Home away from home As long as that's all Schmoke's vacation home is, he's entitled to it.

January 22, 1996

BALTIMORE MAYOR Kurt L. Schmoke sounded a tad defensive about his recent purchase of a $300,000 waterfront bungalow in Arundel on the Bay, just outside Annapolis. He needn't have been.

Though no one came out and said it, the notion that it's tTC hypocritical for a mayor who preaches investment in his city to buy a weekend home somewhere else -- especially in the suburbs, whose interests often seem to run counter to Baltimore's -- found its way into every account of this real estate transaction. Mr. Schmoke himself made a point of stressing that the waterfront home fulfilled a dream of his wife's, not his.

But let's be reasonable. Baltimore residents -- residents of any town, for that matter -- in a position to buy a vacation getaway aren't going to look inside their city, no matter how ardently they love or support it.

Presumably, mayors are like the rest of us; when they talk of getting away for awhile, they don't mean spending a few days in a different house a couple of streets over. Why, even William Donald Schaefer, often described as the biggest Baltimore booster of them all, occasionally escaped to a mobile home in Ocean City while he was mayor. No one questioned the sincerity of his commitment to Charm City because everyone knew Ocean City was nothing more than an occasional getaway; he lived and worked in Baltimore (before his move a few years ago to northern Anne Arundel.)

Because Mr. Schmoke's second residence is not as humble than his predecessor's, it raises eyebrows. However, it's not the kind of second home an elected official keeps that matters, but the amount of time he spends in it. The fact is, Mr. Schmoke still lives on Sequoia Avenue in West Baltimore -- tax records on the Arundel on the Bay house specify that it is not his principal residence -- and spends the lion's share of his time in the city he runs.

If that changes, if his heart and head start to move south and the time he spends at his second home grows to the point where he starts neglecting mayoral obligations, then Baltimoreans would have reason to object. But the fact that he has bought a weekend retreat somewhere else does not amount to a betrayal of his city. He has as much right to get out of town for a few days now and then as the rest of us.

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