Democratic mayoral candidate William A. Swisher promises to donate $3,500 from his campaign war chest to complete work on a transitional residence for the homeless, a move that he says should be duplicated by Kurt L. Schmoke, the man he is trying to unseat.
"I'd like to see Mr. Schmoke donate $50,000 of his campaign funds to Bea Gaddy," Swisher said yesterday. "It'll make him look like a good guy."
The money Swisher has promised Gaddy, a celebrated East Baltimore activist for the poor and homeless, would complete renovations on a house in the 200 block of N. Chester St. Gaddy plans to use the narrow rowhouse as a "training home" for women who are leaving a homeless shelter she operates.
Swisher said Schmoke should give more money since he has raised well over $1 million in his campaign. "He got the money from the community," Swisher said. "He should give some of it back."
Gaddy, who is running for a City Council seat in the 2nd District, said the house "will give people an opportunity to learn how to live in a house. How to be a neighbor. In six months, I will then go out and advocate to landlords to allow them to become home owners."
Gaddy said she has been working on the house since last September, when she received a $50,000 private donation to renovate it and another in the 2100 block of E. Fayette St. Both projects are close to completion and Swisher's promised gift should take care of the remaining renovation costs, she said.
Gaddy said she considers Swisher's promised donation a sincere gesture. And she emphasized that she has not cut a political deal with the former state's attorney.
"I think he will follow through on this; he seems to be sincere," Gaddy said. "I haven't endorsed anyone in the mayor's race. Not yet . . . I'm not in his pocket."
Swisher, who is attempting to fashion a populist campaign as he battles uphill toward the Sept. 12 primary, also said that he has not endorsed Gaddy's council candidacy.
Maria Griffin, a recovering drug addict and mother of two who is slated to move into the Chester Street home, said she appreciates Swisher's move -- whether it is political or not.
"To have someone to come and want to help you, that means a lot -- especially when you've been through what I have," Griffin said. Griffin has been living in the shelter Gaddy runs "on and off" for nearly two years. And during some of that time her children have been in foster care.
Swisher himself called his planned gift a charitable act. "This has nothing to do with politics," he said. "This is a symbol in one sense and a challenge to these other candidates."
In addition to announcing his intention to donate money to Gaddy, Swisher offered some ideas for putting some of the 6,000 vacant buildings in Baltimore back to good use.
He said that large tracts of vacant buildings should be acquired by the city, bulldozed and then the land should be given to people interested in developing light industry.
"That will help rebuild the city's economic base," he said. Others, he said, should be renovated with the help of "private" money.
"We just need to use a little East Baltimore common sense," he said.