Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has ordered the sale of one of his two city-owned Lincolns after enduring a series of cable television ads from a Democratic primary opponent who pointed to the cars as a waste of taxpayer money.
Schmoke ordered the sale of the dark blue, 1989 Town Car "as a cost-cutting move," said Clinton R. Coleman, the mayor's press secretary.
"He wants to sell it to cut back expenses in the mayor's office," Coleman said.
The car, which has clocked about 17,000 miles, is now in the city's central garage waiting to be sold.
Last week, Adams and Winer, an auctioneer, attempted to sell the car but no buyer stepped forward who was willing to pay the city's minimum price of $12,000, said Joseph D. Zissimos, the city's property disposal supervisor. The highest bid offered for the car was $10,000, he said.
Despite the auction's outcome, Zissimos thinks the car is a bargain and will be unloaded in due time.
"We expect we will sell it; it is a very good deal," he said.
Coleman said the Lincoln has had some mechanical problems, which he said hastened the mayor's decision to sell it. "It has been stopped in the shop a lot," Coleman said.
Zissimos said Coleman's explanation may answer why the car didn't sell right away.
JTC "You certainly wouldn't get rid of a good running car, if there wasn't some aggravation with it," he Zissimos said.
The city paid $21,936 for the car in November 1989, when Schmoke bought it to replace a worn out Chevrolet Caprice. At the time, Schmoke's aides explained that the mayor needed the room offered by a Lincoln. Also, they said, the car was only slightly more costly than a comparably equipped Caprice.
"All the rationale still remains in place for the car," Coleman said. "There's the room and the fact that this Lincoln costs about the same as a Caprice Classic."
Three months after buying the first Lincoln, Schmoke's office bought a second one for $24,196.
Aides explained that the mayor needs two cars so one is always available for use while the other is being serviced or repaired. They also pointed out that the mayor logs about 55,000 miles a year.
William A. Swisher, a former state's attorney who has been attempting to fashion a populist campaign against Schmoke, has been criticizing Schmoke's decision to have two city-owned Lincolns at his disposal.
Coleman said Schmoke's decision was unrelated to Swisher's attacks. Instead, he said, in this time of budget cutbacks, Schmoke has decided that two cars are a luxury the city can no longer afford.
"This was just a cost-cutting move," Coleman said. "The mayor will still have a back-up car from the city fleet. But it won't be a Lincoln."
The mayor probably will use either a Ford Crown Victoria or a Chevrolet Caprice to back up the other car -- a gray Lincoln.