Crane operator runs for council Blacks see more electoral possibility in redistricted 6th


Saying redistricting has opened new opportunities for black candidates in South Baltimore's 6th District, Rodney A. Orange has announced his candidacy for the City Council.

Orange, 48, a Bethlehem Steel crane operator and board member of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, says he hopes to become the first black councilman ever elected from the 6th District. He made his announcement last week before about 60 supporters at a $25-a-ticket fund-raiser at the Baltimore Rowing Club.

The district has been dominated for years by political clubs that have sent only white candidates to the council -- a record Orange hopes to change on the heels of redistricting.

Redistricting "has increased the possibility for an African-American to be elected to the council from the 6th District," Orange said in a letter he sent to 300 supporters in the district. "However, there is no guarantee this will happen without a strong candidate, and strong support from the black community."

The 6th District is about 60 percent black. Before redistricting, it was about 42 percent black.

Even with the district's new configuration, Orange faces a difficult test. Other black candidates will be in the race with strong support. The three council incumbents are likely to seek re-election.

Running in the 3rd: George Brent, an aide to City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, has announced his candidacy for City Council in the 3rd District. Brent, 53, made his announcement yesterday during a fund-raiser at the Hit 'n' Run Club in Memorial Stadium.

Brent served as director of community relations for Clarke's office during the past four years. He took a leave of absence Friday to run his campaign. Brent administered several municipal health clinics in East Baltimore for eight years before joining Clarke's successful campaign for council president in 1987.

"Between these two jobs I have a lot of experience in helping people," said Brent. "I know how city government works and I can use that knowledge to see that things get done for the citizens of the district."

A resident of Waverly, Brent became a resident of the 3rd District when the new councilmanic redistricting plan moved his neighborhood out of the 2nd.

Clarke has said that she and a coalition of black council members intend to field a ticket in the 3rd District, which was altered drastically by redistricting.

The district went from a 54 percent white majority to 60 percent black. The 3rd, whose middle-class black neighborhoods have a strong voter turnout, was a particular target of activists hoping to elect a majority black council.

Brent, who is black, said he expects Clarke's support but he said he is starting his race running by himself.

Stonewalling it: For the first time in many decades, the annual Stonewall Democratic Club bull roast featured more candidates for local office from other parts of the city than from the club's home in South Baltimore.

Handing out literature to people eating beef and crab cakes at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Locust Point last week were candidates from the 1st Councilmanic District and citywide offices. Abstaining from the political glad-handing were the likes of Joseph J. DiBlasi, Edward L. Reisinger and Timothy D. Murphy, all incumbent council members from the 6th District.

The recently approved councilmanic redistricting plan moved Locust Point and the South Baltimore peninsula from the 6th into the 1st. Stonewall, which has influenced local politics in the 6th District for more than 50 years, now physically is in the "New 1st."

"It was really weird," said Reisinger. "Joe and I had no one to hand literature out to. In past years, the incumbents from the 6th would hand out tons of the stuff. But everyone at the roast lived in the 1st. We just stood and watched these guys from Highlandtown and Greektown work the crowd. It was a sad day, a sad day indeed."

Burning issue: An official from the mayoral campaign of Republican Joseph Scalia notified the press last week that the candidate was going to build a bonfire in front of City Hall. Scalia's intent was to demonstrate what he claimed was the waste of taxpayers' money by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Scalia contended that the city budget for 1991 of $2.047 billion is more than the budget of eight states. He said the school system spends $700 million to "produce illiterates, dropouts and an ocean of low human potential."

The school system actually is spending about $503 million this year with a proposed budget of $540 million for next year.

"Kurt Schmoke keeps saying we need more money, but he wouldn't be able to solve the city's problems with $2 billion or $200 billion because he is part of the problem for not being a strong leader," Scalia said.

Scalia then tore off several pages from the 1991 budget book, threw them into a green gallon-sized can and set them ablaze. A half-dozen supporters stood in a semicircle and watched. Several street people who wandered through City Hall Plaza didn't even bother to stop.

Dueling portraits: Larry S. Gibson, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's quick witted campaign chairman, didn't miss a beat when asked about Neal Peirce's assessment of the Schmoke administration in a study commissioned by the Abell Foundation and The Sun.

"Baltimore and Beyond," published in The Sun last month, was the product of a two-month study of the future of Baltimore directed by Peirce, an acclaimed author, columnist and urban specialist.

While the report recognized the charm of Baltimore's neighborhoods and "glittering chain of waterside projects," it said the city is in free-fall because of an unfair property tax rate, troubled schools, and lethargic leadership by Schmoke.

Asked whether that criticism will hurt Schmoke's re-election effort, Gibson just laughed and reached for another article co-authored by Peirce. This one ran in Business Month magazine in June 1989 and offered Schmoke warm praise.

Under a headline reading "Wizards Behind the Cities that Work,Peirce wrote that observers call Schmoke "cerebral, cool and technocratic." He also said that Schmoke had "begun to modernize and trim the city's old fashioned bureaucracy" and was generally doing a "good job" following former Mayor William Donald Schaefer.

Douglass out? A weary Del. John W. Douglass has written about of his closest supporters and said he probably will not run for comptroller.

Douglass, who twice lost while challenging Comptroller Hyman A. Pressman, said the problems of his district have worn him down, and he may join Pressman in retirement.

"There is a good chance that I also will be retiring at the end of this legislative term," said Douglass, a Democrat who represents East Baltimore's 45th District.

Douglass had been considered a front-runner for thcomptroller's race with Pressman retiring this year. In 1983, Douglass got more than 83,500 votes in a losing effort.

But this year Douglass faced other black challengers, including Councilwoman Jacqueline F. McLean, D-2nd, and Register of Wills Mary Conaway. Councilman Joseph T. Jody Landers 3rd, D-3rd, also is in the race.

In his letter, Douglass made a vague reference to the sudden appearance of other black candidates, saying that "too often some of us have place personal interests above our greater needs. This has made me weary."

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