Too little, too late: Schmoke takes a stand for the disabled poor


June 16, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

Whaddaya know? The mayor of Baltimore thinks the governor's decision to cut state funding for the disabled poor was a bad idea. The mayor now calls it "a man-made disaster." Nice he noticed. All the damage was done months ago, in Annapolis. But where were the mayor and his lobbyists? Didn't they know that gutting the Disability Assistance and Loan Program (DALP) would hit Baltimore hardest? Baltimore is where three-quarters of Maryland's rock-bottom poor reside (assuming they "reside" in something other than a cardboard box).

Knowledgeable people predicted increased homelessness, more pressure on local emergency rooms throughout the state, more panhandlers in the city. But the mayor said nothing publicly on the DALP cut because he didn't want to embarrass the new governor, who was already embarrassing Kathleen Kennedy "I Once Slept In A Shelter" Townsend.

So it was politics: One struggling Democrat winking at another -- at the expense of men and women with AIDS, mental illness, heart disease, muscular disabilities, diabetes. People too disabled to work, and certified as such by a doctor. People relying on $157-a-month state grants while they seek federal benefits.

Parris Glendening cynically called this a $35 million "welfare program" that the state (with its $371 million Rainy Day Fund) could no longer afford. If not for advocates for the poor, you would not have heard a burp of complaint about this get-tough-on-the-disabled act.

The DALP cuts go into effect July 1 -- and, of course, the city primary is Sept. 12 -- so the mayor of Baltimore went public with his criticism this week. He's late, of course.

Even the usually cautious policy drones at the state Department of Fiscal Services could see bad things coming from the DALP cut. They said "disabilities may worsen, homelessness may rise, criminal activity may increase and individuals may struggle to obtain food and other necessities. The lack of assistance could impede client efforts to overcome their disabilities and become more productive members of society." That report came out seven months ago. Baltimore: The City That Reads -- Slowly.

Carroll's recycled mayor

Elmer C. Lippy, 75, lost his seat last fall as a Carroll County commissioner. But he campaigned hard this spring for mayor of Manchester, and won. At a recent meeting, ole Elmer faced his former commission colleagues with a smile and a couple of metaphors. "I am the ultimate in recycling," he said. "Just like a boomerang on a four-year orbit, I have returned from whence I started." Carroll County has the youngest mayor in the state -- New Windsor's Jack Gullo, 26 -- and the commissioners wondered if the county could also claim the oldest. "No way," said Elmer. "There're a couple of 80-year-olds around. I've heard that's because no one else wants their jobs."

More malaprops

Elayne and Ronald Smith overheard someone discussing Father's Day gifts the other night at Lake Montebello: "All I'm getting my father is two shirts from Ames. You know, those polio shorts." (I think they have a vaccine for that now.) . . . Mary Ann Rauch swears she heard someone say this on 36th Street in Hampden: "Hell has no fury like a woman's corn." (Yeah, well, I got a bunion that isn't exactly heaven.) . . . Mike Bernard, who works for Freestate Health Plan, got a message to call a customer: "Member has medical bills, member is presently on maturity leave." (Some people call that retirement.) . . . A woman I know says her mother-in-law likes a song well sung, especially by "that nice Jewish girl Barbra Streisdale." (I think she got "Yentl" mixed up with "The Beverly Hillbillies." Yo, mudda-in-law: It's Streisand, the singer; Drysdale, the banker.)

With a cherry on top

All due respect to the Double T Diner (which I adore) but I must register the following complaints: Your hot-fudge sundae does not have hot fudge (chocolate syrup does not do), the dish needs to be more stylish (something vase-like, not soup bowl-ish), the spoons should have longer stems and the sundae should be topped with a cherry. Come on, come on. The Double T must maintain its Triple-A rating.

City of brotherly love?

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