Gearing up to mount an "aggressive lobbying effort" during the 1991 General Assembly, Baltimore is spending $24,700 to hire one of Maryland's best known lobbyists to plead its case.
The Board of Estimates yesterday approved the hiring of Edgar P. Silver, a former City Circuit Court judge and city legislator, who now is a partner in the law firm Rifkin, Evans and Silver.
Silver has worked closely with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke since Schmoke was elected city state's attorney in 1982. Also, for more than 50 years, Silver has been a friend and confidant of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who is perhaps Schmoke's chief political antagonist.
"I hope to be able to develop a good relationship between the city and state," Silver said. "The city is a personal client, separate from the firm, and I plan to work very hard on the city's agenda."
Silver said he filled a similar role with Baltimore County last year. Moreover, Silver has served as an informal intermediary between Schmoke and Schaefer, helping to retain some civility in what has been a rocky relationship between the two political figures.
As a special consultant to the city, Silver will supplement Baltimore's usual lobbying effort, which in recent years has been led by Henry W. Bogdan.
Silver's hiring comes after 30-year city lobbyist Janet Hoffman was forced to curtail most of her activities because of a broken hip. Hoffman has worked in recent years as a contractual employee to the city and is to have a scaled-back role during the upcoming session.
In addition to making up for what will be lost from Hoffman's workload, Schmoke said, Silver's hiring underlines the importance of the top items on the city's legislative wish list.
One is implementation of at least some of the Linowes Commission recommendations, which would raise taxes mainly on well paid Marylanders to provide fiscal relief to poor jurisdictions, including Baltimore. The other items Schmoke is pushing for are a state take over of the City Jail and the city court system.
"This is a very important legislative year for us," Schmoke said.
It also is likely to be a frustrating year, if early indications from the governor and legislative leaders mean anything.
Already, many legislative leaders are saying that the Linowes Commission's recommendations have to be shelved because of the economic slowdown in Maryland and the sentiment of voters who want to limit government spending.
Also, with Maryland facing a budget shortfall of more than a $400 million, Schaefer has said he will not support state takeovers of the City Jail and city court system -- even though he championed those ideas when he was mayor of Baltimore.
"It's going to be tough going, I realize that," Schmoke said. "But it's early. I've spoken to Speaker [R. Clayton] Mitchell and the president of the Senate, and all I'm asking for is a fair hearing."
Schmoke also said he has written a letter to Schaefer about his legislative concerns. He said he has yet to receive a reply.