Schmoke to focus on fighting crime CITY PRIMARY ELECTION 1995

September 13, 1995|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

With his re-election now a virtual certainty, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is promising a "sustained, coordinated" anti-crime effort in Baltimore as well as a more responsive government.

Mr. Schmoke also will move quickly to fill vacancies in the top administrative posts of the Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) and the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) and says he wants to retain two of his most-criticized cabinet officers -- schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and housing chief Daniel P. Henson III. And he plans to keep a precampaign pledge to cut 20 cents from the city's property tax rate over the next four years.

During an interview in anticipation of last night's election, the mayor said his idea for a "very aggressive citywide campaign against crime" would involve the police, housing, public works and recreation departments.

"The idea will be to try to not only reduce levels of crime but the fear of crime and the perception of crime. I would like to be able to have people get a better sense that crime is under control. And we can do that by eliminating some of the eyesores, the vacant properties, the derelict properties, by expanding our Police Activities League in conjunction with recreation and parks and working on crime and grime together."

Each department will undergo a review of operations.

"I heard throughout the campaign a number of complaints about government not being more customer-friendly," Mr. Schmoke said. "So we're going to take a look at how we deliver services -- making sure we use technology and information systems well, eliminating those points where people have been discourteous or insensitive to the public."

Some additional cuts in the city's 25,000-member work force may be made, the mayor said, but they will not approach the more than 4,000 cuts during his first eight years.

"We're getting to a point where further staff reductions might be counterproductive because they lead to a reduction in service," he said. "But because we are committed to reducing the tax rate to $5.65 by fiscal year 2000, there will be a need for some further downsizing. But it won't be as dramatic as it has been in my first two terms."

Mr. Schmoke said he wants to select "as soon as possible" successors to Honora M. Freeman as president of the development corporation and Wayne Chappell as executive director of the convention and visitors association. Ms. Freeman was transferred by the mayor in July amid sharp criticism of BDC from business leaders, and Mr. Chappell left BACVA for another job as the mayor moved to strengthen his control over the agency.

"Those are two very important positions on the economic development side," the mayor said.

In addition to capitalizing on the job creation opportunities presented by the Columbus Center for marine biotechnology and an expanded Convention Center, Mr. Schmoke said he wants to expand Employ Baltimore, a computerized job bank.

"We'd like to match up jobs throughout the region and make sure people have transportation to them," he said. "We want to do all we can to increase employment levels throughout the city."

School board members whose terms are expiring will have to be replaced, the mayor said.

"But don't look for me to seek a new superintendent," he volunteered.

During the campaign, Mr. Schmoke's opponent, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, called on the mayor to seek the resignation of Dr. Amprey, who has come under criticism for his handling of special education and his continuing support of the "Tesseract" school privatization project.

But Mr. Schmoke said this week: "I think our superintendent is moving us in the right direction. As people adjust to the enterprise school concept, we'll work out the operational problems, and I think we'll have a better school system."

The mayor voiced support for Mr. Henson, the city's housing commissioner, who has come under fire for his handling of a troubled $25 million no-bid repair program.

"Danny's been an outstanding housing director," he said. "The problems he's had really had to do with a can-do style. He simply believed that it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission."

"I'll ask him to stay. If he wants to stay, I'll be real happy," he added.

Another change is that Mr. Schmoke won't have Mrs. Clarke at City Hall as his nemesis and critic.

"Having less acrimony between the mayor and the City Council benefits our community," the mayor said. "I know a lot of people in the past council wanted to make a relationship that looked more like Congress and the President. But . . . we're at a more problem-solving service-delivery side of government than policy development. That's why I think it's important for the president of the council and the mayor to try to work together as closely as possible."

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