Stokes says claim of degree was error

He attended but did not graduate from Loyola College

July 13, 1999|By Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn | Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Credibility problems continued to dog mayoral candidate Carl Stokes, who yesterday acknowledged that he did not graduate from Loyola College, as his campaign literature states.

"This is an error," Stokes said. "I attended Loyola College from 1968 to 1970. I did not graduate."

The former East Baltimore councilman and school board member made the graduation claim most recently on cards that he placed on vehicle windshields of residents attending the Neighborhood Congress event. He made similar claims while running for City Council president in 1995.

The graduation matter is the second incident in the last month in which Stokes has been forced to change his statements. The state Motor Vehicle Administration suspended Stokes' license in May for not paying a November ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign. Stokes also had an outstanding speeding ticket.

When confronted about the suspension, Stokes said it was related to confusion over his car insurance. He later acknowledged the tickets, paid the fines and had his license reinstated.

Stokes issued a statement last night on his graduation claims hours after The Sun asked Loyola College to verify that Stokes graduated. Earlier in the year, Stokes told The Sun he graduated with a bachelor's degree in English.

"I want to set the record straight and clear up any confusion," Stokes said. "I would not want an error like this to create a misperception about me."

Despite the gaffe, Stokes said he believes he is the best candidate to succeed Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in December to become the city's 47th mayor. Stokes is one of 17 Democratic candidates running in the primary Sept. 14.

"In my effort to become mayor of the city of Baltimore, I want to have this mistake corrected," Stokes said. "I understand the issues that face this community and what it will take to make Baltimore a great city."

Stokes also took criticism yesterday for his position on tax breaks to downtown businesses.

During the past couple of weeks, Stokes has criticized Baltimore's administration and mayoral hopefuls City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and Councilman Martin O'Malley for backing recent tax breaks totaling $81 million for downtown hotels.

Yet a review of Stokes' council record has found that he introduced legislation in 1989 providing for similar "payment in lieu of taxes," known as a PILOTs, to bolster redevelopment in the Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Area, bounded by St. Paul, Calvert, Monument and Centre streets. The tax break for the Waterloo Place project passed the council March 26, 1990.

O'Malley, chairman of the council's Finance and Taxation Committee, said financing the hotels with the tax breaks was necessary for them to be successful. O'Malley supported the hotel projects, saying they will bring the city $6.6 million in other forms of taxes, such as parking and hotel bed levies.

O'Malley said Stokes' voting record and his recent comments show that he "appears to be saying whatever people want to hear."

In an interview yesterday, Stokes said he never intended to suggest that he was against the use of the PILOT program. He said his concern is that the city in recent years has used the tax incentives to benefit people who have political ties.

"I'm not against PILOTS," Stokes said. "I think that the PILOTS are a valuable tool for the city. My issue is how we might be using PILOTS."

Pub Date: 7/13/99

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