For more than a decade, mayoral vetoes were practically unheard of in Baltimore.

Not anymore.


Within the past three months, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has vetoed or vowed to veto three City Council bills — legislation empowering the council to reduce minor privilege fees, requiring body cameras for police officers and banning plastic grocery bags.

"She was mayor for a number of years before she ever exercised a veto," said her spokesman, Kevin Harris. "But if there is legislation that she doesn't feel is as comprehensive or thoughtful as it should be, she reserves that right, and she's going to exercise it."

From 2002 until last summer, only one line in one piece of council legislation drew a veto. In 2009, Mayor Sheila Dixon used a line-item veto to delete cuts to the city's inspector general's office backed by then-City Council President Rawlings-Blake.

Dixon's predecessor, Mayor Martin O'Malley, rarely used his veto power. He issued his first veto in 2000 to kill a bill that would have created a public parking lot in Hampden. In 2002, he killed a bill — backed by his wife's uncle, Councilman Robert Curran — to reduce the size of the council.

While Dixon and O'Malley seldom used their veto power, mayors before them were more quick to shoot down bills they disliked.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, for instance, presided at a time when Baltimore's financial problems were aggrivated by the large number of taxpayers moving out of the city. He was consistently bucked by a council that opposed his cuts to city government.

In 1994, Schmoke vetoed an entire city budget, objecting to a council proposal to cut the city's property tax rate. He killed bills to slow the closing of public libraries, empower professional workers to unionize, require larger crews on fire engines and repeal the city's bottle tax.

Likewise, Mayor William Donald Schaefer frequently clashed with the council — and had three of his vetoes overridden. They included Schaefer's 1982 veto of a bill giving more lucrative pensions to police and firefighters. In 1975, the council overrode Schaefer's veto of a measure requiring all blue-collar city workers to pay union dues whether or not they belonged to a union.

Council members overrode the veto in "apologetic tones ... explaining that their vote was not meant as a personal affront to the mayor but because of their loyalty to organized labor," an article in The Baltimore Sun said.

But Schaefer also knew the sting of having a pet bill killed by the mayor.

In 1964, The Sun reported that then-Councilman Schaefer "bitterly assailed" Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin for vetoing Schaefer's bill that sought to require ornamentation of public structures. "When I introduced the bill, he was 100 percent for it," Schaefer said at the time.

Mayors Thomas J. D'Alesandro Jr. and Thomas J. D'Alesandro III were both known to invoke their veto power, but perhaps none was more eager than Mayor John Smith Hollins in the 1850s.

"Mayor Hollins is somewhat addicted to the one man power," The Sun wrote in 1854. "He is evidently disposed to make 'his mark' during the brief catastrophe which has exposed the interests of the city to his arbitrary and capricious will."