Municipal officials seem incensed that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, having itself been tarred and feathered for a series of costly scandals, has lambasted the city for lax administration of community development block grants. Unless the city provides satisfactory explanations to Washington, it may be forced to repay $2 million.
Is this legitimate criticism? Or is it, as one ranking city administrator suggests, "regulation by strangulation"?
While the 74-page HUD report repeatedly talks about "serious problems," these relate to the city's compliance with federal rules. There is no suggestion of corruption or criminal mismanagement. And while the target of the criticism is Baltimore City, most of the grant activity under review predated Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
Mayor Schmoke and Housing Commissioner Robert W. Hearn should not ignore the HUD report, however. It's one thing for federal auditors to demand retroactive documentation for housing projects which previously never required such paperwork. It is quite another thing for Maxine S. Saunders, the local HUD manager here, to accuse Mayor Schmoke of refusing to meet with her to discuss the federal report before its release.