Calling cleanup of the environment "one of the great challenges of the 1990s," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has announced some initiatives that he hopes to implement during the next two years.
The proposals unveiled yesterday are the work of an mayoral environmental council established by Schmoke a year ago. The group included city planners and officials from the Baltimore Health Department and the Department of Public Works.
The proposals, many of which are required by state and federal law and would require the City Council to enact legislation, include:
* Giving the city the power to mandate solid-waste recycling if on-going voluntary efforts fall short of state requirements.
* Increasing to a flat $1,000 the fine for illegal dumping. Fines now range from $100 to $1,000.
* Protecting the few remaining natural habitats along the city's shoreline.
* Changing city law to stiffen the requirements for the pretreatment of industrial waste.
In addition to recommending the proposed measures, the environmental council has suggested several policy changes, including one that the city government purchase recycled products "whenever possible."
Schmoke has endorsed the establishment of an environmental enforcement corps, which would develop a mechanism for the thousands of city employees in the street every day to have a role in detecting illegal dumping.
"We would like to establish some type of hot line," said Public Works Director George G. Balog. Currently, illegal-dumping laws are enforced by police, who have more pressing priorities. As a result, "very few summonses" are written for illegal dumping, Balog said.
Other proposals are geared to raising citizens' consciousness regarding the environment. One would award scholarships to city high school students who write winning essays about improving the environment; another would give mayoral awards to businesses and neighborhoods that exhibit sensitivity to the environment.
Schmoke announced the initiatives from the terrace of the Rowing Club, which backs on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River in Cherry Hill. The mayor hailed the former industrial wasteland, which is now part of the budding Middle Branch Park, as proof of the power of concern for the environment.
"The city has to take the leadership in this area and I see that they're doing that," said Ajax Eastman of the Maryland Conservation Council, who was present for the announcement. "At least they are cognizant of the problems and are trying to do something about them."