Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will be sworn in today for a second term in economic conditions that are drastically different from four years ago. The recession has made it plain that the way Baltimore City's government traditionally has been run must change. Rethinking and remaking that government will be the biggest test -- and opportunity -- of the second Schmoke administration.
The question is whether Mr. Schmoke has the political will to undertake the kinds of changes an inevitable downsizing involves without destroying the qualities that make Baltimore livable.
One example illustrates what a difficult task confronts the mayor. In trimming the budget, the Schmoke administration -- to save less than $60,000 -- cut the positions of two crucial coordinators. One put together packages that enabled neighborhoods to undertake self-help volunteer projects. The other aided small businessmen in rehabilitating vacant commercial properties and filling them with tenants. "These are jobs that have a direct economic benefit because they encourage redevelopment," protests Timothy R. Hearn, a real estate man. For her part, Lois A. Garey, executive director of Northeast Baltimore's Harbel Community Organization, pleads, "Don't take away the tools communities need to do more with less."