With time running out in Baltimore's mayoral campaign, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke tempered their attacks on each other yesterday and trumpeted their abilities to lead the city over the next four years.
Mr. Schmoke, facing a stiff challenge in his bid for a third term in what has been an often bitter campaign, described himself in a two-hour radio debate as "a problem-solver" and "leader" who has successfully steered the city through years of declining federal aid and 13l fundamental shifts in the economy.
Mrs. Clarke, trailing the mayor by just a few percentage points in recent polls, said she has compiled "a clear record of distinction" in her eight years as council president in pressing for property tax relief and higher wages for workers employed by firms that have contracts with the city.
Maybe it was the hour of the forum -- 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on "The Dan Rodricks Show" on WBAL-AM (1090) -- but yesterday's dialogue contrasted sharply with a televised debate Thursday night, during which Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke testily traded sharp accusations at every opportunity and charged each other with distorting facts.
Indeed, the most intense moment in yesterday's debate involved a comment by Kelley C. Brohawn, a water-taxi driver and "common citizen" who is also on the ballot for mayor in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
Mr. Brohawn, seeking to explain his concept of "forced regionalism," described Baltimore as a "black hole situation" of social problems.
L "I assume you were just being figurative," said Mr. Schmoke.
Mr. Brohawn said, "I think you know I was being figurative," but Mr. Rodricks said, "We all winced" when the comment was made.
Baltimore's population is more than 60 percent African-American.
Just before the exchange, Mr. Schmoke defended his use of red, green and black -- historical colors of African-American liberation -- in his campaign materials.
"They are not colors of division," said Mr. Schmoke, Baltimore's first elected black mayor. "They are colors of pride and empowerment. I decided over a year ago that I would run a campaign that would say to people, 'There's much to be proud of in this city.' "
Throughout the forum, Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke wrangled over issues ranging from the curfew to school privatization to no-bid contracts -- but the encounters were more like skirmishes than all-out war.
Mrs. Clarke criticized Mr. Schmoke and Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier for not enforcing a curfew law passed last year by the City Council. The legislation was modeled after a law in Frederick that the state's highest court ruled unconstitutional this year, forcing the council to rewrite the ordinance.
"If we had done what you wanted to do, we would have had the city in all kinds of lawsuits and liabilities," Mr. Schmoke said.
Referring to highly publicized problems in a $25 million emergency no-bid repair program run by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, Mrs. Clarke said, "It's wrong to have no-bid contracts."
"That's precisely incorrect," Mr. Schmoke replied. "The federal government has said after this whole project that you can have no-bid contracts for emergency situations."
Mrs. Clarke also noted that as a member of the Board of Estimates, she voted against a contract to allow Education Alternatives Inc., a private Minnesota-based company, to manage nine city "Tesseract" schools.
"I want to make the record very clear," she said. "I voted against that contract because that money should not be used for profit."
But the mayor noted that the council president has approved contracts with Sylvan Learning Systems, a firm based in Columbia, to run tutoring programs in city schools.
"To say that there's this bright-light principle that she's not going to vote for a for-profit entity relating to education is just preposterous," Mr. Schmoke said.
Noticeably absent was any mention of a summit of business and academic leaders called for next week by former Gov. William Donald Schaefer to come up with a plan to deal with the city's problems.
Both Mr. Schmoke and Mrs. Clarke cited what they had done for the city.
The council president, who has been sharply criticized by the Schmoke campaign for not offering "any solution" to Baltimore's woes, said she was instrumental in passing legislation requiring city contractors to pay workers at least $6.10 an hour, and in getting three nickel cuts in the city's property tax rate in the past eight years.
"I and my [council] colleagues have led every effort in which we cut the tax rate," she declared.
During the campaign, Mr. Schmoke has repeatedly cited his close relationships with Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has endorsed his re-election, and President Clinton.
But Mrs. Clarke said she would use longtime friendships with two former colleagues -- Kweisi Mfume, now a U.S. representative, and Barbara A. Mikulski, now a U.S. senator -- to build her own ties with the White House.
"I will work with them in working with the president of the United States," she said.
Mr. Schmoke -- who has been under fire from the Clarke campaign over the city's loss of jobs, rise in crime and low high school graduation rate -- said he has managed to move the city forward despite the end of the federal revenue-sharing program and shifts in the economy away from heavy manufacturing. He cited his success in getting a $100 million federal empowerment zone grant and his reductions in the size of the city's work force.
"We have worked very hard to get through a very difficult period here in Baltimore," the mayor said. "But we've also made a lot of progress."