Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke went to his old high school yesterday to be sworn in for a second term. It was at City College 25 years ago that he heard another mayor tell students they were the future leaders of the city. "Many of the students in the auditorium that day looked skeptical. Some smiled. A few even laughed. But not me," the mayor recalled. "I took what I heard seriously."
On a gray and drizzly day, when much of the news in the media was bad, Mr. Schmoke told a new generation of students not to believe predictions they would be the first young people to live the American dream in reverse.
"Your future, and the future of our city, is not preordained," he declared. "We are not totally at the mercy of economic and social forces beyond our control."
"To think otherwise is lazy and self-destructive. Lazy because it is action, not fear or resignation, that will push your generation ahead of where it is today. And self-destructive because if we don't act -- and frankly if our political, civic and commercial leadership doesn't act -- then every generation, not just yours is in jeopardy."
He called for reinventing "the way we do business in Baltimore."
"Partnership is not going to be a sometimes-tool, it's going to be a way of life," he pledged. "Personal responsibility is not going to be a luxury, it's going to be a necessity. Community participation is not going to be the way of the few, it's going to be the way of the many."
We liked what we heard. When compared to his predecessor, Mr. Schmoke is often criticized for not being the same kind of ebullient promoter and community organizer as William Donald Schaefer. Yet in difficult times it is important for the city's top official to also be its spiritual leader, the man who gives hope and inspiration.
A few hours after the mayor's speech, Jacqueline McLean was inaugurated in a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance at the War Memorial as the city's first woman and first black comptroller. Yet she said that "being a double first" is secondary to the efficient functioning of her watchdog agency which affects "every spectrum, color and issue" in the community.
"I do not intend to be a passive monitor" of the city's fiscal affairs, Mrs. McLean declared.
She pledged to bring her business experience to the office. There would be performance audits of municipal departments, she promised, and recommendations for new ways to conduct city business.
The next four years will be a time for rethinking and adjustments. During this difficult economic period, it is important that Baltimoreans hear more often the kind of clear goal-setting Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. McLean enunciated yesterday.