School board bows to Schmoke, tells Hunter...


School board bows to Schmoke, tells Hunter he isn't coming 0) back

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke finally and formally gave up on the man he picked 2 1/2 years ago to run the city's schools, and the city school board went along with his wishes, informing Superintendent Richard C. Hunter that he would not be rehired when his contract expires July 31.

"There has been progress," Mr. Schmoke said. "But much of the progress has been in spite of Dr. Hunter, not because of him. I have been very involved in the school system." Mr. Schmoke and Dr. Hunter had been at odds for some time, chiefly over the mayor's desire to give school principals a greater role in the system, and finally over Dr. Hunter's refusal to leave quietly at the end of his contract. In a written statement, Dr. Hunter acknowledged that the board serves at the mayor's pleasure, but added, "I wish to be treated fairly by the board. I hope that they will re-examine the progress that I have made and will change the present plan to remove the current leadership of the school system."

BG&E; gets rate increase, says it needs more

State regulators gave the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. its largest rate increase in history, but BG&E; said it would appeal for still more. The Public Service Commission ordered the utility to raise its rates by $77 million, or 4.7 percent, in January, and an additional $72 million, or 4.4 percent, in June. Residential customers will start paying an average of $2.96 more on their monthly bills, starting Jan. 1. But BG&E; said it objected to the regulators' refusal to force customers to pay approximately $24 million in costs associated with the troubled Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant. In its 132-page ruling, the PSC found that the utility was "deficient" in its management of four problems in the shut-down plant. BG&E; Vice Chairman Christian H. Poindexter said that the company should not be penalized for "finding something wrong and fixing it."

Games charges put Wilzack on spot

Health Secretary Adele A. Wilzack was at the center of a storm over the department's hiring of workers to promote amateur athletic competitions and to attempt to bring an Olympic Festival to Maryland, despite a hiring freeze she ordered late last year amid evidence that applications for help from state medical assistance programs were outpacing the agency's limited resources. By October, the Maryland State Games had a staff of 13 people who cost the state, in salaries and benefits, more than $300,000 a year. The controversy has claimed the jobs of two top state health officials and is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Attorney General's Office. In court documents, lawyers for the health department have accused the program's staff of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grants. Senate President Thomas E. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's, called the hiring "a tremendous misuse of funds." and Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, chairman of a subcommittee that reviews the health department's budget, said legislators had been "misled." James Narron, the dismissed director of the games, has asserted that Ms. Wilzack was well aware of his activities, which were funded with money earmarked for fighting drug and alcohol abuse. Ms. Wilzack, who has refused to talk to reporters, told legislators earlier this year that activities promoting "fitness and health through sports" help guide young people to "lifestyles without drugs."

Insurance system wins legal backing

Maryland's insurance commissioner approved the current system of setting auto insurance prices according to the territory in which a driver lives. The ruling drew threats of a lawsuit from city and state officials and immediate calls for the commissioner's resignation, but a defense from the attorney general. The so-called "territorial rating" system, which results in higher insurance costs for drivers in Baltimore, Prince George's County and other more developed areas, is proper under Maryland's insurance law, Insurance Commissioner John A. Donaho said. He said that the legality of the practice was confirmed by three Maryland attorneys general over the years and that it adheres to actuarial standards of pricing insurance. John A. Pica Jr., head of the city's delegation to the state Senate, saying he was "both dismayed and disgusted" by the commissioner's ruling, called for Gov. William Donald Schaefer to ask for Mr. Donaho's resignation. In a letter to Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said, "We have no basis on which to advise that the law is any different than it was when [approved] by my predecessors" in 1977 and 1982. Ms. Clarke said that despite Mr. Curran's letter, a private group she represents will go to court to challenge what she said are the discriminatory methods insurers use to set their pricing territories.

BSO won't be sending postcards home

With the state's economy sagging, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra canceled its tour of Europe scheduled for spring 1992 because it couldn't raise money to cover the trip. The orchestra couldn't get corporate commitments to underwrite about $500,000 in expenses for the tour, despite extending the deadline for receiving such pledges for six weeks, Executive Director John Gidwitz said. The BSO has also withdrawn its request for a special $250,000 state grant to help pay for the projected $1.2 million cost of the tour. The orchestra's management felt it was inappropriate to ask for additional money at a time when the state was considering layoffs and cutting social services because of budget deficits, Mr. Gidwitz said.

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