You can see a parallel between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's behavior in the vilified housing authority repair program and his current rush to bad judgment in firing the Baltimore convention board.
Speaking Thursday night to the Mount Royal Democratic Club, the mayor reasserted his position that a public housing "crisis" led him to decide a no-bid program was needed to repair thousands of housing units. He said under similar circumstances he would make the same decision.
Now Mr. Schmoke is declaring an emergency involving the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. He says the city will no longer provide 85 percent of the agency's budget, currently $3 million. Instead he will create a new convention entity. His actions beg the question: Why now?
Mr. Schmoke says the BACVA board paid huge bonuses to the executive director when it was laying off other employees because of a budget deficit. The board hired a "volunteer" at $3,000 a month and sent that same volunteer to Hawaii on a junket. And it paid the country club dues of three employees other than the executive director.
The mayor says the board wouldn't respond to his questions about such dubious expenditures. Since then, however, BACVA's executive director has resigned, the volunteer is no longer on the payroll and the country club dues are no longer being paid by the board. Where's the crisis?
Mr. Schmoke says Baltimore can't afford wasteful spending by BACVA and that the best way to prevent it is by having a more assertive board including additional appointments made by him. Since Board Chairman Henry A. Rosenberg Jr. is fighting any change in the board structure, the mayor has decided he can do without BACVA.
That decision places too much of a discount on the importance of BACVA in a city that depends so heavily on tourist dollars. Mr. Schmoke is being naive if he thinks trying to establish a new convention bureau -- even if he's able to keep the same staff -- won't hurt efforts to market this city's expanded Convention Center.
The haste in which the no-bid housing repair program was adopted has left a terrible legacy, including a highly critical federal audit and several bribery convictions in a separate federal investigation. By declaring a crisis in BACVA and seeking its dissolution, Mr. Schmoke risks different but equally awful results affecting tourism in Baltimore.
It's not too late to reconsider this course and once again seek compromise. For that to happen, Mr. Schmoke must step back from the abyss and withdraw his rash decision to snuff out BACVA. Gov. Parris N. Glendening asked for a cooling-off period. That is exactly what is needed.