Big wins for the city

April 14, 1993

After the final gavel sounded in the State House Monday night, Baltimore's legislative delegation rejoiced in a series of victories that means more state help for city programs and projects in the months and years ahead. Some $47 million in new state aid was approved, most of it for Baltimore's underperforming school system.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer proved a major ally. His school aid proposal, despite cuts in the legislature, will send $21 million in extra money to Baltimore City schools under a formula that favors the poorest subdivisions. There are also additional dollars for city pre-kindergarten efforts, a dropout-prevention program and a gifted-and-talented high school initiative.

The city benefited from another Schaefer proposal, too: expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center. This $150 million project, in which the city is putting up one-third of the money, is critical to Baltimore's hotel and tourist businesses and could provide a major spark for further commercial development downtown. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke threatened to sidetrack the project, but a consensus was reached over the weekend that let everyone go home happy.

Other capital grants that will benefit the city include $40 million for the Maryland Biotechnology Center, $15 million for the University of Maryland Medical System, $7 million for the Christopher Columbus Marine Research Center and $6 million for the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center. All of these projects will further the city's efforts to develop a medical and life-sciences focus in Baltimore's economy. These are forward-looking initiatives that should provide big payoffs later in this decade.

City community activists also won a big victory. They overcame the powerful liquor industry to push through a bill giving the mayor and City Council the power to ban liquor advertising from billboards. Two other community proposals, though, failed: a bill to reduce car insurance rates for city residents and another proposal to create special taxing districts for city neighborhoods seeking additional security patrols.

The political climate in the State House proved much more receptive this year for the city. Despite occasional threats from a hostile Montgomery County delegation, city lawmakers met with little strenuous opposition to their package of aid requests. Delegates and senators from around the state seemed to understand that Baltimore City's problems were also their concerns. The lack of parochial bickering proved a major triumph for the 1993 General Assembly session and helped the city's legislative delegation achieve most of the goals it had set in early January.

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