Council set to repeal S. Africa sanctions Executive backs proposed move

The county executive and the County Council want to end the county's seven-year sanctions against South Africa.

Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, who proposed the sanctions in 1986, now is asking that they be removed in response to an international plea from African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela.


A bill repealing the sanctions will be discussed at a hearing at 8 p.m. today in the county office building. Mr. Gray's bill, co-sponsored by County Executive Charles I. Ecker and the other members of the council, is one of 31 items on the council's legislative agenda.

The council will vote on the sanctions repeal bill after the hearing.


It will also vote on a resolution sponsored by Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, that asks that the county observe Oct. 27 as "National Unfunded Mandates Day." The aim is to draw attention to requirements the federal government imposes without providing federal funding. The resolution urges federal officials to consider the financial impact of such requirements before imposing them.

Howard County's South Africa bill contained some of the toughest sanctions language in the nation when it was enacted in 1986. The law made it illegal for the county to accept bids from anyone doing business with South Africa or from anyone whose supplier was doing business with South Africa.

Deputy County Administrator Cecil Bray said it would cost too much to do a study of how much the county paid in higher prices as a result of the sanctions. But he said that it turned to a higher bidder numerous times.

In one instance, however, a large computer manufacturer that had held out on a multimillion dollar contract for more than 10 months finally acquiesced and signed an affidavit confirming that it met the county's conditions, Mr. Bray said.

"There were some monetary sacrifices" for the county, Councilman Gray said. What was more important, he said, was the symbolism of the sanctions.

"We let black Africans and many others, including whites who stood with them, know that we were united in bringing an end to apartheid," Mr. Gray said.

"The bill achieved the purpose for which it was designed."

Among other items to be discussed at tonight's hearing are several financial measures that would transfer funds from one account to another.


One such bill would authorize the transfer of $510,000 from a yard composting account in the capital budget to the correction facility account. The county had budgeted $11 million for the expansion of its correction facility, but had costs over runs of $55,000 for engineering services, $374,000 for construction, and for furnishings and equipment.

In addition, the council will receive testimony on the administration's proposal to transfer $2.5 million from various contingency accounts to give county employees a 2.5 percent cost of living increase beginning Jan. 1.

Debate tonight is not expected to focus on the merits of that bill, but on who will take credit for it -- the executive or the council.

Mr. Ecker's press secretary issued a news release last month, saying that the raise fulfilled a promise Mr. Ecker made to employees.

Council members say Mr. Ecker originally put too many conditions on his offer and only backed down after they asked him to make the conditions less severe.