More than half of Baltimore's legislative delegation rallied behind the needs of children yesterday and agreed to work together on a strategy to stop the withdrawal of state funds for education and health care.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, leaders in the city's religious community and the Baltimore City Teachers Union also agreed to participate in what was called a historic alliance forged by Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, or BUILD.
"Never have all these groups of people worked together on one strategy," said state Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, adding that Baltimore's dismal fiscal condition motivated the legislators to put aside their differences. "The needs of the city are so overriding and we are in such a crisis that something must be done. And together we can have much more impact."
"At a bleak, dark time, I see a ray of hope," added the Rev. Sidney Daniels of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
The coalition -- including 17 of the city's 29 state legislators -- met for the first time yesterday in the basement of Calvary Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore and agreed to meet once every two weeks to hammer out the details of the strategy they intend to present to Gov. William Donald Schaefer before Thanksgiving.
The city stands to lose $21 million in state aid as Governor Schaefer tries to eliminate the state's $450 million deficit. Many of the city's political leaders pleaded unsuccessfully with the governor and the legislature to pass emergency legislation that would increase taxes or redistribute revenues.
Yesterday, Mayor Schmoke said he and executives from Prince George's, Montgomery, Harford and Howard counties were sending a letter to the governor asking him to call a special legislative session to consider tax increases.
But BUILD leaders say the thrust of their coalition's strategy will be to take the public's focus off raising taxes and spotlight the worsening poverty, crime and unemployment Maryland faces if its children are not healthy and educated.