Prince George's County Council members, blessed with an unusually balmy but dry August, have used their month off to take stock and relax before coming back into harness this week.
They read and wrote and lazed at the beach. Some worked on getting their houses literally in order.
But for all 11 members three sticky issues bubbling on the front burner of this fall's agenda disturbed the tranquility of their thoughts in their last summer before the 1982 political campaigns:
Last Tuesday's defeat of a bill banning abortions in county hospitals.
The granting of two multi-million-dollar cable television franchises among several politically well-connected competing companies.
The passage of a plan to create new districts for nine single-member seats on the council. Previously each of the 11 members of the council ran countywide. The Council must redistrict by the end of November.
Council member Deborah Marshall decided to bake out on the beach at Ocean City and Assateague Island, tanning the freckles from the smooth brown face that will be looking down the corridors of garden apartments in search of votes next spring.
"I feel absolutely marvelous because my dream when I was a kid was to be about 15 shades darker," said Marshall. "My mother is a lot darker and I always wanted to look like her -- she's beautiful."
Redistricting and the campaign that will immediately follow have been on her mind because even though she is likely to get a majority black district in which to excercise her well-known charms, it is bound to take in the most politically inactive constituencies in the county -- black apartment dwellers. She also may have to fight fellow council member Sue Mills for the district.
And if that weren't enough, Marshall faces the prospect of raising $50,000 for a single district campaign. Running with a ticket countywide in 1978 cost only one-tenth that amount.
"You know I'd prefer to run alone (without Mills' competition). The area where I live has one of the lowest voting turnouts in the county," said Marshall, who has been studying Hunter Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" for inspiration.
"I've still got a lot of work to do whether I'm running against Sue (Mills) or someone with no name. My name means little to a person who has never involved himself with his community or his government."
Council Chairman Parris Glendenning did not catch many rays this summer, except during a short visit with his ailing mother in Florida. But he has been dreaming about a different moment in the sun for next year, as it is "pretty well certain that I'll be running for county executive."
Meanwhile, the University of Maryland professor of government has been putting the finishing touches on the second edition of his textbook "Pragmatic Federalism." This book is required reading at 450 universities, according to Glendenning, and while it has not made him rich, it helps keep his 18-month-old first child Raymond in diapers.
Glendenning has been spending a lot of time baby-sitting. The sound of his son's "Big Wheel" bike on the living room floor keeps his mind off politics.
"You can't sit here playing with Raymond and worry about the month of October," said the doting father, who wants to run against Lawrence J. Hogan in the executive race next fall. Glendenning is not very worried about what kind of council district will be cut around his house because there are no other council members living near his University Park home.
But he may have to worry about the consequences of being the main sponsor of Hogan's bill banning abortions in county hospitals. The bill was defeated by one vote last Tuesday, but Glendenning is aware that polls show a majority of county residents favor a woman's right to choose an abortion.
"It's not going to please the majority of the county, I know that. But there are some issues on which you have to vote your conscience," he said. "If that doesn't fly then maybe I shouldn't be here."
The otherwise liberal Glendenning's anti-abortion stand, however, dovetails with Hogan's, removing abortion as an issue in their race. Ironically it will leave conservative council member Mills as the only major candidate with eyes on the executive seat who will have to run with what some will call a "pro-abortion" stand.
Actually it was an abstention that Mills cast on the abortion bill last Tuesday, but nevertheless it ensured defeat of the otherwise deadlocked issue. Up to last February Mills had been telling her loyal supporters that she would back the bill.
"I admit that I wrote letters to constituents saying that I opposed abortion," said Mills. "But I started thinking beyond my personal religious beliefs, thinking this issue is beyond a simple religious issue."
By Mills' logic, what appears to have been inconsistent actions on the abortion issue have been consistent all along. But as another council member said of Mills' miscue, "the public does not condone decision-makers not being able to make a decision."
But that is the way it has been going for Mills this summer. She spent almost every weekend in August playing host to an amazing total of 625 hungry partygoers at her Oxon Hill home, though not all on the same weekend.
The last one was a 250-person affair in honor of the nuptials of a friend of Mill's son Steve. She and her daughter Cindy catered. She had no idea that the wedding also would take place on her half-acre in Oxon Hill "until the bride asked me if she could leave her dress in my house."
The noisy rock band's amplifiers blew two fuses just warming up. The police came twice. Then it rained and 150 people tracked dirt into the house while the beer keg leaked onto her beloved porch carpeting.
"Sombody said I ought to do this for a business, but I say no way," said Mills. She just managed to get things cleaned up in time to get back to politics last Tuesday, where at least all the battles follow a schedule.