Mintz ads against housing plan anger some backers

September 11, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Last-minute political advertisements aimed at Democratic voters in Dundalk and Essex have brought Baltimore County executive candidate Melvin G. Mintz strong criticism from the president of a black ministers group that endorsed him.

In identical ads in two Eastside newspapers Thursday, Mr. Mintz said for the first time he is opposed to the controversial Moving to Opportunity housing program. The federal subsidized program would move 285 poor inner city families to neighborhoods in the metropolitan area, using Section 8 federal rent subsidies.

Mr. Mintz consistently had said before that the program is federal and beyond the county's control, and he declined to take a position. On Friday, he said he always had been against it, but chose not to say so. "It's like being against an Internal Revenue Service regulation," he said.

The Rev. Charles T. Sembly, pastor of the Union Bethel AME Church in Randallstown, who leads the 14-member Baltimore County West Ministerial Alliance, became aware of the ads Friday. "This is most disturbing to learn," he said. "Mr. Mintz has taken the low road."

If he had known of Mr. Mintz's opposition to Moving to Opportunity two weeks ago, Mr. Sembly said, he would have been more reluctant to endorse him, though he stressed he was speaking for himself. Most of the group's members were at a convention in New Orleans.

"Why would anyone be opposed to a mechanism of providing a helping hand to raise the standard of living of people who need help?" he said.

The alliance issued a statement last week denouncing the tone of opposition to the program in the eastern county and County Executive Roger B. Hayden's letter to Henry Cisneros, Housing and Urban Development secretary, seeking a delay in the program's implementation.

The statement said the tactics of MTO opponents amounted to promoting fear and racism and denounced the Hayden letter as "a last-minute . . . political grandstanding."

The Mintz ads said Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, his main opponent in the primary, had "no formal position confirmed" on the program.

In fact, Mr. Ruppersberger said at an Aug. 8 political meeting near Essex that he opposed the program, which has stirred a firestorm of local opposition, as "social engineering." Mr. Mintz, who sat nearby, said he did not hear the comments.

rTC Mr. Ruppersberger said the ad shows Mr. Mintz is "saying one thing on the Westside and another on the Eastside to get votes for this race."

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