Schmoke's Victory

September 13, 1995

Kurt L. Schmoke's victory in yesterday's Democratic primary must be a bitter-sweet occasion for the two-term Baltimore mayor.

Sweet because a victory -- regardless of a margin -- is always joyous and a plurality of Baltimore voters reaffirmed their faith in him. Bitter because so many citizens expressed misgivings about his eight years of leadership that they made City Council President Mary Pat Clarke a credible contender who endangered the mayor's shoo-in status.

We congratulate Mr. Schmoke on his nomination. Baltimore is such a Democratic city that his November general election victory is a foregone conclusion.

Now to the tough tasks at hand.

The emotions of the campaign tell volumes about how Baltimoreans feel about their city and the performance of their mayor's administration. They want change; they want a city that functions better than it has done during the past eight years.

If Mr. Schmoke is smart, he will use this occasion to thoroughly revamp his administration. Without regard to friendships or loyalty, he should replace all those department heads and middle-level managers who have performed inadequately.

This is the time for him to address the consistent complaint that his personal staff does not function well, fails to return telephone calls or messes up scheduled meetings. Up to this point, Mr. Schmoke has refused to act on these complaints, choosing to surround himself with protective gatekeepers rather than top-notch administrators. This must change, if he hopes to become an effective mayor in his third term. Indeed, Mr. Schmoke should initiate coordinated efforts to make the city bureaucracy user-friendly. Current cumbersome processes must be simplified, responsiveness improved. Much of Mary Pat Clarke's attraction to voters was the perception that she gets things done and that her office communicates well with constituents.

On a political level, Mr. Schmoke would do well to rethink his relationship with Larry S. Gibson, his behind-the-scenes political mentor and strategist. The way we read the results, voters were fed up with this boss, his tendency to polarize issues along racial lines and his law firm's incestuous contractual relationship with the administration.

Such strategic decisions -- made with Mr. Schmoke's full approval -- led to a fleeting spurt for Mrs. Clark in opinion polls. Now that the election is over, Mr. Schmoke has to devote himself to healing and unification. All citizens of Baltimore must share a common goal and pull together if the city is to overcome the awesome challenges it faces in the next four years.

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