A Policy Background CAMPAIGN 1995

September 07, 1995|By JULIAN L. LAPIDES

A friend of mine remarked that had I engaged the services of a professional matchmaker, a better fit could not be found than that between me and the office of comptroller of Baltimore.

As a state legislator for more than three decades, I gained the reputation of being fiercely independent, which is an essential quality for the comptroller who sits on the Board of Estimates. During my 32 years in the Maryland Legislature, I co-chaired the Senate's Ethics Committee as well as the General Assembly's Joint Budget and Audit Committee, and I served on the Budget and Taxation Committee throughout my entire 28 years in the Senate. By profession, I am an attorney with more than 30 years' experience concentrating in estate and trust work.

These positions have given me tremendous experience in fiduciary, fiscal and budgetary matters as well as audit review. While it may be appropriate to require that the city auditor hold an accounting degree, the comptroller's duties are much broader, crying out for a person with a background in public policy and demonstrated ability to review the operations of government.

If elected Baltimore's next comptroller, I intend to effectuate the following:

* Initiate an audit committee similar to the General Assembly's Joint Budget and Audit Committee to review poor audits and hold accountable any department head responsible for unsatisfactory results.

* Propose legislation to the mayor and City Council which would grant the comptroller the ability to withhold up to 10 percent of the salary of any department head responsible for a poor audit performance.

* Recommend stricter ethical standards for all city officials and executive employees and request that the financial disclosure forms be conformed to those required by the state, which are more inclusive and thorough than current city forms.

* Complete an inventory of all city property, enabling the city to dispose of unnecessary land or buildings and thus providing citizens a clearer picture of what could be sold and restored to the city's declining tax rolls.

* Pursue fiscal mismanagement and rid city agencies of sloppy and wasteful programs and procedures.

* Stress prudent and safe investments for all city pension systems. It is imperative that the pensions of city employees, firefighters and police officers be preserved and not invested in fiscally irresponsible schemes.

* See that the taxpayers receive a full 100 cents of value for each dollar spent.

This important office is no place for a novice, particularly in view of the recent scandal suffered by our city under the last comptroller. Rather, it requires election of a tough, honest, seasoned, independent person who is not afraid to say ''no'' to the powers that be.

As the public's representative on the Board of Estimates, I pledge to represent only the interests of the taxpayers and not of those who would profit personally by city contracts or leases.

The comptroller should be the watchdog for the city's finances. I intend to be that watchdog. If elected comptroller of Baltimore, a city at the crossroads between survival and demise, I will continue to vindicate the confidence and judgment of those who elected me -- that is, I will vigilantly, tenaciously and forcefully carry out the highest expectations of those citizens concerned for and deserving of a better Baltimore.

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