Mayor says city will stick to basics McLean takes oath as city comptroller.

December 04, 1991|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Evening Sun Staff

Saying the city can no longer support a wide range of services, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke plans to use his second term in office to focus government on the essentials -- education, public safety and the environment.

"That doesn't mean we won't continue to be deeply involved in housing, economic development, human services and much more," Schmoke said during his inauguration speech yesterday. "But, when government is streamlined -- as it must be -- how we learn, how we look and how safe we feel are going to stand out as the core responsibilities of city government."

In another ceremony yesterday, Jacqueline F. McLean, the first woman and first black person ever to hold the city comptroller's job, took her oath of office. She was sworn in at the War Memorial downtown.

Last night, she was the honoree at a gala inaugural ball that attracted 300 people to the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

The inauguration of the City Council president and 18 council members is scheduled tomorrow.

Schmoke is exploring several changes in government. One would reduce the property tax rate and charge homeowners a fee for trash collection.

Finance Director William Brown said the move -- which could surface as part of Schmoke's budget package next spring -- would essentially provide a tax break for businesses, which now pay for private trash collection. Brown said that it probably would mean city homeowners would pay more for city services. The trade-off, he said, would be a more competitive tax rate that may help attract new business to the city.

"As it is now, the business community is subsidizing refuse collection for homeowners," Brown said. "If we go forward with this, people would be paying for what they receive."

Schmoke cautioned that his idea for garbage fees is tentative. "This is just an idea," Schmoke said. "We will debate this and discuss this publicly if we decide to move ahead. But we want people to know that we are serious about looking at a lot of different ways of doing business."

As he streamlines government, Schmoke said, citizens must take more responsibility for their city.

"We simply have to do more for ourselves; the economy leaves us no choice," Schmoke told an audience of family, Cabinet members, elected officials and students who packed the auditorium at City College for his inaugural address yesterday.

Schmoke said residents can help by performing simple tasks: recycling trash, sweeping their curbs and reporting suspicious activities to police.

Schmoke also called on city parents to designate the hours between 7 and 8 p.m. a study hour. He called on the city's television stations to help publicize the effort.

"This is just a partial list, seemingly small things with big impact," Schmoke said. If they are not done, he warned, the city will not make progress because of deep cuts in the state and federal aid the city once enjoyed.

Previously, Schmoke has said that he is thinking about combining some city agencies and even privatizing the Enoch Pratt Free Library. He said city government should be more tightly focused on public safety, education and the environment.

Schmoke's inauguration was held at City College, the high school where Schmoke, now 42, first found fame in the mid-1960s as a football star and student leader.

"I have many wonderful memories of this school. But the memory that brought me back to this place for my second swearing-in took place right where you're sitting," Schmoke said to the City seniors at the ceremony. "Twenty-five years ago, I was in this auditorium listening to a speaker, who happened to be the mayor of Baltimore. He told my assembled class that we were the future leaders of Baltimore . . . I took him seriously."

The ceremony was planned as a low-key event and featured presentations by student leaders at City and music from the choir of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

It provided a sharp contrast to the celebration that occurred four years ago when Schmoke was sworn in as Baltimore's first elected black mayor. More than 14,000 people packed the Baltimore Arena for that occasion.

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