Recreation budget cuts concern City Council

Aside from youth program worries, Schmoke's bill largely pleases members

May 18, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's last spending plan took another step forward yesterday when the $1.8 billion budget bill was introduced in the City Council, where some members are raising concerns about proposed cuts for recreation programs.

The mayor plans $3 million in cuts to the city's recreation and parks department.

Some council members, while praising the mayor's plan to increase funding for the overburdened court system, criticized the recreation cuts, saying they will open the door to trouble for idle youths.

"Idleness is the devil's workshop. We have to find alternatives," said Council President Lawrence A. Bell III.

Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. urged the other 18 council members to support a bill that would add a $1 fee to tickets for Orioles and Ravens games as a way to stave off cuts in recreation and parks funding.

Funding for recreation has dropped $15 million over the last three years. The $3 million cut planned for fiscal year 2000, which begins July 1, will mostly come from job cuts.

Also yesterday, the Schmoke administration introduced legislation that would keep the property tax rate at $5.82 per $100 of assessed valuation, the highest in the state.

The council has scheduled budget hearings May 24-25 and June 1. Taxpayers Night, when residents voice their concerns, is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 3 in council chambers.

In another matter, about a dozen residents of Johnston Square attended the council meeting to protest plans to move Our Daily Bread soup kitchen from its downtown location on Cathedral Street to a vacant building at 400 E. Preston St.

Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos was among a group of downtown business leaders who proposed the move last summer to help redevelopment efforts along Charles Street and to address complaints from property and business owners about aggressive panhandling, loitering and car break-ins that they associate with clients of Our Daily Bread.

One of the Johnston Square residents briefly raised a sign that read, "Stop Our Daily Bread. Our Daily Bread does not belong in my neighborhood."

Ruby Lee, 48, a resident of Johnston Square, said she and her neighbors fear that the soup kitchen will increase crime in a community burdened with vacant housing and drug abuse.

Lee said city officials did not talk to the residents before the proposal was made to move the soup kitchen to her community.

"We knew nothing about it until it was in the paper," said Lee. "We've been called a throw-away community. We're a productive community. My daughter is a medical doctor."

Second District Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch, who represents East Baltimore, promised that the district's council delegation would not introduce legislation supporting Our Daily Bread's move without residents' approval.

"Contrary to what you might have heard on the street, this is not a done deal," Branch said. "You will have input."

Earlier yesterday, Bell postponed a hearing on a bill that would restore the one-year residency requirement for mayoral candidates.

The hearing was set for tomorrow but Bell said he is rescheduling it so that it can be broadcast over the city's cable channel.

The council's residency bill would reverse a law passed by the General Assembly last month that reduced the residency requirement from a year to six months. Critics say the measure was designed to make it possible for Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to run for mayor. Mfume recently moved back to the city from Baltimore County.

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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