A new law lowering the minimum age for members of the College Park City Council from 25 to 21--increasing the likelihood that at least one student at the University of Maryland's College Park campus might be elected to a council seat--apparently has been blocked, at least for this November's elections.
City Councilman John Perry yesterday filed petitions bearing 1,041 signatures, 209 more than the number necessary to have the issue placed on the November ballot for a decision by the voters. Unless 210 or more signatures are disqualified when they are examined next week, the minimum age for council members will remain at 25 for the coming election.
The apparent success of the petition drive prompted University Student Government Association President Michael Canning to say: "They are discriminating against young people and preventing us from participating in real decision-making roles." He added, "We will find candidates to run. If you can't be a king, be a king-maker."
Canning, 21, previously announced his intention to run for the council; he said yesterday that he still plans to file as a candidate and force city officials to disqualify him because of his age. But he said that an attorney has advised him that a court challenge to the referendum petitions probably would fail.
City Administrator Leon Shore said it is unlikely that a special referendum on the age law could be arranged in time for the issue to be decided before the fall general election.
According to university records, only 16 percent of the 29,000 undergraduates last year were 25 or older. Almost all of the students who live in College Park are undergraduates.
Canning has said that a minimum age of 21 for council members would give students a good chance of being elected to two council seats representing districts in which dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses are located.
Council member Perry, who voted in favor of lowering the age when the council passed the law July 26, said he feels it is an issue that should be decided by the voters.
Perry also announced that he will run for mayor and said that recent redistricting, which placed him in another council member's district, played a large part in his decision to run.