City Council candidate has on-again, off-again affair with politics

August 15, 1991|By Ginger Thompson *

Is he in or is he out?

As of yesterday, Daki Napata says he is in -- once again.

Mr. Napata, a 39-year-old resident of Irvington who describes himself as a community organizer and an inter-faith minister, has been in and out of two citywide political races so far this summer.

First he filed for mayor, but withdrew and re-filed to run for City Council President.

Then two weeks ago Mr. Napata abruptly announced he was ending his campaign for council president. He said he was tired and disillusioned with politics and could not attract media attention.

But Mr. Napata's Aug. 1 announcement was two weeks beyond the legal deadline for candidates to drop out. That meant that active candidate or not, his name was still going to be on the ballot for the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.

And a lucky thing it was, too, because yesterday Mr. Napata just as abruptly decided he was back in.

"There were a lot of people calling me and asking me to come back in the day after I withdrew," he said in a phone call to a reporter. "I thought about it for a while to see if the calls would stop coming, but they didn't."

Mr. Napata said for the next month he would focus his campaign on going door-to-door to meet voters.

Might it not be tough to convince them that he's in the race to stay?

"My response to them would be to tell them what I've done over the last 20 years in my life, how consistent I've been and how constructive I've been with little resources," he said. The more things change . . .

The last time Clarence H. "Du" Burns ran for mayor in 1987, the barb most frequently tossed at him was the suggestion he was a front man for his old friend and political ally, William Donald Schaefer. Mr. Schaefer was Baltimore's mayor for 15 years before he was elected governor in 1986 and, many at the time assumed, his attachments to City Hall were more than sentimental.

Four years later, Mr. Burns is again running for mayor and again finds himself facing the "Schaefer issue." His answer hasn't changed much.

"You're darn right I want to be a friend of Schaefer's," Mr. Burns told a candidates' forum at a church basement in the West Baltimore community of Rognel Heights last week. "Doesn't he have all the money?"

The 72-year-old Mr. Burns then shifted to his patented folksy campaign style and gave the audience a brief lecture on politics the way he learned it, in the streets.

"We're playing a game called politics," he said. "The rules weren't set by me, but I learned it like the back of my hand. . . . And anyone who says I'm a Schaefer flunkie, doesn't know the game of politics."

Mr. Burns reminded his audience that in the old days when

Democratic mayors were close to Democratic governors, "they were called great."

"But when I play it to the hilt," Mr. Burns protested, "I'm in Schaefer's pocket."

The audience laughed and applauded. A few said that Mr. Burns' remarks had hit home.

"Mayor [Kurt L.] Schmoke is very smart, but Mr. Burns knows more about the city," said Sharia Chandler, who moved to Rognel Heights two years ago. "If he gets out and tells people the same thing he told us, I think he would have a chance to beat Mayor Schmoke."


Ginger Thompson


Mayor Schmoke takes a strong stand when it comes to the political aspirations of people who work for him: file for election, submit your resignation.

That's what happened last summer to Robert Stokes, the mayor's representative in Oliver, who had to resign when he ran for a House of Delegates seat in East Baltimore. Mr. Schmoke said then that he didn't want people to think that a candidate who happens to be a mayor's representative is speaking for the mayor.

Mr. Stokes lost his 1990 race, but within a month he was back on the city payroll. Although someone was placed in Mr. Stokes' job while he was campaigning, "it was determined the person needed a little more experience before actually assuming the position," said Clint Coleman, a spokesman for the mayor.

This summer, Leonard Cannady, the mayor's representative in Berea, is running for the City Council. He, too, had to resign his post. Coincidentally, the woman who replaced Mr. Stokes in 1990 is now replacing Mr. Cannady in 1991.

Will that job, too, prove to be only temporary? The answer, it seems, must await the results of the Sept. 12 primary.

"Asking that question before Sept. 13 is premature," Mr. Coleman said. "Mr. Cannady, should he not win that election, is certainly welcome to reapply for his job."

Ann LoLordo


Imagine classrooms full of budding Boris Beckers, developing Dan Marinos and maturing Michael Jordans.

William A. Swisher already has.

Mr. Swisher, a candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary, said it wouldn't be a bad idea for the city's public school system to open a magnet school for children interested in becoming professional athletes.

"How about these kids who want to be jocks?" asked Mr. Swisher. "We ought to have something for them, too."

Mr. Swisher said the city might consider locating such a facility on East 33rd Street, where Eastern High School sits abandoned and where Memorial Stadium will soon be without a professional sports team.

Many educators are concerned that too many children grow up believing they can make a living by throwing, catching or dribbling a ball. They point out that fewer than 2,500 athletes have jobs in all of major league baseball, football and basketball combined.

But Mr. Swisher said the Baltimore School for the Arts has demonstrated that specialty schools can be organized without compromising academic achievement. He said the city should also feature schools that offer cutting-edge training in vocational pursuits, such as auto mechanics or bricklaying.

Or dunking basketballs.


Martin C. Evans

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