For several months we have been waiting. We have been waiting for any of the eight Democratic candidates for mayor to come up with a comprehensive campaign platform. So far, none has. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke seems to think his record merits automatic renomination; Clarence "Du" Burns, the previous mayor, keeps rambling on with old war stories; William A. Swisher, the one-time state's attorney, lives in the past.
What we are hearing from our readers is disappointment and concern. They see Baltimore as a city adrift. They sense criminals and drug lords taking over the streets. They witness a dangerous increase in abandoned housing. As they see "For Sale" signs mushroom, they worry.
The Sun sees no cause for alarmism. The city faces major unresolved problems, however, and we are troubled that neither Mayor Schmoke nor his challengers have outlined an action program that would instill Baltimoreans with confidence and give them a sense of enthusiasm about their city. Certainly the mayor owes it to the voters to debate Mr. Burns. Such a confrontation was illuminating four years ago; it could be again. The idea that Mr. Schmoke would call head-to-head debate "another gimmick" defies the logic of democratic dialogue.
Nevertheless, The Sun endorses Mr. Schmoke for re-election in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. We feel that so many seeds of promise have been planted in his first term that they should be allowed to flower. Changing executives now would subject the city to a needless interruption in difficult recessionary conditions -- and without any guarantee that another mayor would be better.
When we look at other cities, we see few chief executives who project such an image of personal honesty and noble goals as Mr. Schmoke. As Baltimore's first elected black mayor, he possesses qualities that a role model should have.
Fiscally, Baltimore is in a better shape than most big cities, despite a narrowing tax base and a drastic decrease in federal aid. This is recognized by Wall Street bond houses, which continue to give a high rating to the city's credit-worthiness.
Four years ago, after narrowly beating Mr. Burns in a contest for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Schmoke came to office with expectations that probably were far too high. He himself heightened hopes by promising that a quick turn-around in the city's public schools would be his top priority.
Not only did that turn-around fail to happen, the schools are a source of continuing controversy. Overall, many of Mr. Schmoke's appointees have disappointed. While Robert Hearn's Department of Housing and Community Development has attracted new federal grant money, it hasn't been able to maintain the agency's own stock of public housing or address the vacant housing problem aggressively. The Police Department, slated for an overdue reorganization under Commissioner Edward V. Woods, is a big question mark.
These are some of our concerns. Yet when we look around, we are convinced that every alternative to Mr. Schmoke would be worse. Mr. Burns is dangerously out of touch with the changes that have taken place in federal and state governments, both chief contributors to Baltimore City's well-being. Mr. Swisher, for his part, does not have the right instincts required of a mayor.
In endorsing Kurt L. Schmoke for the Democratic nomination, we urge him to issue a clear declaration of mission between now and Sept. 12 so voters will know where the city is headed, if his administration continues for another four years.
* * In a significant departure, Baltimore's Republicans have a lively contest for mayoral nomination. Three out of six candidates are viable: Samuel A. Culotta, Bruce K. Price and Joseph A. Scalia.
Mr. Scalia, a recent law school graduate, is waging an energetic campaign. We do not think he has the maturity required for the job, however, and have serious questions about his judgment.
In his previous incarnation as a Democrat, Mr. Price worked for Gov. Marvin Mandel and the Anne Arundel County government, among other things. A United Methodist minister, he has some interesting ideas and a good record as a community leader. We are troubled, however, by controversies that surrounded his past government activity.
The Sun endorses Mr. Culotta, a lawyer and GOP mainstay. As a former state delegate and gubernatorial aide, he has the background and understanding of government. We know and trust Mr. Culotta as a responsible politician whose dedication is to the well-being of Baltimore City.
* * In the race for City Council president, Democratic voters have a choice between Daki Napata, an activist minister from Edmondson Village, and the incumbent, Mary Pat Clarke. Mr. Napata is an on-and-off candidate who first wanted to run for mayor. Ms. Clarke troubles us because of her unbridled ambitions and her erratic behavior.
Anthony Cobb, a fresh face with community experience, is the sole GOP candidate for City Council president. He promises to engage the Democratic nominee in lively general election debate.