Needed: Agenda for Baltimore City

September 24, 1991

In another six weeks, Baltimoreans will go to the polls to elect a mayor. Yet neither primary nominee has bothered to lay out a blueprint for how he will govern this city over the next four years.

In a city where Democrats hold a 9-1 registration edge over Republicans, the odds heavily favor Democratic incumbent Kurt Schmoke over Republican Samuel Culotta. But just because he won the primary, Mr. Schmoke should not expect an automatic coronation Nov. 5. Now is the time for each nominee to lay out his agenda for Baltimore in the 1990s.

One of the sad things about the primary campaign was that none of the eight Democratic and six Republican candidates for mayor bothered to prepare such a road map. Instead of detailed programs, the candidates appealed to voters by saying "trust me." From a candidate's point of view this kind of strategy is understandable because proposals (and promises) that were never made cannot be later scrutinized or criticized.

Baltimoreans deserve better from their politicians. They have a right to know in what direction Mr. Schmoke wants to take this city if he wins a second term. How will he address criticism aimed at his Department of Housing and Community Development? What are his ideas for downsizing the government? Will he take a more aggressive role in seeking metropolitan solutions to common problems after four years of sitting on the sidelines? Mr. Culotta, for his part, needs to give the voters a reason for switching by detailing a comprehensive program for his Republican administration.

Mr. Schmoke dodged his primary opponents' insistent debate requests. He should not repeat that mistake against Mr. Culotta. The spirit of democracy requires such a frank airing of opinions. Baltimore City residents would definitely benefit from it.

A two-party system is a theoretical affair in a city that has not elected a Republican mayor in 28 years and hasn't sent a Republican to the City Council in nearly a half-century. What citizens decide in the privacy of the voting booth is their own business. The city itself is better off if no election is regarded as a foregone conclusion but as a serious exercise in which the issues of the day are given thorough attention and consideration.

Baltimore City has much promise. It also has serious problems. Taxpayers and property owners seem especially alarmed. How will Mr. Culotta and Mayor Schmoke meet their concerns? What are their goals for Baltimore? We trust the two men will enlighten us as the general election campaign shifts into high gear.

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