Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke steadily promoted his accomplishments in portraying Baltimore as a city on the move, while Council President Mary Pat Clarke hammered away at the persistent problems of crime, joblessness and beleaguered schools in a low-key radio debate last night.
The top two contenders to become Baltimore's next mayor mostly avoided direct confrontations and used the 1 1/2 -hour forum on Morgan State University's WEAA-FM to stake out their positions.
Mr. Schmoke, who is seeking a third term, cited his achievements and plans for the future, from the creation of a small business resource center to initiatives in the public schools and the coming $115 million overhaul of Lafayette Courts public housing project.
"There really are no final victories. Each day, there are new issues that come up that you have to take care of," he said toward the end of the show. "I just think I've demonstrated the kind of leadership over the last eight years that will give people comfort that we'll be even better over the next four."
Mrs. Clarke, who is challenging him in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, described the city as being "at a crossroads" and focused on the spiraling crime rate, the loss of 65,000 jobs since 1987 and the fact that only 38 percent of students entering high school graduate.
"It's time we brought Baltimore back together again," she said. "I know that together we can do better. I will make government work again for the people, for all of us."
Known for their clashes at City Hall, the two refrained from any sharp exchanges. Only a few times did they challenge each other's statements. They rarely even looked at each other while sitting side by side, each with a headset on and occasionally scribbling notes, across from three panelists in the radio studio.
In one area in which they gave specifics, Mr. Schmoke touted his plan to put an additional 300 police officers on the streets, while ,, Mrs. Clarke said she would go a step further and assign at least 216 officers to individual neighborhoods for "true community policing."
Although the format of the program allowed for little direct debate, at one point a panelist offered the candidates a chance to direct questions at each other.
Mrs. Clarke demurred, saying, "I think we're trying to conduct this campaign on the issues, and I don't want us to end up asking each other questions."
Mr. Schmoke agreed that he would rather speak out about his positions and moved into his closing remarks.
"It was pretty much of a ho-hum affair," said Marc V. Levine, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who was in Baltimore yesterday doing research for a book on the history of the city's renaissance. "The format was not particularly conducive to direct confrontation, nor did any candidate seeminclined to confront each other directly."
Mrs. Clarke missed a "perfect opportunity . . . to pose a direct question to the mayor about his last eight years," Mr. Levine added.
As the program wore on, Mrs. Clarke, 54, who has been council president for eight years, lost some of her edge about offering better leadership to tackle urban problems and spoke in generalities about working in the neighborhoods.
For his part, Mr. Schmoke, 45, gave a somewhat dry recital of his efforts at the start of the debate, but appeared to relax and gave a strong closing. The mayor, who has been described at times as lacking passion, said, "I love the job."
Most of the questions came from the panelists, but both candidates also fielded some calls from residents.
Mrs. Clarke came across strongly in advocating "zero tolerance" toward drug dealing and spending more money on treatment when a Charles Village resident talked about crime and said the city appeared adrift.
Mr. Schmoke spoke forcefully about his efforts to recruit and expand small businesses when a man from Edmondson Village called to complain about receiving little help when his business ran into trouble.
In a rare moment of agreement, Mr. Schmoke responded to a caller who asked about police brutality by discussing an outside panel that reviews internal police investigations of complaints -- and Mrs. Clarke also voiced support of it.