Schmoke, Clarke sharpen rhetoric in debate over records, plans for city

July 29, 1995|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Stepping up their attacks on each other, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke sparred sharply last night over their records and their proposals for improving the city.

In an hourlong taping for "The Bottom Line," a public affairs show that will be broadcast at 11 a.m. today on WBAL-TV (Channel 11), the two top contenders in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary clashed over who has been better able to get things done, as well as issues ranging from crime to education.

Prodded by provocative questions posed by the show's host, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, and a studio audience split between supporters of each candidate, the informal debate was in marked contrast to the low-key radio debate Thursday on WEAA-FM.

One characteristically testy exchange occurred after both candidates outlined their vision for Baltimore's future, with Mr. Schmoke citing several business expansions and recent federal grants, and Mrs. Clarke talking about her hopes for providing jobs for the young, safe streets for the elderly and housing for the homeless.

"What you hear is a vision of what she'd like to see, not anything that she's done to actually achieve those goals," Mr. Schmoke interjected.

"I have been on the front line actually acting, not just talking about a problem, not just defining it, but actually doing something about it," the mayor added. "People have to look beyond rhetoric and look at the substance of what people have actually done and not just what they've talked about."

The council president bristled at the comments.

"With all due respect, if there's one thing that people of this city know me for, it's getting things done," said Mrs. Clarke, an obvious reference to her reputation for constituent service.

At another point, Mrs. Clarke took the offensive.

Responding to a question about how best to bring people of different races together, she made a thinly veiled reference to the awarding of municipal contracts and legal work to friends and associates of the mayor and other city officials.

"I think we have to open the doors of city government well beyond the narrow circle of select family and friends," she said.

s Mr. Schmoke's turn to bristle. He defended the city's minority business programs and his administration's efforts to assist developer Otis Warren Jr., who built the City Crescent office building, the first downtown office building built by an African-American.

"He is not a relative of mine," the mayor said.

Mr. Schmoke ridiculed Mrs. Clarke's plan to put 97 percent of the city's $646 million education budget under the control of the 178 individual schools, saying 80 percent of the school system funds went to pay teacher salaries.

The mayor also accused Mrs. Clarke of talking about cutting the city budget in one debate and decreasing class sizes in another, without saying how she would fund her proposal. "I'm a person who says the same thing on both sides of town," he said.

On crime, Mrs. Clarke belittled the Police Department's use of mobile crime vans and Japanese-style ministations to fight crime.

"Public safety is a human people issue," she said. "It's time for us to understand that people have to solve it."

The sharp rhetoric was not lost on Mr. Mfume.

During a break in the taping after a couple of early exchanges, Mr. Schmoke asked Mr. Mfume if the candidates could keep the ornate water glasses that had been placed in front of them.

F: "Just don't throw them at each other," Mr. Mfume said.

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