Baltimore Press

Candidates Talk Issues

The race for Mayor began in earnest last night as the major democratic candidates spoke to the issues at a candidate’s forum organized by the 2nd District New Democratic Club at the First English Lutheran Church on North Charles Street. A crowd of about 150 attended.

The forum was moderated by Baltimore County Executive C. “Dutch” Ruppersberger and allowed the candidates opening remarks followed by a question and answer session.

The first candidate to speak was City Council President Lawrence A. Bell, III, who reminded the audience that he hadn’t missed a City Council meeting in 12 years. He gave a quick rundown of his career on the City Council, and said that the number one issue that Baltimore is facing is the war on crime. “I stood up when a lot of people didn’t have the guts to stand. I was on the front line when others were on the sidelines,” he said, referring to his opposition to the incumbent administration’s management of the police department.

Echoing his remarks from the announcement of his candi­dacy, Bell said that he would make having a “clean city … safe city” his top priorities and that his motto was “back to basics, block by block.” Bell also said that he would estab
lish a service hot line for con­stituent complaints, and a whis­tle blower hotline for citizens and city employees. He also said that he would set up an interagency strike force includ­ing the police department and public works to “clean up the city, block by block.”

Bell was followed by Philip Brown, a former PTA president. He has a distinctive look with a smooth bald head, listed schools and the police depart­ment as priority areas. He accused the school system of taking money from special edu­cation needs and using it else­where. On policing, he said that the police department has a racial problem. “They can’t protect you if they’re fighting each other in their districts,” he said.

He also criticized the increase in fees at local recre­ation centers. On incumbent Mayor Schmoke, Brown said: “He has good book sense, but no common sense.” His remarks were met with applause.

Next up was Register of Wills Mary Conaway, who stressed her 16 years of experi­ence in managing the Register of Wills’ budget, which gener­ates $20 million in revenue. Conaway, a former teacher, said that she had walked a pick­et line with teachers last week and that the city needed to give teachers more support. She commented on the teachers who had been fired last week. “You can’t just fire someone without giving an evaluation,” she said.

Conaway also noted that when she first came to Baltimore, the elderly residents took meticulous care of their marble stoops. Now, she said, “our senior citizens can’t come out of their doors, much yet sit out on their stoops.” Conaway wants more foot patrols in neighborhoods and would establish auxiliary police walking foot beats in neighborhoods.
Conaway was followed by A. Robert Kaufman, the self-styled head of the Citywide Coalition. Kaufman spoke of his efforts to establish an auto insurance co-op in the city, which would, he said, “save an aver-

later filed chaiges against Bell and the City Council for assault and battery. He said that if his insurance initiative wins, and he loses as a candidate “we will have a tremendous victory.”
City Councilman Martin O’Malley followed Kaufman with a plea for improved public safety. “We can enact all the tax incentives as we want, but they won’t have any effect on our housing stock if we have killing fields in our city.” O’Malley said that 10 open air drug markets would be things of the past within 6 months of his election. “Then we can harness the potential of the communi­ty reinvestment act and then we can have children reading by nine.” O’Malley noted that he was the youngest candidate in the race and said that he did not grow up in a seg­regated society. Invoking the memo­ry of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, he said, “it’s not enough to have dreams, we need to risk actions.”
Carl Stokes next addressed the crowd with the greeting “I’m proud to be home.” (He once represented the 2nd district in the City Council with the support of the host organization.) “I am thoroughly angered by too many lousy schools, citizens’ homi­cides and violence,” he said. “Eveiy night we sit on our hands, my grand­mother can’t sit in her window.”

Photo by Irving Web Phillips, III Phillip A. Brown.

my son homework,” he said.
Maiy Conaway agreed that PAL centers were “awful.” She said that if Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier “wants to raise money for police offi­cers, he should raise it for those on the street.” She also said that she was appalled at tearing down houses. She said that the city needs more Nehemiah houses and Habitat for Humanity developments.
Robert Kaufman said that the city’s priorities “are all screwed up. Spending on the children is pander­ing, but no one asks how much the jails cost.” His suggestion for funding
of Public Works, believing that it vio­lated the city charter. He also ques­tioned the advisability of the PAL program. “Every able bodied police­man who can be, ought to be on the streets, not being in rec centers,” he said. On the development issue, Bell said that he had opposed the adminis­tration’s policy of knocking down buildings in the middle of a block and that he would reinstate the city’s $1 house program.
The next question, from Jim Keat, a former editor of the Baltimore Sun’s editorial page, was directed specifi­cally at O’Malley. Keat wanted to know whether payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) tax breaks for down­town hotels were necessary. Would the projects have been developed without the PILOTS, he asked.
Maiy Conaway misuderstood is ►

age of 20% or $300 a car” for city drivers. To create the co-op, the city would have to contribute $300,000 and post a $9 million bond. Kaufman said that Bell and O’Malley were ini­tially supportive of the effort. In fact, he said, “Bell was adamant on this when he thought he was fighting the Mayor.” O’Malley was “just as adamant,” he said. “Now that it can happen, the cat’s got their collective tongue.”
Kaufman noted that he once attended a City Council meeting dressed as Diogenes, the Greek figure who searched for an honest man. Kaufman, with hooded cape and bat­tery operated lantern, was escorted from the City Council chambers. He iviaiung reierence to me prolonged cold war between Bell and his cousin Mfume, Stokes said, “I’m not going to wait any more. I didn’t wait for my cousin. I didn’t wait for a draft .. ..” The rest of his sentence was inaudible because of applause.
Stokes said that the City of Boston saw its homicide rate drop to 4 last year. He would copy some of the programs that have worked in that city.
Rec and Parks
After the initial remarks, moderator Ruppersberger sought questions from the audience. The first question, from Pam Kelly, a longtime aid to Mayor and Governor William Donald Schaefer, was a two-part question concerning the Department of Recreation and Paries, which has suf­fered budget cuts under the Schmoke administration, and a plan to develop houses in a forest near Cold Spring Lane.
Candidate Brown said that the city made a tremendous error raising the price of admission to recreation facili­ties like the city pools. He also expressed his displeasure at the transi­tion of recreation centers to Police Athletic League (PAL) centers. “I don’t need a police officer teaching recreation was creating a commuter tax on out-of-city residents who earn more than $35,000 a year.
O’Malley criticized the Schmoke administration’s continuing ritual of cutting recreation and parks funding “in order to extort a tax [increase from the city council.]” O’Malley wants that PAL centers to go under the leadership of the Department of Recreation and Parks, staffed with cadets, rather than full police officers. He also suggested creating Rec Councils similar to those in Baltimore County.
Stokes responded to the question about development by saying, “trees don’t heed to be cut down for devel­opment. Did you ever notice that the more trees that developers cut down, the more they use ‘woods’ in the name of the community.” Stokes said that he would reopen the 18 rec centers that had been closed under the Schmoke administration.
Bell noted that as President of the City Council he had fought this year for restoration of $ 1.4 million to the Department of Recreation and Parks budget. He reminded the audience that he initially opposed Schmoke’s moving of some Recreation and Paries responsibilities into the Department
Mayoral Candidates Discuss Issues in Forum
«i the question and had no addi­tional comments to make.
Kaufman said that businesses do not go into a city because they can get a tax break. After they decide to enter a city they say “let’s see how much we can chisel out of the bas­tards,” he said. Kaufman suggested that the city’s support of the Inner Harbor East project was an outgrowth of developer John Paterakis’ financial support of the Mayor’s campaign. “This same money is also supporting Lawrence Bell and mayby these other candidates sitting here,” he said.
O’Malley was pointed and specific in his response. “Where do you see cranes in the Inner Harbor?” he asked. “You see them in three places.” Each of those places, were supported by PILOTS, he said. “Three years out, they will be bring­ing in to the city coffers $6 million” in other tax revenue.
Stokes said: “I don’t believe we should be giving tax incentives for casinos, that’s what we’re doing with the Paterakis deal.” He also suggest­ed that when people get their tax bills, that they put their dollar in an enve­lope and send it to City Hall with a note saying “Here’s my payment in lieu of tax.” Stokes also wanted to emphasize economic development in the communities. “We need balance,” he said.
Bell asked whether “downtown is a real downtown or is downtown a ghost town. We have to have jobs, we have to have business,” he said. Bell also said that the hotel operators based their room rates on costs, including tax payments. If there were no PILOT, he inferred, the hotel pro­jects would not take place.
Brown said that deals were being made behind closed doors and that the city’s assistance to hotel projects was related to political contributions.

The next question, from one time Mayoral candidate Kelly Brohawn, asked whether the candidates would reform the Baltimore Development Corporation.
Kaufman described BDC as “a small oligarchy that runs the city – and they aren’t doing it very well.”
O’Malley said that he supports some reotganization of the agency.
Stokes said that he would not abol­ish BDC, he would strengthen it.
Bell defended BDC, saying that some negotiations had to be conduct­ed by closed doors.
Conaway differed from Bell, say­ing “I believe that there’s too much privacy going on.”
Brown once again stole the show saying that he would do away with BDC. “I don’t want anything that had any thing to do with the previous administration,” he said.

A member of the audience asked an innocuous question about whether the police department should have a dress code and the candidates all used the question to state their views on the police and other topics.
O’Malley said: “I’m going to be far more concerned about how they act than how they look.”
Stokes said he was surprised that the questioner didn’t ask about dress codes in schools, where, he said, “you can’t tell the difference between the
Police Commissioner Frazier. “We should look at police officers as peo­ple who protect us, not intimidate us.” She also would require police officers to take sensitivity training.
Brown, who has had some famous confrontations with the police, said that police officers made problems worse by “looking macho” when they get out of their cars.
Kaufinan said that he was in favor of a police review board, run by the public.
Getting tired of long answers by candidates, one of the final questions concerned the reorganization, of city government. The questioner, Northeast Baltimore activist Jack Nolan, asked the candidates for a yes or no answer.
Kaufman suggested that the City Council be elected at large through proportional representation. He also suggested disposing of the position of mayor.
Stokes commented that in that case “we should elect Bob.”

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