Mayor flaunts his record

Campaign Ad Watch

September 20, 2006

Mayor Martin O'Malley's campaign for governor began airing a new ad on Baltimore's television stations last night. It is the campaign's ninth 30-second spot and its second to exclusively focus on the Democratic mayor's record.

The mostly positive ad, called "Tough," takes one dig at O'Malley's Republican rival, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., by saying the incumbent sides with "special interests."

What the ad says: Played against black-and-white photographs of O'Malley in action, a narrator says he is a "leader who took on the toughest challenges."

It states that he "helped reduce violent crimes and murders, cut property taxes and added accountability with the award-winning CitiStat program that makes government deliver more for less."

The commercial says the mayor will "take the same progress and innovation" to Annapolis "by rewarding performance, not the special interests, lowering utility rates and securing the homeland to keep Maryland safe and secure."

The facts: Incidents of violent crime -- counted as homicides, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults -- have been reduced significantly during O'Malley's administration. O'Malley has claimed a nearly 40 percent reduction, but other estimates are closer to 24 percent.

The city has yet to reach O'Malley's goal of reducing homicides to 175 per year. In 2002, homicides dipped to 253, which is far below the figures of the 1990s, when homicides exceeded 300 every year.

Over the past two budget years, O'Malley and the City Council have cut the property tax rate by 4 cents to $2.288 per $100 of assessed value -- the city's lowest rate since the 1970s. But it is still the state's highest rate, and the cut was made possible, in part, by increases in other taxes.

O'Malley started the CitiStat program shortly after taking office in December 1999, and in 2004 it won Harvard University's Innovations in American Government Award. The process requires city department heads to report to top Cabinet officials for biweekly reviews of their critical functions -- trash pickup, pothole repairs and water problems.

O'Malley's campaign has released detailed plans to lower utility rates and to improve the state's homeland security strategies.

Analysis: By highlighting his cut of the city's property tax rate for the first time on television, O'Malley hopes to contrast himself with Ehrlich. The governor raised property taxes by approximately 5 cents per $100 of assessed property in his first year. This year, Ehrlich and the state Board of Public Works reduced the rate by 2 cents.

But Ehrlich's campaign has been quick to remind voters that O'Malley wanted $45 million in new and increased taxes on phones, energy bills and real estate transactions two years ago. The City Council trimmed it to $30 million.

Doug Donovan

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