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Schmoke blasts Congress on cities Top Democrats play "cotton-candy politics," he says.


Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke accused House Democratic leaders today of playing "cotton-candy politics" with the problems of the cities.

"It looks so nice and you bite into it and there's nothing there," the mayor said at the annual civil rights breakfast of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission.

"It is not a Republican problem that we face," Mr. Schmoke said. "I met yesterday with the Democratic leadership of the House, and these people just don't get it.

"With all due respect to the speaker of the House, I sat in front of him and said that what is being presented right now by the national leadership is really a sham and a fraud on the cities and the people living in the cities."

Yesterday, Democrats and the White House stressed that they had reached an accord on broad themes of an urban agenda. Democrats and Republicans began the task of finding specific areas of compromise and finding ways to pay for them.

Mr. Schmoke was one of nine mayors who met privately in Washington yesterday with House Speaker Thomas Foley and other Democratic leaders, including Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.-5th.

"They seem to want to cut a deal with President Bush to . . . put a Band-Aid on these problems and get the cities issues off the agenda," Mr. Schmoke said.

The mayor urged Baltimoreans to take part in the Save Our Cities march Saturday in Washington to spotlight what he called the cities' need for federal help.

Mr. Schmoke said later in an interview that the federal budget agreement would block fresh infusions of aid to the cities unless Congress passes with a veto-proof majority a declaration of national emergency that would authorize switching funds from defense to domestic affairs.

"They can make all these pronouncements about programs they would like to institute to help the cities, but if they don't invoke these mechanisms in the budget agreement, it can't be done," he said.

Mr. Schmoke said the Democratic leaders "weren't aggressive and positive. They did not display the sense of urgency we thought they would have. Everybody is feeling their way on how does this play politically."

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has drawn up a $34.8 billion plan to aid cities through public works and job creation. The mayor pointed out that the House Armed Services Committee gave conditional approval yesterday to the final four B-2 bombers in a 20-plane fleet at a cost of $2.3 billion per plane, money he suggested would be better spent on the cities.

Mr. Schmoke called on Democratic leaders to react to the plight of the cities with the same urgency they accorded the Persian Gulf war and the savings and loan crisis.

"Nobody bothered to talk about . . . whether the budget agreement would allow it," he said. "They saw the emergency, and they solved the problem. That's what they ought to do with the cities, but we didn't get that sense of commitment."

In the wake of the Los Angeles riots, the mayors warned the congressional leaders that unless "serious attention" was paid to the cities, "we may see outbreaks like Los Angeles again in the near future," Mr. Schmoke said.

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