Schmoke supports jobs plan BUILD group seeks help for blacks

June 02, 1993|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke gave a carefully qualified "yes" last night to the BUILD organization's demand that public subsidies for downtown development be linked to improving job opportunities for blacks.

But the mayor said later he didn't think "any brinkmanship" would stand in the way of the city's approving its $50 million share of the Baltimore Convention Center expansion, and he tried to reassure business interests that BUILD was not seeking confrontation.

Mr. Schmoke vowed to do "all that I can within the limits of the law to achieve the goals of this social compact. . . . I stand with you except for that one little clause that says 'within the limits of the law.' "

The mayor's cautious pledge of support drew tempered applause from more than 1,000 BUILD delegates at Enon Baptist Church in West Baltimore. The sometimes angry rhetoric of the Rev. Douglas Miles and other BUILD speakers got an enthusiastic response.

BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development) launched its campaign for a "social contract" in April, contending that the publicly subsidized redevelopment of downtown Baltimore has created low-paying, "dead-end" jobs for blacks.

By last night, the "contract" had become a "compact" after the mayor raised questions about the legal implications of the term in a meeting with BUILD leaders.

The mayor said last night that he didn't want to "overpromise," but he pledged to have achieved tangible results toward BUILD's goals within 120 days.

"It will show there is no longer business as usual in Baltimore," Mr. Schmoke said in the sole flight of rhetoric that he allowed him- self.

Mr. Miles showed no such rhetorical restraint in pressing the mayor to take a radical stand.

"Is the free ride over for the corporate community?" he asked. "Will public subsidy now require social obligation? Will we share in the prosperity that always makes it downtown but never makes it uptown?"

The church-based group has urged that the following conditions be attached to the approval of any public money for downtown projects:

* The creation of more full-time, year-round jobs that pay enough for a worker to support a family and include health and pension benefits.

* An increase in the number of blacks in mid- and upper-level management jobs.

* Establishment of a pool of money to fund career advancement training for downtown workers.

Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, D-4th, has scheduled a June 16 hearing before an economic development subcommittee to discuss BUILD's proposal, and Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee in the state legislature, plans to hold a hearing on the hospitality industry in Baltimore. Both expressed support for BUILD last night.

The BUILD campaign comes as the state and city are about to finance a $151 million Convention Center expansion, the latest in a series of public investments in the Inner Harbor area stretching back to the 1970s.

A study done for the Greater Baltimore Committee projects that the expansion will create more than 6,600 jobs and more than $15 million in direct tax revenues to the state and the city.

The expansion would nearly triple the Convention Center's exhibit space.

BUILD activists say their interest in the proposed "social contract" grew out of seeing low-wage and part-time downtown workers among the clients of soup kitchens run by the group's member churches.

About 15 percent of people eating at soup kitchens in 1992 were employed, according to a survey by the Maryland Food Committee. Food pantries reported that employed people made up 28 percent of those who received assistance.

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