Baltimore's Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who yesterday accused President George Bush of ignoring the plight of urban America, said he would help lead an Oct. 12 rally in Washington to press for greater federal aid to cope with crime, poor housing and other ills plaguing U.S. cities.
"We are here to announce that the people are ready to fight back," said Mr. Schmoke, who strode into a City Hall news conference wearing a bright yellow "Save our Cities" T-shirt. "This is citizen action that is saying it is time for a major change in the way the federal government thinks about cities and acts toward them."
The mayor said shrinking federal assistance, including the elimination of the federal revenue sharing program, has left Baltimore and other cities less able to cope with the increasingly perplexing problems posed by an aging infrastructure, a declining tax base and a poorer, less-educated populous.
According to the mayor's office, the federal share of Baltimore's budget went from 34.3 percent in 1982 to a projected 11.5 percent for 1992.
Organizers of the Save our Cities rally plan to dramatize their effort by walking the 40 miles from Baltimore to Washington in the days before the rally. The organizers also hope to draw at least 10,000 people to the west side of the Capitol.
Mr. Schmoke said Washington Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon has agreed to help organize support from Washingtonians. Organizers said several Maryland jurisdictions, including Takoma Park and Hagerstown, also plan to join the effort.
Mr. Schmoke's support for the Save our Cities rally is an outgrowth of his work with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is endorsing the rally. In the coming months, the mayor said he and several other mayors plan to tour the U.S. as part of a bipartisan effort to discuss urban issues and rally citizen support for more federal aid to cities.
Baltimore and other cities, including Philadelphia, New York City and Bridgeport, Conn., have coped with the decline in federal support to urban centers by laying off workers, cutting back services, freezing wages and delaying non-emergency construction and repairs.
The mayor said changes in global politics, including the collapse of the Soviet Union as a superpower, have substantially reduced the spending needs of the U.S. military. Mr. Schmoke said such a "peace dividend" should be invested in rebuilding America's cities.
"Send us money for one Stealth bomber and we'll show you improved schools," Mr. Schmoke said.