City well-positioned on key House panels

The Political Game

Influence: Five Baltimore legislators occupy central posts on the six main committees.

August 30, 2005|By David Nitkin and Phillip McGowan | David Nitkin and Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

BALTIMORE may be losing population and political influence, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the leadership of the House of Delegates.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch has elevated Del. Peter A. Hammen, a Baltimore Democrat, to chairman of the Health and Government Operations Committee. Hammen replaces Del. John A. Hurson of Montgomery County, who is resigning his legislative position to become a lobbyist with a cosmetics industry trade group.

Hammen becomes the second city lawmaker to head one of the six main panels in the House of Delegates. Del. Maggie L. McIntosh runs the Environmental Matters Committee.

Three Baltimore delegates are vice chairs: Samuel I. Rosenberg on the Judiciary Committee, Talmadge Branch on Appropriations and Ann Marie Doory on the Economic Matters Committee.

Baltimore lawmakers -- all Democrats -- are in positions of power despite the city's decline in population and loss of influential leaders. A 2002 redistricting plan reduced the number of city lawmakers, and prominent city legislators such as Sen. Clarence W. Blount and Del. Howard P. Rawlings have died.

While the city has maintained committee posts, African-American lawmakers note that those in prominent positions tend to be white.

Of 18 delegates from Baltimore, 12 are black and six are white. Of the six, four are now chairs or vice chairs of main committees -- including Hammen. Among the black representatives, Del. Hattie N. Harrison is head of the Rules Committee, an assignment of lesser significance. Del. Clarence Davis holds a subcommittee chairmanship.

Del. Salima S. Marriott, chairwoman of the city House delegation, said she and the majority of the city delegation supported Hammen's ascendency but that she also wants to see more black lawmakers in positions of power.

"It has to be dealt with as an historical void," said Marriott, who is African-American. "It didn't just happen."

Moyer-Owens relationship strained by horse park

Much is riding on the Annapolis plan to establish a state horse park in Anne Arundel County -- not least of which is the relationship between County Executive Janet S. Owens and Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer.

Two of the county's top political heavyweights, they are recovering from a communications rift over the proposed site for a multimillion-dollar equestrian park.

A Maryland Stadium Authority committee has named Annapolis and Cecil County as finalists for the project. Moyer, a horse enthusiast who owns a few thoroughbreds in Kentucky, has spearheaded the effort despite Owens' lack of visible support.

Moyer has pointed to the shuttered Crownsville Hospital Center as a viable option. She said the more than 2,000 combined acres at state-owned Crownsville, the nearby city-owned Waterworks Park and a Navy-owned dairy farm could accommodate the first-class facility sought by the state.

But the Crownsville location is miles outside of Annapolis. Owens has opposed placing the future park at the 544-acre hospital site, which would require extensive environmental cleanup and maintenance of dozens of historic structures. She would prefer that the park be built at the 900-plus-acre dairy farm, county spokesman Matt Diehl said.

"The county executive certainly believes it's a better option than Crownsville," he said.

Owens' opposition has Moyer miffed. The mayor told The Capital newspaper in Annapolis last Tuesday that she was unsure whether to view Owens' opposition as "malicious" or the result of "misleading" information from her staff.

Reading the comments, Owens abruptly canceled a breakfast appointment with Moyer last week.

Moyer said yesterday that she never intended to slight Owens, but she was concerned that Owens did not have a full understanding of the city proposal.

Owens seems to want to put the dispute behind her. She said yesterday she has "moved on" and wants to work with the mayor to find an appropriate site for the park.

They have special interest in Navy, UM football game

Del. Herbert H. McMillan, an Annapolis Republican who says he is the legislature's only Naval Academy graduate, has issued a challenge to Democratic Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Maryland grad who is one the state's most vocal Terps boosters.

McMillan said he will wear a University of Maryland sweat shirt and ball cap on the opening day of the General Assembly session if the Terrapins defeat the Midshipmen in their football game Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, the first meeting between the two teams in four decades. But if Navy wins, he wants Miller to wear Middie garb.

Miller said yesterday he has accepted, but would only don the casual wear for a few minutes. "We have a dress code in the Senate," he said.

Sun staff writer Jamie Stiehm contributed to this article.

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