Tourism board chairman Henry A. Rosenberg Jr. resigned yesterday after the collapse of quiet negotiations to temper the mayor's hard-line attempt to wrest control of Baltimore's tourism industry.
Mr. Rosenberg's resignation, which is effective June 30, comes one month after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke vowed to throw out Mr. Rosenberg and the board members by July 1. Mr. Schmoke's vow then caused Mr. Rosenberg -- chief executive officer of Crown Central Petroleum Corp. -- to threaten to move his company's headquarters out of Baltimore.
Since then, the two had stepped back from their public one-upmanship and, with the help of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, sought to resolve their differences.
In announcing his resignation, Mr. Rosenberg was noncommittal and less determined about removing his company from Baltimore.
"We have no plans to move -- for now," Mr. Rosenberg said.
The mayor, who publicly battled Mr. Rosenberg for weeks over control of the multimillion-dollar tourism industry, wanted to create a tourism board packed with his own appointees. The expiration this July of the city's contract with the independent tourism board gave him the opportunity to move ahead with his agenda.
Still, Mr. Rosenberg's announcement sends a clear message that he remains upset about being driven from the helm of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association board.
Recently, Mr. Glendening offered a private compromise designed to protect the region's tourism industry.
Mr. Rosenberg said that plan would involve creating a 15-member board in which the governor and the mayor would appoint five members each. The remaining five would be from the private sector.
In addition, the city and state would split the board's $3 million budget.
According to Mr. Rosenberg, the mayor dismissed the proposal out of hand, saying he wanted exclusive authority to appoint members.
"I thought it made a whole heck of a lot of sense," Mr. Rosenberg said. "So I called the mayor at the request of the governor."
"I said, 'Kurt, if that's the way you want it, then obviously we have nothing to talk about,' " Mr. Rosenberg said. "I told him that I was unhappy and disappointed. I told him that I thought we would work it out, and he said, 'Well, that's the way I see it,' and so that was the end of that conversation. We didn't even say goodbye to one another. We just hung up."
But it seems that Mr. Schmoke, who was not available for comment last night, was in a good position not to negotiate.
Last week, the state pledged $1.5 million to the new board to pay for promoting the opening of the newly expanded convention center.
He also had lined up the business leaders that he wants to appoint to his newly formed board.
Any back-pedaling now would seem to affirm charges that the mayor is indecisive and unsure about how to head the city's tourism industry.
Plus, Mr. Schmoke has received accolades from nonbusiness leaders who trumpet his unyielding stance on the issue.
Mr. Schmoke has maintained that this new board would be independent and would not become a city agency.
The feud between the city and the tourism board had been simmering for years. Recently, the board members charged that the city's $3 million subsidy was not enough, while the mayor charged that the board members were mismanaging funds.
The mayor is expected to announce his appointments to the new board this week.