Parks chief pledges reform Perritt responds to critical report with revision plan

April 11, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Responding to a critical report on Baltimore's ailing Department of Recreation and Parks, agency head Marlyn J. Perritt said yesterday that she will begin an immediate internal review that could result in changes in top management and citywide recreation programs.

Perritt pledged yesterday that her department would become more financially independent and would market itself better. She said she has scheduled meetings with her advisory board and senior staff to discuss the department's problems.

"We are looking at the entire report, and we are working on our strategic plan," she said.

Perritt and her senior management staff have come under fire in a report commissioned by the mayor that says the department is lethargic, lacks leadership, wastes money on underused programs and doesn't operate closely with neighborhoods and other city agencies.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who met with Perritt yesterday to discuss the report's findings, said he thinks the recreation department will change for the better.

"I think Ms. Perritt does a good job. It's clear we have a problem in the recreation department," Schmoke said. "She feels very confident she can turn around the situation."

In light of the report, which was given to Schmoke on April 3, the mayor said he wanted to begin a citywide youth initiative that would coordinate all public and private programs for children after school and on weekends and summers.

Perritt said she couldn't say when the changes will be complete.

Neither has she said how much money she wants the department to raise.

In November, Schmoke assembled 12 community leaders, politicians and business people to scrutinize the department and help find ways it could improve programs while reducing its dependence on city funds.

Longtime civic activist Sally Michel chairs the task force.

Other members include former City Solicitor Neal M. Janey, developer C. William Struever and Councilman Edward L. Reisinger, who represents the 6th District.

"Business as usual is no longer acceptable," the report states. "The department is desperately lacking vision. There does not appear to be any substantial creative energy or comprehensive strategic planning coming from the department's senior management staff. Unfortunately, without initiative at the top, the agency is stumbling under budget pressure."

Year after year, the recreation and parks department has seen millions of dollars disappear from its budget because, the mayor said, the city could not afford to keep funding it.

He has said that unless the department can generate more revenue, it would become substandard.

One of the recommendations in the report calls for the department to hire a marketing director to publicize the programs offered.

But Perritt said she has already advertised for that position and expects to hire a new marketing director soon.

The report revised a much more critical draft report that was deemed too negative by some on the task force, members said.

In the earlier report, Perritt was criticized for being too slow to act and not working hard enough to see that the department prospered.

Also in the draft report, some task force members called for her to resign, one asked that she be given six months to get the department in order and another called for a transition team to take over the department.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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