Responding to a complaint by Mary Pat Clarke's mayoral campaign, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that once he formally files for re-election he will not answer political questions at his weekly news briefings while cable TV cameras are rolling.
Instead, Mr. Schmoke said, he will talk only about government issues at the briefings taped by the Mayor's Office of Cable and Communications for rebroadcast over cable Channel 44. He said he then would make a "clear break," after which he would be available to talk about the campaign.
"We'll ask the cable camera to cut off at that point when we talk about political campaign matters," Mr. Schmoke said. "I think that's about as fair as we can get."
In a letter last week to the city's cable office, the Clarke campaign asked that "the time during the mayor's news conferences that is devoted to the campaign or any subject connected to it be edited out of the broadcast." As an alternative, it asked that Mrs. Clarke, the City Council president, be given equal time to broadcast her views.
In her letter, Cheryl Benton, Mrs. Clarke's campaign manager, cited Board of Estimates regulations prohibiting declared candidates from appearing on the city's cable channel unless all candidates are given a chance to appear. The regulations specifically exclude "officials performing their regular duties."
Mr. Schmoke's weekly briefings are usually held Thursday mornings and are taped for rebroadcast Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m., 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The deadline for filing for city offices is July 3. The mayor said he would file soon.
In announcing the change in format for his news briefings, Mr. Schmoke said he hoped Mrs. Clarke similarly would refrain from making political comments during the "comment period" that comes at the end of the City Council meetings, which also are broadcast by the city's cable channel.
"That has become far more political than government-oriented," the mayor said.
Ms. Benton denied that Mrs. Clarke uses council meetings as a political forum.
"If perchance she does it, she will stop," Ms. Benton said.
Council meetings are aired live at 5 p.m. Mondays, and are re-broadcast Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.