In a move that has exposed a deep rift between Mayor Martin O'Malley and Peter G. Angelos, the influential Orioles owner is helping to organize a fund-raiser next week in O'Malley's back yard to help a political rival of the mayor's, Douglas M. Duncan.
Duncan, the Democratic Montgomery County executive who is often mentioned with O'Malley as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2006, will be honored Nov. 12 by Angelos, Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and downtown developer David Hillman at an apartment building Hillman's firm owns at 501 St. Paul St.
The reception for Duncan is expected to attract more than 100 of the sponsors' friends, each contributing $250 or $1,000 to Duncan's campaign committee, although Duncan has not announced his intentions.
"This is high political drama," said Donald F. Norris, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "It is certainly significant that one of the richest and most powerful men in the region, Peter Angelos, is reaching out to support Duncan, who is widely perceived as one of the front-runners, with O'Malley, for the Democratic nomination in 2006."
O'Malley and Angelos expressed frustration with one another yesterday. Sources close to the mayor said that for years he has found it difficult to work with a man they described as demanding and unpredictable.
East vs. west
The mayor suggested that Angelos and Hillman, both trying to rebuild the west side of downtown, are holding the political event as an expression of their irritation with O'Malley because he is also spreading economic development money to an east side redevelopment project near Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"There are some developers for whom the city of Baltimore can never do enough," O'Malley said. "There are some on the west side who feel that if 100 percent of our available economic development dollars are not going to the west side, that means the city doesn't get it, and I don't care about them."
Angelos responded: "I don't understand the connection he's making, unless he does believe he's the political czar of the Baltimore area. Vendettas and personal tantrums are inappropriate for the leader of the city of Baltimore."
O'Malley said he has had several meetings with Angelos over the west side project, which seeks to rebuild 18 blocks around Howard Street in the city's faded retail district. But O'Malley said Angelos keeps insisting that all of the city's economic development funds be focused on the area, which is near Orioles Park at Camden Yards and Angelos' offices at 100 N. Charles St.
The mayor said he can't meet that demand because he's concerned about the whole city, including residential neighborhoods away from downtown.
"I've met with Angelos and explained to him that his project has received more than any other part of the city, but he wants every economic dollar going to the west side," O'Malley said. "Petty jealousy still exists in Baltimore, east side vs. west side."
`Control his ego'
Angelos said he was puzzled by the mayor's comments because the fund-raiser has nothing to do with the west side.
"A man who lashes out at citizens who are trying to revitalize the west side of Baltimore should control his ego and put his shoulder to the wheel."
Angelos said he's a co-host of the event for Duncan because he's impressed with his performance in running the state's most populous county and considers him a "very fine public official." Angelos said he would like to introduce Duncan to acquaintances who might want to contribute to his campaigns, whether they're for governor or something else.
"I don't think this fund-raiser is for a run by Duncan for the governor's office," Angelos said. "If he does run for governor in the future, who knows?"
Angelos asked: "Does Mr. O'Malley feel that he has some special claim on that office? It's preposterous. I didn't know he had exclusive rights. I recently held a fund-raiser for Dick Gephardt [the Missouri congressman running for president]. Would Mr. O'Malley also find that inappropriate? He's the mayor of Baltimore."
The city has approved at least $17 million in tax breaks to developers planning to rebuild the west side, plus $17 million in state funds, compared with $4.5 million in city and state funds for the east side biotechnology park.
One section of the west side urban renewal project is moving along, with the Hippodrome theater undergoing renovation and a 17-story apartment tower rising at Howard and Fayette streets. But other parts of the area have not changed in the five years since former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke initiated the redevelopment.
Hillman, whose Southern Management firm is based in Virginia, said his being a co-host of the event for Duncan has "no connection" to the west side project. Hillman noted that he has had a long relationship with Duncan in part because Hillman is the largest apartment owner in Montgomery County, with 5,000 units in at least 15 complexes.