Critical of Urban Services, council still confirms its new director


Members of the Baltimore City Council criticized the operation of the city's Urban Services Agency yesterday, saying it is top heavy with management, slow to deliver services to the poor and its leaders ignore the agency's own board of commissioners.

"This agency is not adequately addressing its charge, is not adequately delivering services to the poor people of the city," said Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd.

Four council members who represent two inner-city districts containing pockets of poverty voiced their criticism shortly before the council voted to confirm the nomination of Lloyd C. Mitchner as director of the Urban Services Agency.

The council members who voiced concerns over the agency were Mr. Ambridge and Carl Stokes, D-2nd, and 4th District Democrats Lawrence A. Bell and Agnes B. Welch.

Mr. Mitchner, who has served as the acting agency chief since Lenwood M. Ivey stepped down in July 1989, had been nominated as permanent director by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The mayor said he was pleased by the confirmation vote but declined to comment on the council members' complaints, according to administration spokesman Clint Coleman.

The agency, created two decades ago when the Model Cities program and Community Action Agency were combined, is the city's chief anti-poverty agency. It is a catch-all organization, providing such diverse services as day care for young mothers, tutoring for junior high students, and bulk trash removal from alleys.

But the agency has for years been described by critics as more of a dispensary of political patronage than an efficient advocate for the poor.

In the past year, Mayor Schmoke has cut the agency's budget and promised further revisions.

Nonetheless, Mr. Ambridge and others have accused the Schmoke administration of paying little heed to the recommendations of the Urban Services Commission, which according to the Baltimore City Code is responsible for the "administration and proper operation" of the agency.

Mr. Ambridge, who as chairman of the council's Executive Appointments Committee can make it difficult for nominees, was still debating an hour before the council meeting whether to oppose Mr. Mitchner's nomination as a way of indicating his displeasure.

But Mr. Ambridge said he decided to support the nomination rather than to unfairly drag Mr. Mitchner into what he said was really a fight between the council and the mayor.

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