WASHINGTON -- Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that he sees little hope for federal aid for the nation's cities, and he called on local leaders and businesses to save Baltimore's neighborhoods.
"We are going to win this thing block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, without this big bang from Washington," the mayor said at a forum sponsored by the Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit housing coalition.
Mr. Schmoke and the other panelists said they are not expecting much in the way of aid to the cities from the next administration since both President Bush and Bill Clinton have virtually ignored cities during the presidential campaign.
They said that they would be somewhat more optimistic in the event of a Clinton presidency, however.
Mr. Schmoke advocated local mentors, neighborhood-police cooperation and business-education partnerships in the nation's cities as the best vehicles for success in poor neighborhoods.
Baltimore heroes such as Celtics star Reggie Lewis, and his community service work, have had a more positive effect on inner-city teens than have government programs, Mr. Schmoke said.
"If I can find more people like that, to keep another rec center open, then I'm going to succeed," he said.
"I've seen a lot of young people turn around simply by having a mentor -- someone to say, I value your life and you are worth something," the mayor said.
Area businesses should work hand-in-hand with schools to train a competent work force that is literate and positive, he said.
Panelists said the presidential election has shown how the image of the city has changed, from a haven of innovation and opportunity to a special-interest concern only of its residents and politicians.
Panelist Phillip Clay, head of the Urban Studies Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said cities need the power to control all the federal funds they can.
"I do hope after the election . . . that the national government sees the value in the cities," Mr. Schmoke said.
Enterprise Foundation founder and Chairman James W. Rouse said that, although the foundation has helped produce more than 18,000 affordable homes in 10 years, the shortage of affordable housing in cities has gotten worse.
"We feel good about our work, and at the same time, fiercely frustrated. This is not only intolerable, but unnecessary," Mr. Rouse said.
"We've got to prove that these conditions are central, and it would cost less to have poor people live in good cities than in sick cities."
He said that Mr. Schmoke and the Enterprise Foundation have formed a good partnership to aid the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in Baltimore, and "the city has denied us nothing in our effort."
Mr. Rouse said the goals of providing health care, day care, drug prevention programs and good housing will eventually prevail.
"We not only aim to have this happen -- it's going to happen, because the mayor wants it to happen and the people want it to happen," Mr. Rouse said.