Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke last night announced his candidacy for a second term during a festive fund-raiser that organizers called the second-largest in city history.
Schmoke, surrounded by wife, Patricia, and a load of city politicians, rode a locomotive into the roundhouse of the B&O; Railroad Museum before declaring his candidacy.
More than 5,000 tickets were sold for the $20-a-head fund-raiser -- which Schmoke campaign chairman Larry S. Gibson called a near record. Before yesterday's event, the Schmoke campaign already had raised more than $1 million.
"The only larger one was the mid-term event held during Kurt's first term as state's attorney," Gibson said, adding that the 1984 fund-raiser drew some 8,000 contributions.
While the gala fund-raiser was held to highlight Schmoke's first term, the upcoming campaign may prove to be a test of the mayor's political stamina. Schmoke's most visible Democratic challenger, former Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns, has said that Schmoke lacks the experience and know-how needed to make government work.
"The city is not moving forward," Burns asserts. "We are going nowhere."
Meanwhile, for the first time in his political career, Schmoke is confronted with vocal detractors who are attacking his record. For example, as Schmoke kicked off his campaign last night, a small band of pickets from the Maryland Minority Contractors Associations marched across the street.
"Minorities are not getting the contracts under this mayor," said Fran Scott, a contractor and member of the group.
Schmoke is also being criticized in other quarters of the community for his low-key leadership style and his administration's efforts in areas such as housing and education. Schmoke counters his critics by saying he plans to be "positive" and campaign on his record.
"I think our record is a very good one," Schmoke said. "It is one we are proud of . . . and a tribute to the leadership we have provided."
Schmoke came into office just as the Reagan cutbacks to cities were hitting Baltimore housing programs with full force. There has been no federal money to build new public housing, and the Community Development Block Grant program was reduced by more than $10 million annually. Block grant money comes from the federal government and is used for housing renovation and other community programs.
To fill part of the gap, Schmoke founded the Community tTC Development Finance Corporation, which has earmarked $20 million in public and private money to convert 215 vacant buildings for 690 homes, said CDFC executive vice president Frank Coakley.
Schmoke chose a Johns Hopkins academician, Robert W. Hearn, to be his housing chief. The administration's detractors say Hearn is a disappointment because he has not tackled housing problems aggressively and he has difficulty making decisions.
Hearn is now in the middle of a battle between the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has threatened to penalize Baltimore financially for having a lack of qualified staff to administer its federal block grant program. Federal auditors from HUD's inspector general's office are reviewing the city's block grant records.
Community leaders have also begun questioning the housing authority's ability to maintain public housing rowhouses scattered throughout the city, particularly some 300, which were vandalized after being left vacant.
Schmoke made education his top priority, pledging energetic school leadership, smaller classes and a concerted effort to increase school funding.
The results have been mixed, with the issue of school leadership continuing to dog the administration.
L One of the mayor's earliest moves was to fire school Superin
tendent Alice G. Pinderhughes and to name Melvin S. Hollis, a lawyer, as president of the Board of School Commissioners.
Within a year, Hollis had been stripped of that post. In 1988, Schmoke hand-picked Richard C. Hunter as school superintendent.
But Hunter's three years in the job were marked by controversy over a series of issues. Those disagreements climaxed last December, when Schmoke directed the school board not to offer Hunter a new contract.
Now, after a six-month search, the school board is choosing a new superintendent from a list of five finalists.
Schmoke, meanwhile, cites a number of achievements in education over the past four years.
They include a dramatic increase in city money that goes to education, cuts in the school department's administrative staff, restoration of elementary school art and music programs, partnerships with local businesses, and a move to give individual schools more autonomy.
"Given what I came into office and faced -- which was a good decade of neglect of the public schools -- I think we made significant progress," Schmoke said.
Despite the increased city funding, Baltimore ranks sixth from the bottom in per-pupil education spending statewide, with an average of $4,614 per student in the 1989-90 school year, compared with a state average of $5,460. Schmoke said the
city needs significant new state aid to close that funding gap.
The lack of money has hindered Schmoke from meeting other educational promises. As a candidate in 1987, Schmoke set a goal of no more than 25 students per class in elementary schools within four years. The goal has not been met.
Moreover, the city schools continue to fail many of their students. Baltimore has about a 50 percent student dropout rate, and some neighborhood high schools report that only 20 percent of their students graduate within four years.
Upon taking office, Schmoke quickly imposed a hiring freeze on most city departments. That has helped to pare more than 1,400 jobs from the city payroll with little dropoff in services. He also has commissioned a long-term fiscal plan that sets an austere blueprint for the city's financial future.
Those moves have helped keep Baltimore in better financial shape than many large cities.
But while Schmoke has earned praise for his fiscal management, he has drawn fire because of his methodical, close-to-the vest style.
Schmoke's detractors say his style does not suit a big-city mayor. They say Schmoke often appears to be passionless, especially when contrasted with former Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
"Under Schaefer, anyone who was doing something good for the city knew that the mayor was behind him," said one community leader, who supported Schmoke in 1987 and requested anonymity. "With this administration, you rarely get clear signals."
Schmoke also has angered even some supporters with what some call "weak" leadership. They say Schmoke has dropped the ball on several issues, including council redistricting, the recent city budget deliberations and even recycling.
Many black political activists were infuriated when Schmoke offered a redistricting plan that did not dramatically increase the number of majority-black council districts in the city.
Schmoke's plan was amended in the City Council, and now five of the city's six districts have significant black majorities.
Schmoke, however, has maintained that his plan could have resulted in more blacks on the council. Currently, seven of 19 council members are black. "Organization and turnout win elections," he said.
Recently, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke complained that "if we had the cooperation of the administration, we would have been able to put together a meaningful recycling program by now."
She also said that the city would have been unable to add 18 housing inspectors and 50 foot patrol officers to the fiscal 1992 budget without the council's leadership.
Schmoke simply shrugs off his critics.
"Some people look for a different style," Schmoke said. "But I look for results. I think we've had good results."