It's in the (trading) cards for mayor's campaign


Move over, Ken Griffey Jr. Watch out, Cal Ripken. Baltimore has a hot new contender in the trading card market with stats you can't begin to match -- Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

In a slickly packaged campaign promotion, Mr. Schmoke's re-election committee is circulating trading cards that feature action shots of him and brag about his achievements as mayor.

The 10 glossy cards, patterned after traditional baseball cards, show the mayor sweeping trash, reading to children, meeting with a police officer and walking down the steps of a new home with a hard hat in hand. Collect all 10, or the bonus "Presidential Support" card, and win a dinner with the mayor.

"People in the city of Baltimore are big baseball fans," explained Craig Kirby, spokesman for The Kurt Schmoke Committee.

Mr. Schmoke called the trading cards "a new technique that we're using to try to reach younger voters, new voters and those who might have lost interest in traditional campaigning."

The series boasts of Mr. Schmoke's accomplishments over the past two terms without providing the same scrupulous quantitative proof usually offered on athlete's cards.

One card claims Baltimore is the "cleanest big city on the East Coast."

Another one touts the Schmoke administration's high-profile drug raids and states "violent crime reduced." But murders, robberies, rapes, assaults and other major crimes are up 40 percent since December 1987, when Mr. Schmoke took office.

A third card on housing promotes a loan program to help homebuyers with settlement costs. It's been extremely successful -- but it's also been cut from the budget.

And the card citing his tangible economic triumphs -- the new Columbus Center, the Convention Center expansion, and the $100 million federal empowerment zone grant -- claims "thousands of jobs from new projects."

But the city actually has lost 60,000 jobs since 1989.

All of the statistics were culled from reports prepared by city agencies at the end of the year, said Mr. Kirby. He would not say how much the campaign spent on the trading cards, created by Millbrook Communications and designed by New World Graphics, or how many would be handed out.

Campaign workers stood on downtown street corners at noon and again during rush hour yesterday passing out the trading cards. Most people smiled and eagerly took a package.

One partisan had a wry reaction.

"I'm going to collect my 10 cards and trade them in. I'm trading Mr. Schmoke in for a new mayor," quipped Cheryl Benton, the campaign manager for City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who is challenging the mayor's bid for a third term.

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