Coalition adopts political platform BUILD aims to influence fall election, attract more state money for city

June 08, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

More than 1,000 members of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development -- a citywide coalition of churches, workers' groups and neighborhood associations -- hammered out their platform for the fall election yesterday and enlisted 663 volunteers to carry it to citizens.

"We are a force to be reckoned with," coalition member Leslie McMillan told a cheering crowd of more than 1,000 at the end of a rally that was part religious revival and part political convention at Greenspring Middle School in Northwest Baltimore.

"We are the largest political organization in Baltimore City, if not Maryland," McMillan said.

The group plans to start using its political clout July 23 when campaign workers hear from the candidates. "We will hear who supports our platform and take that message to the streets," McMillan said.

The election is not about gambling or personalities or fund raising, co-chair Avis Ransom told the assembly. "It's about our children, safety, education and families wanting safe communities," she said.

The 20-year-old coalition has focused attention on its agenda in the past and won, and members will do it again this fall, Ransom said. "We know what's important to us in Baltimore, and we the citizens of Baltimore are going to win this election," she said.

Essentially, BUILD wants to share in the largess of a $1 billion surplus it says the state is forecasting next year. It wants the state to commit $200 million of that surplus to "an endowment to develop human potential."

In addition, BUILD is asking for $35 million a year for four years for Baltimore school construction, and increased state and private funding for long-term drug treatment programs.

BUILD is also seeking additional support for its homeownership program -- $15 million per year for financing and $15 million for neighborhood commercial development.

BUILD also wants better salaries and benefits for workers the state hires on a contractual basis; 1,000 public jobs for people moving off the welfare rolls; state support of early childhood education programs, and career-path job training for low-wage workers.

Four Baltimore residents gave moving testimony yesterday about how earlier coalition programs, such as homeownership and college education for welfare recipients, changed their lives.

"We have won the victory," said Latonya Williams, a straight-A student at Baltimore City Community College, the first person in her family in three generations to finish high school. "We have won the right to stay in school and will continue to be political players," she said.

Her message, and that of others, was clear -- BUILD has won commitments in the past that have improved the lives of Baltimore residents. And it intends to repeat that success this fall.

Pub Date: 6/08/98

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