Community group puts mayoral candidates to test at open forum

BUILD wants priority given to neighborhoods

August 09, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Five of Baltimore's leading mayoral candidates told the city's largest neighborhood organization what it wanted to hear yesterday.

The candidates pledged to make city streets cleaner, to improve neighborhood safety and to provide more funding for schools and recreation programs.

But that wasn't enough for more than 1,000 members of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), who attended the candidates forum at St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church at 5401 Loch Raven Blvd, in Northeast Baltimore.

Pointing to what they said was $2 billion in Inner Harbor investment over the past 30 years, BUILD members challenged the candidates to explain how they intend to make the city's aching neighborhoods a priority.

The 22-year-old BUILD has existed through two mayors and intends to hold the next accountable to meeting the needs of the neighborhoods.

Among the pledges BUILD demanded and received was that the next mayor would spend 50 cents in the neighborhoods for every dollar spent downtown.

The candidates also pledged to restore cuts in recreation spending and dedicate $24 million in education funding for guidance counselors and librarians, and art, music and physical education programs.

City Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway received cheers when she pledged to put more police officers on the street and pointed out that she is the only female mayoral candidate.

"You have voted for 146 mayors of this city who were men and look at the condition of it," said Conaway, who got a standing ovation from women in the crowd.

Northeast City Councilman Martin O'Malley said he would create a board to monitor banks' lending practices in neighborhoods.

"We shouldn't sell ourselves short," O'Malley said.

Former East Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes garnered strong applause when he reminded the crowd that he sponsored the first living wage law in the nation, which was adopted by the council in 1995. The statute requires companies hired by the city to pay their workers a living wage, now $7.90 an hour.

City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III told audience members that they should support him because he has supported BUILD positions. He said he voted for the living wage legislation and helped to restore cuts to recreation funding in the recent budget battle.

Event organizers chastised City Wide Coalition candidate A. Robert Kaufman for failing to follow the guidelines used in last night's forum.

In a segment in which candidates were allowed to ask each other questions related to BUILD's agenda, Kaufman began pushing his plan to create an automobile and home insurance cooperative. BUILD organizers turned his microphone off when he persisted.

Pub Date: 8/09/99

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