman David Howard has said, is to lure legal smokers from using other brands.

Glenn Schneider, legislative chairman of the anti-smoking group, said it received complaints about the booths giving young people cigarettes.

Cook's reappointment as the county solicitor was also unanimous.

Her job is "a tough position," Merdon said, since she must please both the county executive and the council. "We're thankful to have her."

Cook's seemingly routine re-nomination to a job she has held for 16 years was unexpectedly tabled at the Feb. 8 council meeting, after several members with complaints about various aspects of the law office's performance decided they wanted to speak to her before voting.

Cook was interviewed behind closed doors last week, though members refused to say what they discussed.

The only public controversy involving Cook centered on complaints by Dorsey residents about what they said was poor representation in a zoning dispute over the placement of a 175,000-square-foot warehouse near their Elkridge-area homes.

Developers want to build the warehouse 60 feet from homes rather than the 150 feet that is usually required.

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