The visions of Baltimore promoted by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke are as sharply different as the events that captured the city's attention during the long, hot summer.
A middle-aged woman died in her husband's arms after being shot in a 52-cent robbery, and a 91-year-old woman was stabbed death in her home three days before her birthday. Thousands of people watched six decrepit public high-rise towers be blown up to make way for better housing for the poor, and the Columbus Center provided a new attraction at the Inner Harbor.
While Mr. Schmoke found signs of hope and progress, his rival for a third term saw the despair of a city she insisted was continuing to decay.
They debated and disagreed over the state of the city as much as they did over who was more capable of managing the city they hope to lead to the end of the century. The contenders for the city's highest job also made clear the small but significant distinctions in their competing claims to combat crime, generate jobs and improve schools.
With two days before Tuesday's Democratic primary, here's how the top two contenders stand on these issues:
Mrs. Clarke paints a bleak picture of a deteriorating city that has lost tens of thousands of residents and jobs during Mr. Schmoke's eight-year tenure. It is a city barraged for years by killings and a 41 percent increase in serious crime since he took office in 1987. "If it's broke, fix it" is her campaign slogan and rallying cry.
"I'm one of many people who had great hopes eight years ago," she says. "It is only with great reluctance that I say we are at a crossroads and a crisis."
Mr. Schmoke acknowledges that Baltimore is saddled with most of the same persistent urban woes as other older, Northeastern cities. But the mayor argues that he inherited many of the problems -- principally neglected schools and a declining population -- and had to contend with a recession in the early 1990s and a general cutback in federal aid.
Nevertheless, Mr. Schmoke insists the city has "more strengths than weaknesses," from the laboratory well-known AIDS researcher Robert C. Gallo announced he will open in West Baltimore and Columbus Center for marine biotechnology to the $100 million federal empowerment zone and expanded Convention Center.
"Let others preach fear. I will teach the real story of Baltimore: the story of progress, possibilities and renewal," he says.
The council president says Mr. Schmoke has had enough time to improve the city but has little to show for his efforts. His administration, she says, has been characterized by unresponsiveness and "waste," particularly in a troubled $25 million, no-bid repair program run by the city Housing Authority and in the millions of dollars in private legal fees, including the $2.4 million that went to Shapiro and Olander, the law firm of two of the mayor's top political advisers. "His time is up. It's time for a change," she says.
If elected, Mrs. Clarke promises, she'll bring to the mayor's office the reputation for fixing potholes and getting alleys cleared of trash she gained during eight years as a 2nd District councilwoman and another eight as the council's president. "If there's one thing that people of this city know me for, it's getting things done," she says.
Mr. Schmoke, an Ivy League-educated lawyer and Rhodes scholar who rose to national prominence as the city's first elected black mayor, says his adversary's reputation for constituent work is overblown. Mrs. Clarke takes credit for services his administration routinely provides, he says. Moreover, says, she has proposed "no solutions" to the city's woes during her time in office and often panders to the parochial concern of the day with ill-conceived ideas, such as her 1993 proposal to tax drug profits, which he calls "absurd."
The mayor cites his steady hand and thoughtful approach in reducing the city's payroll by more than 10 percent while maintaining the city's high credit rating at a time when other major jurisdictions have teetered on bankruptcy. He also touts his close relationship with President Clinton and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, which he says has garnered the city millions in aid.
"I am the only person in the race who has the trust and confidence of our state and national leaders," he says.
Crime and drugs
Mrs. Clarke says the city's homicide rate is up nearly 10 percent this year at a time when other major urban centers are showing a decrease and criticizes the mayor's call for a national debate on drug decriminalization for sending the wrong message to the young.
She also says Mr. Schmoke has never put true community policing in place, and she's lukewarm about Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, declining to say whether she would retain him.
Her plans to make the city's streets safer center on hiring 216 police officers, to be assigned to individual neighborhoods. She also calls for a "zero tolerance" approach to drug dealing but has not explained precisely what that means. "Police officers will stay put in a community, not to be called out for a ballgame or a 911 call across town, and every day, their job is to prevent crime," she says.
Mr. Schmoke says that although the city's homicide rate is up this year, it was down last year, and he cites a 37 percent decrease in shootings over two years as evidence that his efforts to sweep neighborhoods of violent drug dealers is working. Police bike patrols, substations and programs such as the Police Activities League are part of the increasing emphasis on community policing under Mr. Frazier, whom he calls "the best police chief in the country."
He also cites a plan to shift 300 officers from administrative positions to street patrols and says he will continue to upgrade the department's technology and expand drug treatment slots with $5 million earmarked from empowerment zone funds. He promises to fight in the state legislature for a greater say in regulating guns in Baltimore. "We have already broken some of the worst drug rings in the city," he boasts, but adds, "This fight is not over."
Mrs. Clarke condemns the mayor for failing the city's public schools, pointing out that five have been forced to undergo state-mandated reform and noting that the state is withholding $5.8 million in aid until management reforms are made. She has )) been a staunch opponent of the city's 3-year-old school privatization experiment, and a month ago she called for the ouster of Superintendent Walter G. Amprey, saying, "It's time for us to get our priorities in order."
Her own plan for improving the schools centers on putting 97 percent of the schools' annual budget -- or about $627 million -- under the control of the city's 177 individual schools, leaving $19 million for central administration. She has also advocated a "one-strike and you're out" policy for the immediate removal of disruptive students. "I believe you have to get resources and accountability to where the education occurs," she says.
Mr. Schmoke, who has gradually begun increasing the amount of money under the control of local schools, says his opponent's plan is a "prescription for chaos." He doesn't deny that some schools have problems, but he defends Dr. Amprey and points to increases in attendance and college applications as a sign of improvement. He also notes that he has boosted education spending by nearly 80 percent. "I've put more money into education than any mayor in the history of Baltimore," he says.
If re-elected, Mr. Schmoke pledges, he will expand such innovative programs as the Calvert School curriculum and the Sylvan Learning Systems tutoring program. He also pledges to expand vocationally oriented programs for high school students in the areas of hospitality and biotechnology. "We are moving the system in the right direction," he says.
Baltimore has lost nearly 50,000 jobs during Mr. Schmoke's tenure -- a grim statistic that Mrs. Clarke calls "hemorrhaging." "I cannot go into any neighborhood . . . that people don't say to me, 'Mary Pat, I need a job,' " she says.
Her proposals include revamping the much-criticized Baltimore Development Corp., concentrating on revitalizing the city's 20 neighborhood commercial districts and "job-targeted neighborhoods," which means directing city contracts and hiring people from the communities where the work will be done. "We will not only work citywide but we will focus on areas of high unemployment and commercial areas in neighborhoods," she says.
Mr. Schmoke says much of the job loss has resulted from basic changes in the economy such as corporate reductions and mergers that are beyond the control of any mayor. After four years, he transferred the head of the development corporation BDC and is considering recommendations of a committee he appointed to examine the agency.
The city is well positioned to increase employment in biotechnology and tourism, he says, citing the Columbus Center and a new children's museum planned for downtown. The empowerment zone -- the federally financed revitalization of decayed neighborhoods beyond the Inner Harbor that includes grants and tax credits worth $325 million -- is his trump card for job growth.
"We're going to capitalize on the empowerment zone to bring more manufacturing to the city," he says.