Bill proposes city manager for Baltimore; Fulton move reflects unease with mayoral field


Showing further discontent with Baltimore's mayoral prospects, a state lawmaker wants a city manager to assist the new mayor in running the city's business -- a move that would significantly weaken the chief executive's power.

Del. Tony E. Fulton, a West Baltimore Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would create the position of city manager, who would be appointed by the City Council. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow in the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee at the House building in Annapolis.

"We're short of good candidates who can be professional managers," Fulton said. "We have an inordinate number of problems. If we don't do something, we're all going to be in trouble."

Fulton's legislation is one of a growing number of bills targeting Baltimore's government. State lawmakers are concerned that the list of mayoral candidates lacks a strong leader who can lift the city out of its troubles -- including the loss of 1,000 residents a month, low test scores in schools and a high murder rate.

The state bills are raising the ire of City Council members, who are calling the proposals an attempt to take over the city.

"There seem to be some storm clouds over Baltimore City," Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. said during Monday night's council meeting. "To me, this is unnerving. The citizens of Baltimore should have the right to say who their elected officials will be."

Councilman Martin O'Malley said Fulton's bill does not address the city's problems. "What we're missing is not management but accountability. What we need is good leadership," he said. "There's no getting around that."

About a dozen people have declared or voiced interest in running for mayor in this year's election. Some legislators in Annapolis, including Del. Howard P. Rawlings, have said they are disappointed with the candidates.

Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat, and others are considering a bill to reduce the residency requirement for mayoral candidates from a year to six months so more candidates can join the race. The residency bill will also be heard tomorrow in the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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