Schaefer proposal for harbor project wins some favor Governor's call for joint planning could benefit city, Rawlings says

December 21, 1990|By Doug Birch | Doug Birch,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Some city leaders are cautiously applauding Gov. William Donald Schaefer's call for a joint city-state master plan for the eastern Inner Harbor, saying the process might cut red tape, revive some faltering projects and increase state aid to the city.

And perhaps, some said, it could finally thaw the wintry relationship between the governor and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"I think if there's ever going to be a rapprochement between Schmoke and Schaefer, this is going to be the opportunity," Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, said yesterday.

"If Schmoke looks at this as an intrusion instead of an opportunity, the city might have blown a good chance in terms of a very constructive relationship being born out of this during Schaefer's remaining four years in office," he said.

"The state has legitimate interests in developing one of the state's most important resources, the Inner Harbor of Baltimore," Mr. Rawlings said. "I think the mayor is going to consider it very carefully. I think it's an opportunity for the mayor and governor to work together on a project that is important to both of them."

Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, the Senate majority leader, was more cautious, saying that harbor development "needs to be all tied together. I would just hope the mayor and the governor would get together and do it." He declined to comment on whether the project might improve relations between the two executives.

"Obviously everything works better when all interests work together for the common good," he said. "If that can take place out of all of this, that is fine. But I'm not going to add to the dilemma. I'm not going to add to the fire."

David Kornblatt, a developer, said, "There's some merit to having the state involved in the process, especially since they're going to be providing some of the seed money or pre-development money" for construction projects.

State planners have "a good knowledge of the area," he said, and early participation in the development process could speed the granting of necessary state permits.

One business executive, who spoke on condition he not be named, said that only the state could save some of the troubled projects in the area.

The former "urban theme park," the Power Plant, which has been vacant for 11 months, and the Brokerage commercial and office complex, which is in bankruptcy, are both part of the troubled eastern Inner Harbor area.

"The state will be the motor that gets this thing turned around," the executive said.

The governor and mayor have been personally and politically estranged since the early 1980s, when Mr. Schaefer was Baltimore's mayor and Mr. Schmoke was Baltimore state's attorney.

The source of the conflict is unclear. The two Democrats seem separated more by political style than philosophy.

After Mr. Schaefer became governor in 1987, things did not improve. But those hard feelings may not have had much impact -- so far -- on state aid to the city, where the governor pushed for a new stadium, light rail line and other projects.

Mr. Schaefer said Wednesday, at a state Board of Public Works meeting, that he was worried about the slowing pace of development in the eastern Inner Harbor and that he wanted the city, state and business community to come up with a new master plan.

"If I were the mayor, I wouldn't like the proposal at all," conceded Mr. Schaefer, but he urged city leaders not to regard the offer as "an intrusion by the state."

A spokesman for Mr. Schmoke said yesterday that he did not want to comment because the governor had not yet discussed the offer with him.

Mark L. Wasserman, a top aide to the governor and former city development official, described the governor's offer as a "trial balloon."

"At the eastern end of Inner Harbor he believes that there's room for the city and state and private sector to take a look at the pace of development there and perhaps look collaboratively at ways that that whole sub-area might be moved along a bit more quickly," Mr. Wasserman said.

"Maybe more to the point, if the state is to be a stakeholder, in terms of ambitious projects that require state funding, the governor was making the point we all ought to be operating off the same page with a common view of strategy and tactics," he said.

One veteran elected official, speaking privately, said that, if the governor wanted cooperation from the mayor, he was going about it the wrong way.

"You don't make an offer like that in the newspapers," the official said. "You make phone calls. You set up meetings. You do it privately."

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