In its last session before a three-month summer vacation, the Baltimore City Council adopted its own code of conduct last night, pushed through legislation to strengthen the city's ethics law and gave final approval to the budget for the next fiscal year.
Members of the council appeared as eager as students on the final day of school to leave the ornate chambers at City Hall. Yet almost all of them are headed for a wearying summer of campaigning for re-election or higher offices.
Council President Mary Pat Clarke is challenging the mayor's bid for a third term, while four others are vying to replace her. All but two of the rest of the 14 members are seeking re-election in what already have become hotly contested races.
In the flurry of activity before the recess, the council approved a resolution urging the ethics board to toughen the existing law and a bill that requires all city officials to swear under oath that the information on their financial disclosure statements is true.
The council also adopted its own code of conduct, almost identical to one issued by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for city employees, and a bill prohibiting unpaid members of city commissions from soliciting political contributions.
"The mayor's code of conduct is nice, but we need something that has some teeth in it," said 2nd District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, who was chief sponsor of the bill that would provide criminal penalties for those who deliberately omit items from their financial reports.
The council's code of conduct includes a provision restricting members from interfering in judicial matters. Questions were raised last summer after five council members met with Baltimore's top judge to discuss the corruption trial of former Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean.
By approving the $2.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, with a $1.1 million cut, the council took the final step toward phasing out the bottle tax.
Mr. Schmoke signed legislation yesterday to repeal the tax on disposable cans and bottles, the last in Maryland, by the summer of 1997.
The budget passed 13-5, with Mrs. Clarke, Mr. Ambridge, Martin O'Malley of the 3rd District, Carl Stokes of the 2nd District, and Lawrence A. Bell of the 4th District, opposing it. Joseph J. DiBlasi, of the 6th District, who failed to muster support to cut the property tax rate earlier this week, was absent.
Also last night, the council approved setting up a special taxing district in midtown Baltimore to allow residents to hire private security and street sweepers.
Homeowners in Mount Vernon, Bolton Hill, Mount Royal and Madison Park could choose to pay a self-imposed 30-cent levy for each $100 of assessed value to cover the services.
The next step is for residents to endorse the ordinance by at least a 58 percent vote.
The other two taxing districts are downtown and in Charles Village.
The council session ended with an emotional send-off for Martin E. "Mike" Curran, who after nearly 19 years representing the 3rd District is not seeking re-election. Iris G. Reeves of the 5th District also has indicated she does not plan to run again.