Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's creation of a 40-member Development Incentives Task Force appears to have an ambitious agenda. Not only will the group develop support for policies to improve Baltimore's business climate, it may also lay the ground work for a national urban agenda.
Fourteen months ago, Mr. Schmoke unveiled "The Renaissance Continues: A 20-Year Strategy for Downtown Baltimore," the city's most recent "vision statement" for Baltimore's future. Many of the recommendations were provocative -- changing traffic directions on Charles Street, consolidating municipal services for downtown and rethinking some of the city's zoning regulations. However, there has been no groundswell to implement these suggestions.
Clearly, the new task force is designed to develop the political and civic consensus needed to enact some of the suggestions. The 40 members represent a great many new people who did not participate in earlier redevelopment efforts. They should bring some fresh thinking to many of Baltimore's old problems.
It also appears that the task force will be evaluating programs that have utility beyond Baltimore. One of its jobs is to look at what federal actions are needed to help American cities rebuild and recover. Given the mayor's early support for Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his prominent part in the party's national convention, Mr. Schmoke could easily create a role for himself as a spokesman -- or cabinet member -- for urban America should Mr. Clinton get elected.
After the past 12 years of neglect of the nation's cities, a new urban strategy is needed. Since no one else appears to be working on such a plan, it is quite possible Baltimore's newest task force could do it by default.