ANYONE WHO thinks an inspirational $650,000 television blitz is merely hawking Mayor Martin O'Malley's re-election bid simply doesn't know the rest of the story.
The ads are actually part of a drive to increase the visibility of the nonpartisan "Reason to Believe" appeal. It hopes to raise $30 million over the next two years to provide treatment for addicted mothers, finance pre- and after-school activities and supplement overtime expenses for law enforcement personnel. (So far, $21 million has been pledged.)
Moreover, the television ads are an extension of a wide-ranging but quiet Safe and Sound Campaign push to help at-risk children and troubled parents. For the record, that effort started in 1997, when Kurt L. Schmoke was the mayor.
It's easy to be confused because many of that initial program's violence-reduction and social action goals later became part of Mayor O'Malley's crime-fighting strategy. The objectives melded further last year when another television blitz tried to convince viewers that Baltimore was making progress in its twin attacks on violence and drug addiction.
Since then, regrettably, some indicators have taken a turn for the worse. Homicides, for example, are running well ahead of last year's pace. And budget cuts threaten drug treatment programs and social services.
That's why the appeal, spearheaded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Baltimore Community Foundation, is even more critical than before. If it falters, there will be no additional $10 million to treat 950 addicted parents or provide support for 1,000 families, $6 million to prepare at-risk children for schools, $12 million to provide after-school activities, internships and jobs and $1.8 million to take care of overtime for law enforcement personnel.
Are these political programs? Of course they are, in the sense that they aim to improve societal conditions in the city. But by no stretch of the imagination can they be regarded as partisan activities. In fact, any mayoral hopeful - and there is still time for more candidates to file by June 30 - would be foolish not to welcome this badly needed safety net for kids and parents who otherwise would fall through the cracks.
If candidates want to challenge Mayor O'Malley's record, go for it. But they are wrong to attack the commendable participation of private foundations in trying to rectify social ills. Baltimore needs more such caring activism.