Council shake-up angers Rawlings-Blake foe


April 21, 2007|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,Sun reporter

Baltimore City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake has formed a new committee to focus solely on education, a move that her chief opponent in the September primary election said was "petty personal politics."

A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said the council president believes schools warrant their own council committee and should be carved out of the former broad-ranging Education, Housing, Health and Human Services Committee.

The chairman of that former committee is Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who is campaigning against Rawlings-Blake. Harris will remain chairman of a committee focusing on the areas of housing, health and human services.

The committee's former vice chairwoman, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, will split off to take the reins on education.

Harris said he believes Rawlings-Blake made the change to muzzle him on an important election topic. Harris has recently used his education chairmanship to call for an audit of the school system after budget problems.

"I am so disappointed that the Interim Council President is playing politics with Baltimore's students," Harris said in a statement. "It is precisely this kind of petty personal politics that will perpetuate the education crisis in Baltimore. She needs to spend more time attacking the issues that our City Schools face and less time attacking political opponents."

Shaun E. Adamec, Rawlings-Blake's spokesman, denied Harris' accusation that the move was political and said the president is continuing to attack school issues by focusing on the reduction of violent crime.

"If youth violence doesn't address the most pressing issues of our school children, I don't know what does," Adamec said. "To suggest that the creation of a committee as important as education is political is petty in itself."

This is the second time that a committee appointment by Rawlings-Blake has been called blatantly "political."

Days after Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. announced he was running for mayor in January, Rawlings-Blake stripped the three-term councilman of his post as chairman of the influential Taxation and Finance Committee.

Rawlings-Blake has said the move wasn't political, but Mitchell called it "petty politics" at the time.

"Welcome to the club," Mitchell said yesterday of the change involving Harris. "It definitely smells of politics."

Mitchell is running against Mayor Sheila Dixon, who is considered by many as an ally of Rawlings-Blake.

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