Prince George's County Executive Lawrence Hogan will veto at least one of the county's cable television franchise awards today, most likely the one given to a firm represented by former county executive Winfield Kelly, according to sources in the executive's office.
The County Council last week gave Kelly's firm, Storer Cable Communications Inc., the right to provide cable service to the northern half of Prince George's. The franchise for the southern part of the county was awarded to MetroVision of Prince George's Inc., another politically well-connected firm. In making both choices, the council rejected the recommendations of an independent cable commission and an independent consultant hired to evaluate the competing cable bids.
Hogan has refused any comment on the issue since the awards were made last Tuesday, but council members have expected a veto of at least one franchise. The commission, a majority of whose members were appointed by Hogan, last week called on him to reject both awards, saying that the choices were clearly politically motivated.
Yesterday Hogan scheduled a press conference for noon today, and one source said at least one veto would be announced there. At the same time, a second source said that a high-level Hogan staff member yesterday told at least one council member that the executive will veto one or both of the franchise awards. Both sources said Storer was most likely to be rejected.
Hogan has not yet revealed the basis on which he plans to reject the council's cable choices. However, when the commission released its recommendation in September and again after the council vote, Hogan expressed his confidence in the work of that body, created to provide an independent assessment of the cable bids.
It is unclear whether the council can override a veto by the necessary eight-vote majority. MetroVision won the southern franchise by a 6-3 vote, with two members abstaining. Storer won the northern award with eight votes, but only after members who initially supported MetroVision declared that they would not give both franchises to the same company.
"Traditionally we have overridden vetoes very easily," said Chairman Parris Glendening, "We've had some 30 since Hogan's been in office and we have overridden every one of them, I believe. Now this isn't a traditional situation. You have council members who had strong feelings for one of the other companies and I don't know what they would do."
Floyd Wilson and Sarah Koonce, who had both favored Cross Country Cable and voted against MetroVision, both declared that they would uphold the majority vote, although Koonce said her decision depended on whether both franhcises were vetoed.
Frank Casula, however, said he would vote against MetroVision again.
Sue Mills, who cast one of two votes against Storer, said she would vote to override a veto of Metrovision and would consider voting to override a veto of Storer, as well.
"I think the bottom line is to get these franchises awarded as quickly as possible," she said.
The cable commission contended that Storer offered more limited service to county customers at higher rates over the life of the franchise than MetroVision, the company the commission recommended for the northern franchise. Storer says the differences between the two systems are minimal and that it is offering various rate adjustments the commission failed to take into account.
Most important for the council members, however, was the support Storer won from 17 municipalities in the northern part of the county. By promising to provide the municipalities with the same system bid to the county, the company won the right to provide service to each of those towns -- an area amounting to 40 percent of the households in the northern part of the county. In turn, powerful figures in those towns lobbied strongly for Storer to receive the franchise for the northern part of the county.