- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

Howard County Council member Allan H. Kittleman will seek the state Senate seat of his late father, Robert H. Kittleman.

The elder Kittleman died September 11 after a lengthy battle against leukemia. He was 78.

The Republican senator would have begun his 22nd year in the Maryland General Assembly in January. In 2002, he had no Democratic challengers for his 9th District seat, which covers western Howard County and a portion of southern Carroll County.

Allan Kittleman’s decision surprised some observers, who thought he planned to run for county executive in two years.

He said his decision was a difficult one.

“It’s probably the best thing for my family, in that being in the state Senate is less of a strain on my family than being county executive. If 10 years from now, I want to run for executive, my children would be older,” said Mr. Kittleman, 45, whose children range from 5 to 12.

Deferring a decision while he mourned his father enabled him to be comfortable with the choice, he said.

If Mr. Kittleman’s bid for the Senate is confirmed Wednesday by the Republican state central committee, it would leave his western County Council seat vacant and set up a potential battle for county executive in 2006 between two other council members — Republican Christopher J. Merdon and Democrat Guy Guzzone.

Mr. Merdon said he will withdraw his name from the list of Senate candidates.

“This was a better fit for both of us,” Mr. Merdon said, refusing to say whether he will run for executive, but repeating his stand that the county’s top job is the only one he is considering.

Delegate Gail H. Bates, another western county Republican, also might withdraw, though she declined to comment Thursday, saying she hadn’t spoken to Mr. Kittleman.

One other person, Donald Sealing II of Sykesville, has submitted a resume for the Senate position.

County Democrats said they were surprised Mr. Kittleman changed political course but that it would make little difference who the Republican candidate is in the race for county executive.

“Ultimately, it will come down to what philosophy the community wants to accept,” Mr. Guzzone said.

County Executive James N. Robey also expressed surprise, though he said he could understand Mr. Kittleman’s decision.

“The job of executive is hugely demanding because of the evenings and weekends you sacrifice,” he said.

• Candle power

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson wants to repeal the $100 permit fee restaurants pay to have table candles.

“This is government at its worst,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat. “It’s ridiculous. … It’s a prime example of overregulation.”

Restaurant owners recently began complaining to Mr. Mendelson about the fee, which increased from $25 to $100 in January, along with most permit fees to the D.C. Fire Marshal’s Office.

A fire marshal official said the table-candle permit, which restaurants pay only once, helps recover some of the cost of performing inspections. However, those fees are not a major revenue source.

The official said there was a spike in table-candle permits this year. About 10 or 12 restaurants paid the fee in the past six months.

Legislation that Mr. Mendelson introduced last week to rescind the table-candle fee did not have any co-sponsors on the council.

The proposal did win the support of the Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Association. “[L]egislation such as this helps reduce the excessive regulatory and license fees burdens on businesses in the District,” said Lynne Breaux, the association’s director.

The council’s Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has scheduled a public round-table discussion of Mr. Mendelson’s bill at 11 a.m. Thursday in room 123 of the John A. Wilson Building.

• Warner’s grades

A statewide poll suggests that raising taxes has not hurt Virginia Gov. Mark Warner’s popularity. The Commonwealth Poll shows the Democrat’s overall grade essentially unchanged from two previous polls since July 2002.

Roughly 6 in 10 rated his performance excellent or good, and the rest described it as fair or poor.

The poll indicates that Virginians are almost evenly divided on the caliber of state fiscal management. Mr. Warner is at 58 percent excellent or good and 42 percent fair or poor.

His approval among independents and Republicans is up. Fifty-six percent of respondents describing themselves as independents said Mr. Warner is doing an excellent or good job as governor. That tally is up from 51 percent in an April survey. Among Republicans, 51 percent graded Mr. Warner excellent or good — a slight increase from the April finding of 47 percent.

The survey was conducted late last month by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Public Policy. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

• Speaking out

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says she’s ready to fight against repealing the District’s gun laws this week.

“I am no more giving up in the House than I gave up in the Senate,” said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat and the city’s nonvoting congressional representative.

The House has scheduled a vote Wednesday on the issue.

“We have got to fight every intrusion into our self-government and most especially when the violation of our rights also risks the lives of our children, our residents, our 200,000 federal workers and our 20 million visitors annually,” Mrs. Norton said.

• A day at the beach

Ocean City Mayor Jim Mathias toured Ocean City neighborhoods last Monday to mark his filing for re-election.

He opened his tour at his home, cheered on by supporters wearing T-shirts reading “Mathias — now more than ever.” He pledged to ensure the town is “clean, safe, fun and affordable.”

Mr. Mathias finished the tour at the town’s Public Safety Building, where he defended his budget vetoes in 1997 and this year, saying they made the town more affordable without compromising services.

Mr. Mathias moved from the Town Council to the mayor’s office in 1996. He now faces a challenge from council member Vince Gisriel, who wants to make the same transition.

• Health appointment

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. last week named a new secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Mr. Ehrlich chose Tony McCann, who is currently the head of financial affairs for the Smithsonian Institution.

The governor said Mr. McCann brings 23 years of experience in health, budget and management issues to the job. His resume includes stints as assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Reagan administration and at the Department of Veterans Affairs during the first Bush administration.

If confirmed, Mr. McCann would succeed retiring secretary Nelson Sabatini.

Mr. Ehrlich also named two deputy secretaries — Charles County Democratic Delegate Van Mitchell and the head of planning and finance in the state Medicaid Department, John Folkemer.

• Car-tax crisis

Forty-two Virginia localities risk cash-flow crises in the millions of dollars because of a change in the timing of car-tax reimbursements.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk reported last week that local leaders will ask the General Assembly to fix the problem in January. The Virginia Municipal League estimates the cost at $250 million.

Cities and counties that will suffer are those that send out their car-tax bills in the spring. Most localities will not be harmed.

The trouble will come in 2006 when Virginia delays reimbursements until after July 1. That delay won’t be a problem for localities where the tax comes due in the fall, but if they are due in the spring, local governments are left with a budget shortfall.

The state has been making the reimbursements since 1998, when the legislature voted to gradually eliminate the tax.

• Boundaries stand

A federal appeals court upheld the Virginia General Assembly’s 2001 congressional redistricting Wednesday, rejecting a claim that the plan illegally diluted black voting strength in the 4th District.

Nine black residents said the Republican-devised plan violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by hurting the ability of black voters to forge a coalition with other groups to elect a candidate of their choice.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that such coalitions are not protected by the law.

The plan would be illegal only if blacks were denied an opportunity to form a numerical majority in the district, the court said.

The plaintiffs had claimed that the reapportionment illegally “packed” blacks into the black-majority 3rd District while decreasing the adjacent 4th District’s black population from 39.4 percent to 33.6 percent.

The black voting-age population went from 37.8 percent to 32.3 percent.

Rep. J. Randy Forbes , Chesapeake Republican and a former state party chairman, represents the 4th District.

The black-majority 3rd District is represented by Rep. Robert C. Scott of Newport News, a Democrat and the only black in Virginia’s congressional delegation.

The appeals court’s ruling upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. in Norfolk.

S.A. Miller contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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