Mayor doesn't want help saving moneyYour April 18 lead...


April 21, 1996

Mayor doesn't want help saving money

Your April 18 lead editorial, ''Schmoke's tax bind,'' was right on the mark in suggesting that it's time for ''a top-to-bottom audit of city government by an outside panel." Unfortunately, poor managers don't want outsiders coming in to publicly confirm their management ineptitude.

A case in point: In a March 11, 1994 letter, the Colliers Pinkard commercial real estate firm offered Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke a classic "no additional cost" offer to assess how the city manages its real estate portfolio and make recommendations as to how net savings could be realized.

Here was an opportunity to accept a 90-day free assessment, provided by a highly qualified commercial real estate firm with very deep community roots.

Thanks, but no thanks, was the response to this private-sector initiative. The decision was particularly unbelievable given that on May 5, 1993, the mayor had received an in-depth oral presentation (plus a written report) detailing major failings relative to the city's $3.2 billion real estate portfolio.

In the real world, a chief executive officer who fails to aggressively address the validity of alleged major operational shortcomings in an area consuming about $140 million of annual operating expenses (about 18 percent of the general fund) would be put out on the street. In government, the chief executive officer (the mayor) handles this with a tax increase.

Baltimore needs responsible management, not more taxpayer subsidy. Successive comptrollers and/or successive real estate officers (even those with credentials) can't dent this problem unless the mayor is supportive of the effort.

The real-estate asset management ''landscape'' is under the mayor's control and the pruning tools are locked up in the mayor's office. Why? There's got to be a reason. Is it raw management ineptitude, or is it a political playground where business-like controls might limit the area of play? Any thoughts?

Arthur E. Held


The writer was Baltimore City's real estate officer from 1992 to 1995 and was the founding president of the Baltimore Economic Development Corp. from 1975 to 1980.

Other schools need Patterson reforms


I am a ninth-grade student at a Baltimore City high school. I read your April 3 article, ''Patterson scores high on reforms,'' with interest.

I was impressed with the gain in attendance and how the self-esteem of the students has increased as a result of the new academies.

Perhaps if other Baltimore City schools tried some of these innovative ideas, the response to them might be as beneficial as it has been to Patterson High School.

Celia Campbell


Lovelace library captivates reader

What a treat to read Laura Lippman's wonderful essay on Maud Hart Lovelace (Perspective, April 14), author of the children's series of Betsy-Tacy books.

They rank easily among my favorite books -- not just as a child, but also as an adult. Like Anna Quindlen, the novelist who re-reads the series annually, I, too, return again and again,

perhaps more often. In fact, earlier this week I had just re-read ''Betsy and Joe,'' my favorite Lovelace book. As soon as I finish an assigned tome on the economic history of the Far East, I plan to tackle ''Betsy and the Great World.''

Though I've read all the major ''heroine as writer'' classics of children's literature, Betsy was my real model, perhaps because her foibles, even though nearly a century away and definitely many worlds apart, resonated fully.

Like this one: in pursuing her career as a writer, Betsy's manuscripts were so regularly rejected that her father, only partly in jest, suggested the post office manufacture ''round-trip'' postage stamps to facilitate the return of her prized stories. What writer can't identify with this?

So many of Betsy's experiences, particularly in the later books, from her European trip to the outbreak of World War I, I have carried around inside me like snapshots from my own family history.

Her friends have become mine and the nice thing is, they are always the same, always there when you need them to transport you back to what at least seems like a less complicated world. Of all these, the one I'd most like to meet in real life is Joe Willard, the stubbornly stalwart character based on the author's own husband. Be still, my pounding heart!

Carolyn Spencer Brown


Negative reporting about Israeli life

Sun correspondent Doug Struck's twisted notions about Israel have once again poisoned the news pages.

His latest assault, ''Israel's prosperous Passover'' (April 5), offers his most outrageous analysis of Israeli life to date.

First things first: Mr. Struck claims that Israelis spent nearly $350 million on food and gifts this year for Passover.

In a country of 4.5 million Jews, that cost averages out to about $78 per person for the holiday week, which includes groceries.

Is this an unreasonable amount of money? How much do Americans spend on Christmas?

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