The way Vera P. Hall sees it, to win the City Council presidency she has to become a braggart, a classy loudmouth of sorts.
So becomes the mission of the 5th District councilwoman: Get her name and her accomplishments into the heads of Baltimoreans.
On one recent sweltering day at her North Charles Street headquarters, surrounded by dozens of supporters, the reserved former school teacher did a little boasting.
Of the engineering building at Morgan State University where she was once the director of state rela- tions she said, "It sits where it does because of the work Vera Hall did."
Of the Greenspring Tower Square Shopping Center on 41st Street she said, "It exists because of me. If you enjoy the convenience of that shopping center, thank Vera Hall."
Overcoming obscurity has been a hurdle for the twice-elected councilwoman, who has stressed community policing, education reform and public housing improvements in her campaign.
One of Mrs. Hall's campaign albatrosses has been her lack of name recognition. In the name game, she lags behind her three opponents for council presidency: Democrats Carl Stokes from the 2nd District, Lawrence A. Bell III from the 4th District and Joseph J. DiBlasi from the 6th District.
Several weeks ago, before Mrs. Hall officially declared her campaign, she attended a Mount Washington Improvement Association meeting within her district. The association's head, Jim Jacobs, who had been working with the council for months on the relocation of United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co., stumbled over remembering her name. He then introduced her as "Vera Clark."
"I recognize that as a weakness," Mrs. Hall said. While on City Council, "what I did, I did without fanfare."
Mrs. Hall's legislation has focused mostly on housing, rezoning and land-use issues.
In the City Council, she is closely associated with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and would continue with his policies if she were elected, she said.
Mr. Schmoke picked Mrs. Hall over Mr. Stokes four years ago to be his council floor leader. Even so, he has hinted at her weaknesses.
She has the lowest name recognition, the mayor said, but "she's getting better. . . . Twenty-four hours is a lifetime; she's pulling it together and making a lot of progress."
So far, 14 state delegates and senators from the city have backed her, including Democrats Sen. Clarence W. Blount from the 41st District, Del. Howard P. Rawlings from the 40th District and Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman from the 42nd District.
She also has corralled the support of eight out of 18 council members, and if they continued to back her if she were elected president, they would give Mrs. Hall a near majority in passing council legislation.
Mrs. Hall also has logged more years toiling in the political vineyards than her opponents. She served as chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party from 1992 to 1994, as representative of the Democratic National Committee and as chairwoman of the city Democratic State Central Committee.
It is her work as chairwoman of the City Council Housing Committee that Mrs. Hall's critics complain loudest about.
Fellow council member Martin O'Malley, a 3rd District Democrat who supports Mr. Bell for council president, still bristles at the seven-hour meeting Mrs. Hall called in March on the troubled $25.6 million public housing repair program.
The program was under fire from the federal government, which demanded that the Baltimore Housing Authority come up with $725,759 because contractors inflated costs. Thirteen contractors and housing authority officials since have been indicted on federal charges.
Mr. O'Malley, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and several council members, including Mr. Bell and Mr. Stokes, called the meeting a charade in which few questions were answered by housing chief Daniel P. Henson III. Some also charged that Mrs. Hall purposely avoided pointed questions from critical council members so the mayor would not have to take the heat.
"She was supposed to say that there weren't any major problems and that's what she did," Mr. O'Malley said. "She is very loyal to the mayor. You can forget the oversight of the mayor if she's elected president. Forget it. It ain't going to happen."
Mrs. Hall said Mr. O'Malley, Mr. Bell and Mr. Stokes were grandstanding in the meeting.
"If I were to do it again, I would have let them have their 10-second sound bite, then I would have been left to deal with the real problem."
Mrs. Hall said she is not to blame for the housing repair problems.
"I am a councilwoman," she said. "My job is not to run the agency. I don't award contracts."