Schmoke faulted for overstating successes in city Mayor defends booklet's accuracy

August 04, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

Just about everywhere he has gone during this campaign season, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has distributed a burgundy-colored booklet with his picture on it, titled "The Major Accomplishments of Kurt L. Schmoke as Mayor of Baltimore City."

But included among the 234 accomplishments listed in the 44-page pamphlet are some that are of dubious connection to the Schmoke administration, others that are debatable, others still that stretch the facts and at least one that is flatly wrong.

For example:

* The book claims that the city-owned Baltimore Arena generated a $14,000 profit last year, even though the arena lost more than $310,000.

* The book says that attendance at the city's five municipal golf courses rose to record highs under Mr. Schmoke's administration.

The city has had nothing to do with operating the golf courses since 1985 -- two years before the mayor took office -- when operation of the golf courses was turned over to a non-profit group under a 15-year lease.

* The mayor said he alleviated overcrowding at the City Jail in compliance with a federal court mandate.

That is true, but some of the methods used raised eyebrows. In October, the city was caught shuttling inmates from the jail to district lockups in the middle of the night and then returning them in the morning to avoid having them counted, angering the federal judge overseeing the jail.

In addition, the mayor has angered other politicians by claiming as his own accomplishments they contend are theirs.

Mr. Schmoke, the pamphlet says, was "the first mayor to successfully convince the legislature to operate and pay for the City Jail. This will save Baltimore millions of dollars."

But that's not the way it is remembered by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who rarely bothers to hide his dislike of the mayor. Mr. Schmoke, says the governor, "had absolutely nothing to do with the takeover of the jail."

Mr. Schaefer, who surprised even his staff when he proposed the jail takeover by the state last January, said that it was his leadership, and not Mr. Schmoke's, that led to the jail transfer. Mr. Schmoke has said that he has long been a proponent of turning over the problem-plagued jail to the state and that he lobbied the city delegation in Annapolis to do it.

Mr. Schmoke says that he did not intend to imply that his administration was singularly responsible for every housing project, swimming pool, educational program or golf-course improvement mentioned in the book.

But he said his administration played a major role in all of them and deserves credit. "There was a substantial Schmoke administration input in these programs that have led to results over the past four years," Mr. Schmoke said. "That's why we put them in the book."

While credit for accomplishments such as the jail transfer may be a matter of opinion, harder to justify is the mayor's claim that last year the arena turned a $14,000 profit after several years of losses.

In fact the city paid a private company -- Landover-based Centre Management -- $325,000 to manage the arena but didn't include that fee when it was adding up profits and losses. When the management fee is counted, the city lost $310,000.

Mr. Schmoke insists that he is within his rights to call the city-owned arena profitable, even though neither he nor arena officials dispute that the city must still pay out money to keep the arena open.

"Centre Management has said they made a profit, and I agree with their definition of a profit," Mr. Schmoke said. "I don't think anyone who has been to the arena doesn't believe it's a better facility, offering better shows" than before Centre Management took over the facility.

The campaign booklet, which Mr. Schmoke has handed out by the boxful during campaign swings through the city, has been ridiculed by former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns, who is challenging Mr. Schmoke in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. Mr. Burns says Mr. Schmoke is embellishing his record because he can claim so few accomplishments.

"He's stretching the truth by a mile and a half," Mr. Burns said of the campaign booklet. "There are very, very few things that you can put your finger on that he has done. Sixty percent of the things that he has done have been a follow-up on what Schaefer did and I have done."

Mr. Burns was president of the City Council when Mr. Schaefer was mayor, and after Mr. Schaefer became governor, automatically succeeded him as mayor until he was defeated by Mr. Schmoke in 1987.

In fact, the mayor is directly responsible for the implementation of dozens of programs and initiatives included in the book, ranging from literacy clinics to AIDS outreach projects to a citywide recycling program. And the downsizing of city government under the mayor's direction has been hailed by Annapolis lawmakers and New York municipal bond salesmen, who collectively play a big role in the city's fiscal health.

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