Schmoke needs new chief of staff Business ties: Personnel changes needed to repair schism that worsens City Hall problems.

July 28, 1996

BEFORE THINGS GET out of hand, both Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the prominent city business leaders who have suggested he "needs help" doing his job ought to step back and consider the situation objectively. One thing they might immediately agree on is that the appointment of former City Councilman Bill Cunningham as the mayor's liaison to the business community has been a disappointment. The relationship of Mr. Schmoke to the corporate community does not appear to have significantly improved.

If it had, Mr. Schmoke might have taken as friendly advice the opinion of Donald P. Hutchinson, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, that the city needs a manager in addition to the mayor. As it is, it appears that Mr. Schmoke has taken the suggestion in the worst possible way, as an insult to his abilities.

It is understandable that the city's first elected African-American mayor might resent being told he isn't capable of running Baltimore without "help." But he must not let racial sensitivity blind him to a reality that has been staring him in the face for the past nine years.

There have been complaints throughout his tenure that his chief of staff, Lynette W. Young, has not served him well and that the city has been hurt as a result. Yet he refuses to consider the suggestion that Ms. Young should be replaced. Instead, he says that if he hires a managing director to supervise city agencies that person will still report to Ms. Young.

Adding that extra layer of bureaucracy won't solve the problem. If Mr. Schmoke feels the need to be loyal to Ms. Young, he ought to find a strictly political job in City Hall where she may be of some value. He has done that for others who had performed disappointingly, including former Housing Commissioner Robert W. Hearn and former Baltimore Development Corp. head Honora M. Freeman.

Mr. Schmoke needs a chief of staff who knows what makes a city tick, who knows how to figure out what is going on in an agency as massive and demanding as the Department of Public Works or the Department of Housing and Community Development, a person accessible to the business community when it has problems that need immediate attention.

The mayor needs a chief of staff who can put out the fires that occur daily and give him time to deal with the larger issues determining this city's fate. Other Baltimore mayors had such a person; Mr. Schmoke should not feel insulted by the suggestion that he needs one, too.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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