It took Judge Mabel Houze Hubbard an unconscionably long time -- 21 months -- to reach a summary judgment in Baltimore city's attempt to reclaim funds raised by city officials on behalf of Artscape, a city festival. But her decision granting the city immediate custody of more than $700,000 in Artscape funds is undeniably the correct one. It also underscores the petty vindictiveness that created this needless dispute.
It should be obvious to anyone -- and, indeed, it has been obvious to just about everyone who can accept the fact that William Donald Schaefer is no longer mayor -- that money donated to the city for a specific purpose couldn't magically be transformed into a private slush fund controlled by the governor's allies. The fact that some officials -- such as Jody Albright, who under Schaefer headed the Mayor's Advisory Council on Art and Culture and now the Governor's Office of Art and Culture -- had strong loyalties to Schaefer does not change the fact that the funds he encouraged them to raise for the city belonged not to him but to the city and people he served as mayor.
Mayor Kurt Schmoke has said that the legal wrangling over Artscape funds has been one of the most distasteful experiences he has had as mayor. No wonder.
But now that a judge has ruled that the case does not even merit a full trial, let us hope these funds will be returned to the city with no delay. Anything less would deepen the insult to the people of Baltimore.