Call it coincidence.
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke wants to meet with the press more often -- ideally once a week.
This apparent change in policy comes on the heels of his floating a trial balloon Feb. 25 about the possibility of running for governor. But Clinton R. Coleman, Mr. Schmoke's press secretary, insists that it has been in the works a long time.
"The decision was made in late January," Mr. Coleman said. "It has nothing to do with the mayor's announcement that he was considering running for governor.
"It has more to do with the mayor . . . knowing that the city is doing a lot of good things and the feeling that much of what the city is doing positively is being overlooked," he said. Mr. Schmoke has been criticized for rarely being available to the press except when reporters corner him at receptions on his schedule, community events, and at the weekly Board of Estimates meetings. The administration also has been unresponsive to media inquiries.
Under the new plan, Mr. Coleman said, the mayor wants to meet with the press 9 a.m. every Thursday, when possible, "to get the message out."
After his first year in office, Mr. Schmoke scheduled press breakfasts about once a month, but within a year, they became less frequent. Mr. Coleman yesterday was able to cite three such briefings during 1992.
Mr. Schmoke's style contrasts dramatically with that of his most prickly predecessor, Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- who was never a fan of the media, but who met with the press just about every week while mayor. Those meetings did, however, become more infrequent in the mid-1980s, as Mr. Schaefer began to mount his gubernatorial campaign.
Occasionally, Mayor Schaefer would go through the morning newspaper pointing out "negative" articles, before storming out of the meeting, refusing to answer questions. And he would sometimes "punish" the press by calling off the press breakfasts for weeks at a time after such episodes.
But generally, Mr. Schaefer was available 7:45 a.m. every Wednesday to chat with the media.
Unlike Mr. Schmoke, Mr. Schaefer was always visible on the streets of the city, walking to City Hall from his car, wandering over to the drug store, or picking up his cleaning. Mr. Schmoke, on the other hand, frequently walks through a tunnel to City Hall after his car is parked in the garage under the Municipal Building, across the street.