Mayor's report paints rosy picture of city's health

May 30, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

Does Baltimore look better, educate its children better, take better care of people this year than last? Do city employees respond quickly and courteously to requests for help? Have your Baltimore City taxes been put to good use this year?

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, raising questions that voters may well be asking as they decide whether to re-elect him this year, is apparently so confident the answers will be yes that he featured these issues prominently in the glossy, 36-page "Baltimore City Government Annual Report 1990" released by his administration.

" 'Yes' answers are the test of good government, and in 1990, as in 1988 and 1989, Baltimore City passed the test," the mayor's report asserts.

Asked about the report yesterday, Mr. Schmoke said: "Obviously, with 740,000 residents it's not going to be unanimous on all of these things, but I look at the way city employees have handled a decrease in resources and still maintained services and I think they are doing a tremendous job."

But other current and former elected officials say the mayor may have given ammunition to his opponents in the upcoming campaign by posing the questions that many city residents find most troubling.

"I think these questions will haunt him," said Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, D-3rd.

"There is an uneasiness about the city and the direction we are headed in," he said.

"I think voters will be asking for some evidence of that [improvement]," said Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, D-5th. "Voters who are sophisticated enough to answer questions like that will say exactly what they feel."

Indeed, former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns, who is Mr. Schmoke's most visible challenger so far, yesterday said he will try to force Mr. Schmoke to answer these questions over and over this summer, as the mayoral campaign intensifies.

"Anyone can pick that report apart, because its plain to see things are worse, not better," Mr. Burns said.

"Putting together a slick brochure doesn't answer the questions for people. He is insulting people's intelligence," he added.

Mr. Burns also said the mayor used questionable judgment in using $45,000 in city money to produce 50,000 copies of the report, which in many respects is similar to campaign material his re-election campaign began circulating in March.

Mr. Schmoke plans to mail the annual report to city employees and to community organizations.

"That is a political brochure if I've ever seen one," Mr. Burns said. "Too bad I have to pay for mine."

But Mr. Schmoke defended his use of city money, saying that the report served a needed public function in countering negative images of the city by informing residents of some of the positive things the city is doing.

The annual report includes photographs of smiling Baltimoreans receiving dozens of services the city provides for residents and businesses.

It also features reproductions of newspaper articles reporting on city efforts to fight crime, provide social services, stimulate development or other activities that place the city in a positive light -- similar to the March campaign ads that featured covers of several magazines that have printed flattering articles about the city.

Mr. Schmoke is not the first mayor to issue a city annual report. Former Mayor William Donald Schaefer also issued such reports, the last one in 1986 titled "Wow! Baltimore. . . ."

Mr. Burns, who was in office for less than a year, did not issue an annual report.

"People too often only hear about the negatives, the retrenchment," Mr. Schmoke said.

"They don't often hear about the good news."

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