Kurt L. Schmoke says he has learned at least one thing for sure in his three years as mayor of Baltimore.
You can have the best ideas for how America should rid itself of drugs or house all of the homeless, the mayor says, but unless the telephones in city offices get answered, unless trash trucks run on time and unless mayoral proclamations get printed typo-free, there will be little honor for hizzoner.
Last week, Mr. Schmoke hosted Washington's newly-elected mayor, Sharon Pratt Dixon, at City Hall to swap ideas with her on big-picture city issues and to remind her not to forget even the smallest details.
"One of the things I found useful when I came into office was discussing experiences with other mayors," Mr. Schmoke said.
Both mayors said the meeting, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes on Thursday, allowed them to share ideas on how they might cooperate in economic development, transportation, crime and other social problems -- issues that are major challenges in both cities.
"We are sitting in the middle of an economic common market that is one of the fastest growing and developing in the country, and we're both optimistic about the future -- that is the definition of a mayor," Mr. Schmoke said.
Mr. Schmoke said future meetings are planned that will match ranking members from his staff with their counterparts in the Dixon administration.
Ms. Dixon, a political novice who won election last fall in the fTC wake of a sex-and-drug scandal that brought down former Mayor Marion Barry, said she has admired Mr. Schmoke's handling of his first term in office.
"Mayor Schmoke was a great inspiration to me," said Ms. Dixon, one of only a handful of black women ever elected mayor of a U.S. city.
"I think he represents the style and brings a lot of the same attitudes and emphasis to the office of mayor that we intend to bring to Washington, D.C."
After their meeting, Mr. Schmoke presented Ms. Dixon with a book of Baltimore photographs and another gift wrapped in silver paper.
"Most of the time I have to cut everything," Ms. Dixon joked, alluding to her budget dealings in Washington.
"It's nice to get something."