Three area civic groups have done a great public service this political season by conducting interviews of candidates in the city's Sept. 12 primary election and then putting their responses on the computer network.
"We believe this is a first in Maryland and an idea with much potential," said Dan Loden, president of the Baltimore City Homeowners' Coalition for Fair Property Taxes, which coordinated the interview and computerization effort. He sent out the questionnaires in cooperation with the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce and Maryland Business for Responsive Government.
Those with computer on-line capability can access the SAILOR web through the Enoch Pratt Free Library at 605-0500, select Maryland Cities, Counties and Communities from the home page, then select Baltimore City and type in the following -- http://sailor.lib.md.us./mdcounty/candidates.html. (In case of trouble, call 396-4636).
Those without computers can go to the nearest branch of the Enoch Pratt Library to read the 110-page document, which tells in the candidates' own words how they see the city's problems and what they would do to correct them.
Both Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and his challenger, Council President Mary Pat Clarke, responded. So did the four leading Democratic candidates for City Council president -- Vera Hall, Lawrence Bell, Carl Stokes and Joseph DiBlasi -- and the two contenders for the city comptroller's job -- Julian Lapides and Joan Pratt.
At the district level things get a bit more confused. While most incumbents responded, Council members John Cain and Lois Garey (1st), Paula Branch (2nd), Agnes Welch (4th) and Norman Handy (5th) failed to do so. Worse yet, most of the challengers in various districts failed to answer the questionnaires, too.
Yet it was not the number of participating candidates that disappointed some of the sponsors of the effort but the answers themselves.
"I am very disappointed in the responses. There isn't very much that is new or creative," lamented businessman Richard E. Hug. "We don't need some fine-tuning but radical changes."
The three organizations behind the questionnaires all believe that Baltimore City's forthcoming municipal elections will be a crossroads political event. They want to help voters make educated decisions. Or, as Mr. Loden put it, "We believe this is an important step in civic communications."