Saying that the revitalization of Baltimore and other cities requires a "sustained federal response," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is backing an Oct. 12 march on Washington to call attention to the desperate condition of America's urban centers.
The Save Our Cities march is intended to bring together 10,000 Baltimoreans and delegations from other cities in a rally outside the Capitol in an attempt to move cities into a priority spot on the national agenda.
"The country has to listen to the pain of people in the cities and respond to it in a positive way," Schmoke said yesterday.
The march on Washington is being organized by Baltimore activists. But organizers said Schmoke has written mayors in several other cities, urging them to send delegations.
Schmoke promised to march part of the way with a group of people who plan to walk from Baltimore to Washington. He also is to address the Washington rally.
"The march's concentration will be Baltimore," said Sister Katherine Corr, co-chairwoman of the Save Our Cities Campaign, along with former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell. "Baltimore being the closest city to Washington, we really had a prime opportunity to lead this," she said.
Organizers say the need for the march is clear: Federal aid to Baltimore declined by 75 percent between 1980 and 1990, if the aid is adjusted for inflation.
Mitchell, who retired from Congress in 1986 after 16 years, said there is no reason for the federal government not to increase aid to cities, despite budget problems.
"The money is there," he said, "if we take it just from the billion in research and development in the military that is unexpended. Also, there is $9 billion in foreign aid that is not being used."
The march has several other objectives: shifting of some of the tax burden from the working- and middle-class to the rich and a reduction in military spending to make possible a progressive domestic agenda.
The Save Our Cities march is expected to be the first of many marches on Washington for cities. The effort will culminate April 11 with a national march organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.