'Foster human potential,' Schmoke asks leaders

January 29, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Violent crime will continue to bedevil Baltimore as long as many residents live in despair, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday as he called on the city's business community to support efforts to improve social conditions for the poor.

Mr. Schmoke predicted that violent crime would remain a sad fact of city life as long as many of its residents see few opportunities for improving their lives. But the mayor also said efforts are being made to alleviate conditions that cause crime, and he called on business leaders to back them.

The mayor received polite applause at the conclusion of his breakfast talk at the Inner Harbor's Hyatt Regency Hotel, sponsored by the Downtown Partnership, a private group that promotes downtown Baltimore.

He also pushed his support for decriminalizing drugs, urging the gathering to think hard about the connection between violent crime and drug profits.

Mr. Schmoke said much of the city's crime problem is not only rooted in drugs but in "an overcrowded criminal justice system, a long recession that has kept young people out of work," poor public education funding and an understaffed Police & 2/3 Department.

"We must pull together to build communities that foster human potential, not human despair," he told an audience of about 260.

Despite eroding support from the federal government and uncertain state support, Mr. Schmoke said, his administration has crafted programs that aim to empower communities and cultivate human potential.

Among them are programs that provide college aid and job-search assistance to high school seniors who maintain good grades and attendance. Since 1989, he said, the percentage of students who qualify for the program has steadily increased.

He also pointed to the work being done in the Sandtown-Winchester section of West Baltimore, where the city is building new homes and supporting a range of social programs.

"Sandtown-Winchester is a long-term investment in human capital," Mr. Schmoke said. "It is much quicker to do for people than to teach people to do for themselves. But doing for people is the equivalent of pursuing short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth."

Mr. Schmoke said that many of the problems now faced by the city, including bad living conditions in some of the city's high-rise public housing developments, are the "legacy of top-down government policies" of the past.

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