Don't blame mayor for real estate problems

April 30, 1996

THIS IS IN response to both your editorial of April 23 ("S.O.S. on managing city real estate") and the letter of April 21 from former city real estate officer Arthur E. Held ("Mayor doesn't want help saving money"). It is important that you be informed with appropriate background information.

The City Charter clearly states the comptroller is responsible for proper conduct, management and operation of the Department of Real Estate, including the appointment of a real estate officer with responsibilities in all matters relating to the acquisition, sale, lease, exchange or other disposition of real property of the city.

In that regard, the Department of Real Estate is charged with negotiating the purchase, sale or lease of city property and recommending approval of those transactions to the Board of Estimates. If deficiencies were found in those types of transactions, the Department of Real Estate in the comptroller's office should be held accountable, not the mayor.

The Department of Public Works, Department of Housing and Community Development, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the Baltimore public school system are responsible for the construction, maintenance and operation of city buildings under their control.

Accordingly, those agency heads are accountable to the mayor for the efficient administration of these functions.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke established the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Asset Management in 1993. The heads of the aforementioned agencies, the director of finance and a representative of the comptroller's office serve on the committee. Meetings have been held with a number of firms interested in doing business with the city, including Colliers Pinkard. (As a point of interest, Colliers Pinkard currently manages the Brokerage complex for the city.)

The asset management committee decided that its first initiative would be to pursue performance contracting for city facilities. Under performance contracts, private-sector firms evaluate the energy efficiency of city facilities and make recommendations for improvements. The firms subsequently implement their recommendations and guarantee that the resulting savings will more than offset the cost of the improvements.

This will not only result in long-term savings to the city, but will also allow the city to improve and modernize its facilities without burdening the taxpayers. We anticipate awarding the first contracts by the end of the summer.

This complex initiative required the cooperation and input of a number of city agencies. Further, it demonstrates that Mayor Schmoke is interested in forging relationships with the private sector in the management of the city's real-estate portfolio in an efficient and effective manner.

We anticipate that there will be additional opportunities for cooperation between the public and private sectors. This will reflect a continuation of the mayor's commitment to work with the private sector in achieving economies.

As you may recall, the Baltimore Arena, the trolley and, most recently, the municipal markets have been privatized under the Schmoke administration.

Contrary to what was suggested in your editorial and Mr. Held's letter, Mayor Schmoke has been actively promoting the involvement of the private sector in the management of city resources.

William R. Brown Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is director of finance for the city of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 4/30/96

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