Is the city's minority party doomed to non-representation at City Hall forever? No, if a group of Republican activists has its way. Calling themselves the Better Baltimore Task Force, they have developed something of a Contract with Baltimore, which outlines a program to revitalize the city and its minority party.
A cornerstone of the GOP plan is a network of voluntary Neighborhood Community Associations to serve as a formal advisory link between the people and City Hall. Consisting of local business officials, church leaders, school administrators, PTA presidents, a police representative and the local City Council member, the NCAs would identify major actions needed in neighborhoods. Such associations would periodically come together at a Congress of Neighborhoods, which would make recommendations for the city's administrative agenda.
On the political front, the GOP group wants the city charter to provide for smaller, single-member council districts, elect one non-partisan Board of Education member from each new council district (who would serve as an ex-officio member on the Neighborhood Community Associations board) and limit the term of office for any elected position to two consecutive terms.
The city Republican task force wants to slash Baltimore's property tax rate from the current $5.85 for each $100 of assessed value to $4.50 by 2000, review the operation of all city agencies and re-evaluate all municipal regulations and processes.
Among anti-crime measures, the GOP plan calls for visible neighborhood-level police patrols and quick-response teams as well as the establishment of a separate juvenile court to more effectively prosecute offenders. In housing, the plan proposes large-scale privatization of HUD programs and a crackdown on those stripping vacant buildings of scrap metal.
We commend the city Republican activists for coming up with this provocative platform. While no one should have any illusions about the party's chances in November, its agenda deserves wide public scrutiny and debate.