Schmoke-Clarke rift divides council

November 08, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

A somber Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. stood at the edge of a sun-drenched boccie court in Baltimore's Little Italy as the mayor tossed out the first ball.

Not long ago, he would have been part of the crowd cheering Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke at the opening of the court at St. Leo's Park.

But as other politicians lined up to try their hand at Italian lawn bowling Sunday afternoon, the councilman who used to be considered a "Friend of Kurt" turned away with a frown.

"I'm hurt," said Mr. D'Adamo, a two-term incumbent from Southeast Baltimore's 1st District.

"I've always done what I felt is right for the district and the city. The way I cast my vote is the way I believe in, but unfortunately [the mayor] takes it personal. He thinks I'm supporting Mary Pat."

The rivalry between Mr. Schmoke and Council President Clarke, who plans to challenge the mayor's bid for a third term next year, is creating new strains in the council.

At the same time, at least a half-dozen council members are jockeying for recognition as they prepare to campaign for the city's three top offices.

Now, with the end of the gubernatorial campaign, comes a time for reckoning, a time to look ahead to the 1995 election, the mayor said.

"Beginning Tuesday night, when the polls close, the campaign for '95 begins," Mr. Schmoke said. "This is now the time to sort through who your friends are and who they aren't."

The divisions have begun to erode the mayor's majority bloc on )) the 19-member council and prompted sniping at Mrs. Clarke.

K? In recent weeks, two council members who used to be counted

among the mayor's nine to 11 most faithful supporters failed to vote the administration line. Others are frustrated with what they consider blatant grandstanding by Mrs. Clarke.

"What does this mean -- that we're going to have to adjourn

during an election year?" said Council Vice President Vera P. Hall, the mayor's floor leader.

"It is frustrating because it gets in the way of what we're trying to do to help the community."

Tensions in the council escalated last week over legislation to increase the minimum wage for school custodians, parking attendants and other service workers from $4.25 to $6.10 an hour. After failing to have the bill amended, Mayor Schmoke is threatening to veto it.

Among those who voted in favor of setting a new minimum wage were Mr. D'Adamo and 6th District Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi. As late as last spring, Mr. DiBlasi could be counted as an administration supporter. He even was approached to run for comptroller on a ticket with the mayor.

These days, Mr. DiBlasi said, "I've decided to drive my own car." He already has filed his candidacy for the council presidency, instead of comptroller, and is voting "issue by issue."

Meanwhile, 3rd District Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham blames much of the friction on the council president. "It's become a Mary Pat show," he said.

Mr. Cunningham was more critical of the mayor in his first four years and the early part of his second term.

But he has become increasingly frustrated with Mrs. Clarke and lately has been among the eight or nine council members who now routinely vote the administration line. Last Monday, he introduced the wage amendments proposed by the mayor.

The shifting alliances have not gone unnoticed by the central figures at City Hall.

Mayor Schmoke says he's keeping track of his friends and foes. Mrs. Clarke is doing the same, although she never enjoyed the same margin as the mayor and says she never counts on having 10 votes on any issue.

"This is not 1976 in the City Council," Mrs. Clarke said, referring to the administration of then-mayor William Donald Schaefer.

"I was there. This is a much more independent council. You have to work hard for every vote."

Yet she clearly is trying to broaden her alliances. She has appeared on radio shows and sent out material promoting some council members, Mrs. Hall said.

The divisions also have increased maneuvering on the successors for two council members who are moving to the General Assembly -- 1st District Councilman Perry Sfikas, who was elected to the Senate, and 6th District Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, who won a House of Delegates seat.

Even though the successors will only serve a few months before the next election, they will play a key role in the Schmoke-Clarke rift, Mr. Cunningham predicts.

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