Baltimore invites mayors to gala to put cities back on U.S. map

January 17, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

More than 230 mayors are expected at the Baltimor Convention Center tomorrow for a black-tie celebration of cities -- which many of them are confident will receive new federal attention when Bill Clinton becomes president.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the U.S. Conference of Mayors say they organized the gala because they expect urban issues to return to the top of the national agenda with the inauguration of Mr. Clinton Wednesday.

"It is a chance to come together at a time of great hope in our country," Mr. Schmoke said.

Mr. Clinton was invited to the gala but will not attend because of commitments in Washington.

"Even presidents-elect can be in only one place at a time," said Larry S. Gibson, chairman of the event.

Instead, Mr. Gibson said, the president-elect recorded a

10-minute videotape that will be shown to the 2,000 people expected at the gala.

The gala offers an opportunity to showcase the stature of Mr. Schmoke, an early supporter who advised Mr. Clinton on urban issues.

The mayor's political organization delivered votes for Mr. Clinton in a big way during both the primary and in the November election.

"Of the 37 largest urban areas, Baltimore was second in terms of the percentage of votes that went to Clinton-Gore," said Mr. Gibson, Mr. Schmoke's top political adviser who also chaired Mr. Clinton's Maryland campaign.

Mr. Schmoke's relationship with Mr. Clinton sparked speculation that the mayor would be chosen for a Cabinet position.

While an undergraduate at Yale University, Mr. Schmoke became friendly with Hillary Clinton, who was at Yale Law School at the time.

However, Mr. Schmoke said all along that he has no interest in working in Washington, only in having "a friend in the White House."

He also will have friends elsewhere in the new administration, among them Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Henry Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio.

Mr. Cisneros has been an acquaintance of Mr. Schmoke for years. Mr. Schmoke sought his advice after he was elected to his first term as mayor of Baltimore in 1987.

"Mayor Schmoke was very supportive of Mr. Cisneros for the HUD job," Mr. Gibson said.

The gala, which is being paid for with $200,000 from area businesses and Mr. Schmoke's campaign committee, coincides with the U.S. Conference of Mayors' winter meeting which begins today in Washington.

The fact that Mr. Clinton nominated a former mayor for the HUD job has given mayors hope that the federal government will spend more money on cities, reversing a trend that began in the 1980s.

Since then, federal money as a percentage of city budgets has fallen by more than 64 percent, from an average of 17.7 percent in 1980 to 6.4 percent in 1990, according to a 50-city survey done by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"What we are hoping to demonstrate with the gala is that cities are the heart and soul of the United States," Mr. Gibson said.

During his campaign, Mr. Clinton made it clear that he considers the revitalization of its cities crucial.

And his platform included several items strongly endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Among them:

* Targeting community development grants to build urban roads, bridges, water- and sewage-treatment plants and housing stock.

* Creating a network of community-development banks to provide small loans to low-income business people and inner-city homeowners.

* Creating enterprise zones to offer incentives and tax breaks for businesses in depressed areas.

* Strengthening requirements for banks to reinvest in their communities, in an effort to get banks to make more loans in poor communities.

* Giving cities more flexibility over how they use federal aid.

Mr. Clinton has also talked about increasing the amount of money the federal government spends on drug addiction treatment.

Mr. Schmoke has lobbied hard for that change, saying that federal drug policy should be "geared more to public health than criminal justice."

Also at the gala will be ambassadors from Jamaica, Egypt, India and Korea as well as local business leaders and Schmoke supporters.

An array of entertainment is planned, ranging from singers Jennifer Holliday, Ruby Glover and Aleta Greene to the Hamilton Middle School Jazz Band.

The masters of ceremonies will be television personalities Montel Williams, a syndicated talk show host and the son of Baltimore Fire Chief Herman E. Williams, and Charles Dutton, a Baltimore native and star of "Roc," a network television show.

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