Mayoral hopefuls at odds over $1-a-ticket tax idea

Kaufman accuses Stokes of `political plagiarism'

May 15, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's mayoral race may have failed to get off to a fiery start, but at least one candidate is hurling accusations of "political plagiarism."

Democrat A. Robert Kaufman of the City Wide Coalition is taking exception to opponent Carl Stokes' calling for a $1 tax on tickets to sporting events at Camden Yards. The money would be used to help pay for city recreation programs.

Kaufman said the ticket-tax idea belongs to Southeast Baltimore City Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo, who introduced a bill calling for the same tax two years ago. That proposal has been languishing in a council committee.

At a recent community meeting, D'Adamo spoke before Stokes and Kaufman and mentioned the idea. Later, at a news conference Tuesday on fighting crime, Stokes said he would push for the $1 tax if elected mayor. He never mentioned D'Adamo.

"It's [D'Adamo's] idea that Carl just presented as his own," said Kaufman, a Pen Lucy resident and community activist. "If he was anybody else walking down the street, that's fine. This guy is running for mayor."

Stokes, a former East Baltimore city councilman and school board member, said the idea surfaced before the council bill was introduced, while he served on the board of Child First, an after-school-care program. Child First grew out of a proposal by Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) to use Inner Harbor prosperity to improve the city's impoverished surrounding neighborhoods.

"Nick has put it in first for the council, but I was on the board of Child First," Stokes said.

D'Adamo said he was initially upset at learning of Stokes' claim to the idea but now welcomes it as a way to draw more attention to the plan.

"We've been at the same community meetings, and he's been seeing how well the idea is received," D'Adamo said. "He's looking for campaign issues, and I don't think he can be hurt campaigning on this issue."

Over the past two years, the city has shut down 18 recreation centers, turning the duty over to the Police Athletic League. In addition, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has cut $15 million from the Parks and Recreation Department budget over the past three years.

D'Adamo's bill has been sitting in the council's Taxation and Finance Committee during the past two budget sessions. Committee Chairman Martin O'Malley said yesterday that the bill has languished because it appeared to lack the support to pass.

State officials, including the Maryland Stadium Authority, oppose the measure. The city receives about 17 percent of its budget from the state, and if the council approves the tax, the state probably will cut some of its funding for the city, O'Malley said.

As city budget hearings get under way Monday and the council scrambles to replace the recreation money, the ticket tax could resurface, O'Malley said.

"It may be worth a try," O'Malley said. "As we look at the budget cuts, particularly to recreation, I'd be glad to revisit it."

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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