Mintz gets unlikely backer Tax protester praises councilman BALTIMORE COUNTY


If politics makes strange bedfellows, Baltimore County Councilman Melvin G. Mintz and tax protest guru Harold Loyd may be one of the strangest couples of all.

In the 1990 election, Mr. Mintz's 2nd District -- Pikesville and Randallstown -- was the one area where Democratic County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, the incumbent, did well against Republican Roger B. Hayden and his conservative tax-protest supporters from the northern county.

Mr. Mintz, a Democrat and Rasmussen ally, was one of only two incumbents on the seven-member council to survive the political revolt that brought Mr. Hayden and a Republican council majority into office.

Yet Monday night, Mr. Lloyd had only the highest of praise for Mr. Mintz, one of many potential county executive candidates in 1994. And the two of them heaped scorn on the Hayden administration for what they called its haughty, Rasmussen-like ways.

At issue before the council was the hiring of Baltimore law firm Piper & Marbury to represent the county before the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is supervising state pollution tests at the former Parkton landfill in Mr. Lloyd's north county area.

The north county tax protesters don't like the county to spend money, and they were particularly angry about spending money for what they saw as an effort to avoid a costly cleanup of a possible health hazard in their neighborhood.

Mr. Mintz, previously committed to voting for the money, changed his mind at the last minute and voted against it. That drew a rave review from Mr. Lloyd.

"I was particularly impressed with Mr. Mintz -- his incisiveness, his astuteness in recognizing that we want a participatory democracy," Mr. Lloyd told the council in a speech at the end of their meeting.

Yesterday Mr. Lloyd -- like many anti-spending activists who have become disillusioned with Mr. Hayden -- said the Hayden administration has now become as aloof as the Rasmussen administration ever was.

"He [Mr. Mintz] doesn't behave up there like some high priest," Mr. Lloyd said.

At Monday's meeting, Mr. Mintz lectured Mr. Hayden's administrative officer, Merreen E. Kelly, on the meaning of the 1990 election. He said the voters sent a message "that government had gotten too uppity."

The Rasmussen administration, he said, "was seen as placing itself above the people, placing themselves apart from the people. This administration cannot go back to those appearances," he said.

All the council members were angry when they learned that Piper lawyer William Roger Truitt had already begun working and had submitted a $20,000 bill even before the council voted on the contract Monday night.

Mr. Hayden said yesterday that he didn't know the law firm had begun work before the council session.

Despite the council members' anger and opposition from Mr. Lloyd and other Parkton area residents, the contract was approved 5-2, with a resolution stating that the council's primary commitment is to the public health of Parkton residents.

Mr. Mintz and Catonsville's Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, were the nay votes, although Mr. Mintz had agreed to vote for the Piper contract before the public council meeting.

He changed his mind, he said, after learning that the council was going to authorize payment of up to $22,000 instead of the $20,000 bill originally proposed, and after finding out that the county would not be liable to pay the bill at all if the council didn't approve it.

Mr. Kelly and other council members have insisted that their first concern has always been public health, but that they want to have expert legal help to make sure that the EPA testing doesn't mistakenly put the site on the federal Superfund list of the worst environmental disasters -- which could cost the county millions for cleanup that might not be necessary.

Asked how he felt about the unusual source of the praise he received Monday night, Mr. Mintz smiled and said, "I'm always delighted to receive compliments from anyone."

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