Political fireworks explode in Baltimore County session


ELECTION year follies: Baltimore County Council offers post-Fourth fireworks. Monday night, as last-minute candidates flocked to the Towson election board office two blocks away, the council crackled with political hostility, climaxing with a fiery exchange between Councilman Vince Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, and former Councilwoman Berchie Lee Manley, a Catonsville Republican whose husband, John, is running for her old seat.

The verbal pyrotechnics started with a squabble over historic preservation. Republican Doug Riley offered an amendment adding the old Catonsville High School's 1930 wings to the county's permanent preservation list - a move Democrats took as a partisan attempt to embarrass Council Chairman Sam Moxley. Moxley is the Catonsville Democrat who beat Berchie Manley in the 1994 election. He and the other five councilmen support a $6 million renovation plan to demolish the 1930 wings and redevelop the old school's 1924 core as a community center. Gardina publicly accused Riley of offering his amendment at the last minute for purely political purposes.

Then Berchie Manley spoke during time reserved for public speakers after the formal council meeting. She was upset with the council's vote on Catonsville High. She wanted the wings preserved.

"Gentlemen, please!" she said. "You're supposed to think about the people. Vince, you came in as a representative of the people. I see you changing. And you're changing politically, and that grieves me, too."

Red-faced with anger, Cousin Vinnie abandoned the council's normal practice of not responding to public speakers and accused Berchie M. of abandoning the people's interests by supporting a redistricting plan in 1991 that divided Essex between his Fifth and Dundalk's Seventh councilmanic districts.

"Mrs. Manley," he said, "isn't it true that your husband is running for the County Council? And isn't it also true that Councilman Riley asked him to run for that office?" Berchie denied that. Doug shook his head "no" in agreement.

"Furthermore," Vince continued, clearly angry, "as far as your concern about communities, when you sat on this council, you ignored the people of Essex and Middle River and voted to split that district right down the middle. I think your credibility as a community representative is in question, Mrs. Manley, and that might be why you got voted out of office."

"Oh, I don't think so," she replied.

The Catonsville High amendment was defeated 6-1, followed quickly by the retributive tabling of a seemingly innocent Riley-sponsored bill to give seized bicycles to private Citizens on Patrol groups.

Dundalk Democrat Lou DePazzo said his motion to table Doug Riley's bicycle bill wasn't political at all. He admitted, however, that Riley's perceived political provocations are "kind of wearing my nerves down."

Then, like most fireworks shows, the bickering suddenly ended.

Sam Moxley, the center of much of the fighting, shook his head after the meeting. "I'm embarrassed," he said.

Don't be, Sam. It's an election year.

Jingle jangle

I'd just like to say: God bless William Donald Schaefer, God bless the state of Maryland and God bless the United States of America. . . . If Wayne Curry, the Prince George's County executive, is so miffed at the governor for not providing his county with as much school construction money as neighboring Montgomery received, then why did he co-author a letter (with the Montgomery County executive) to IThe Washington Post in May boasting of "record amounts of school construction funds" from the 1998 General Assembly session? Curry is either confused or a hypocrite. . . . We've heard some bad ones over the years, but Eileen Rehrmann's radio jingle - her "marshaling" campaign march song - might be the worst ever. It's not cheesy. It's faux-cheesy - musical Velveeta, if you will - as if someone actually meant it to be bad. (So bad, it's good?) Maybe it's from the same musical genius who brought us "The Schmoke Train" ditty a few years ago.

Getting on the good foot

Louie Goldstein had incredible energy; he was famous for showing up at events all over Maryland, all hours of the day, to make public appearances. How did the long-time comptroller manage it? What was his secret? "Fresh socks," Goldstein explained to Cliff Dowling, Harford County tourism director, several years ago. "Always keep a clean pair of socks in the car, change them at 5 o'clock, and you're ready to go for the evening."

Nice vs. naughty

TJI's cultural correspondent Joey Amalfitano reports: "Danny, me and Maxine headed down Costas Inn to get some crabs last week when we were floored by a twin billboard on North Point Boulevard. There on the left was a milk ad highlighting, with his picture, Cal Ripken, nice and wholesome. On the right, an announcement for Dreamers, an adult-style nightclub. Over our first steamed male, I mentioned to Maxine that it was probably accidental, but, hey, don't the billboard companies have someone in charge of juxtaposition? Geesh!"

This Just In appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dan Rodricks can be contacted at 410-332-6100, via the Internet at TJIDAol.com, or by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md., 21278.

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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