In their last radio debate before the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, the four major candidates for president of the Baltimore City Council avoided personal attacks in this dead-heat race and instead touted their qualities to lead the city.
Fourth District Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III characterized himself as a rabble-rouser and "unafraid to stand up to the status quo."
Sixth District Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi highlighted his business acumen, saying that he was a vice president of a major bank and head of the council's budget committee.
Fifth District Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, calling herself "a coalition builder," stressed her ability to amass votes as the council's vice president for the past four years, a position in which she often is the mayor's floor leader.
Second District Councilman Carl Stokes said that he has worked to foster good relations with most everyone throughout the city and at one time ran his own business.
The mood was polite and uneventful as the candidates debated for an hour on the "Mark Steiner Show" on WJHU-FM. They answered questions from the host; Alice Cherbonnier, managing editor of the Baltimore Chronicle; and Glenn M. McNatt, a Sun editorial writer.
Mr. Stokes promised that he would work to drop the property tax rate by 10 cents a year. The rate has dropped the past few years at a rate of roughly 5 cents a year.
Mr. Bell said he could not promise to cut the tax rate because of cuts in state and federal aid. But, he said, "I would leave the police department, state's attorney's office, education and fire department untouched by budget cuts."
In response to a question on enforcing the new curfew law for juveniles, Mrs. Hall said children should be placed in juvenile centers until they can get help.
"Many kids are picked up off the streets because parents are not in control. I'd say we put those children where we could pick them up. And there should be a designated place for them to go, and it would be like an alternative school until we have a plan for what we would do with them," she said.
Mr. DiBlasi said that he would provide tax credits to businesses that want to expand or move to Baltimore. He also said he would continue to fight to lower property taxes.
Mr. Bell was 25 years old when he was elected to the council in 1987. Though his youthful and high-spirited campaign has won him several key endorsements, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the AFL-CIO and Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, he has raised the least amount of money. He is closely allied with Mrs. Clarke.
Mr. DiBlasi has been a councilman since 1983. Several weeks ago, he made headlines when he declared, as part of a campaign strategy, that he would go after the white vote. Mr. DiBlasi has since said that he will seek votes from everyone.
Mrs. Hall, a two-term councilwoman, is closely linked with Mr. Schmoke both to her detriment and advantage. Mr. Schmoke's high profile has added recognition to her campaign, but she has also been accused of being the mayor's puppet on substantive issues.
Mr. Stokes has been a councilman since 1987. He is best known for his staunch opposition to the city's contract with Education Alternatives, Inc. and his work four years ago to redraw the councilmanic districts that in effect gave blacks more political punch.