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Elect the Best


An unusual thing happened in Baltimore's Union Square neighborhood two weeks ago. Overnight, most of the houses facing the park displayed signs supporting Mary Pat Clarke for mayor. When asked why the normally apolitical neighborhood showed its colors and so early, one resident answered: "Frustration. People are sitting on their stoops and talking. They see lots of things they don't like. They want change."

Whether voters are for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke or Ms. Clarke in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, now is the time to get active. Every vote will count.

This is the time to take stock of Baltimore's present and future. After eight years, Mr. Schmoke has a record of successes and failures. It has to be debated, openly and without reservations.

As City Council president, who chairs City Council and Board of Estimates meetings, Mary Pat Clarke has a record that may not be as clear-cut. For that reason, she has to fully explain her agenda for Baltimore. Mere criticism of the Schmoke administration is not enough.

Although the mayoral election gets most of the media attention, the other citywide contests are no less important.

Five Democratic candidates -- in a city that has elected nothing but Democrats for three decades -- are battling to succeed Ms. Clarke. Four of them are council members with a clear record of achievements and disappointments. The fifth, former city sheriff Shelton Stewart, has a criminal record.

The gauge that voters should use in measuring the City Council president candidates is whether Lawrence Bell, Joseph J. DiBlasi, Vera P. Hall or Carl Stokes is best-qualified to be the mayor of the city should the unforeseen occur. Do they have the knowledge, do they have the promise? The council president, after all, is next in line if a mayoral vacancy develops. For that reason, the City Council president candidates have to outline an agenda for the city that is no less detailed than what is asked from the candidates for mayor.

Julian L. Lapides and Joan M. Pratt, the leading Democratic candidates for city comptroller, must provide a similar comprehensive platform. The comptroller's post is what its holder makes it to be. A comptroller should be vigilant, an ombudsman for all taxpayer concerns. This is particularly important because integrity has to be re-established in the office after the misdeeds of ousted Comptroller Jacqueline McLean.

We urge all Baltimore voters to get active and study the positions and personalities of citywide candidates. At this pivotal stage in its history, the city needs to elect the most qualified, capable and forward-looking candidates available.

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