Schmoke's and Ruppersberger's duty Regionalism at risk: If chiefs of Baltimore city and county don't bridge divide, who will?


BALTIMORE MAYOR Kurt L. Schmoke and Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger have long portrayed themselves as leaders who think regionally. It's time for them to prove it.

The problems of the Baltimore region -- specifically the concentration of poverty in the middle tenth of the 2,000-plus square miles in this metropolitan area -- doesn't fall just on the city's shoulders. Leaders in the outer counties must be brought in, and are being brought in, to discuss how to more equitably share the responsibility. Perhaps programs that have worked elsewhere in moving residents of subsidized housing out of downtowns would work here. It's hard to fathom how the movement of roughly 2,000 people would harm the quality of life in a region of 2.5 million people.

But a solution won't succeed if dictated from on high -- from Washington or the courts -- without addressing the concerns of the affected parties. It must start with Messrs. Schmoke and Ruppersberger, whose jurisdictions hold over half the region's population and comprise the historic heart of Greater Baltimore.

Mr. Schmoke's recent racially-tinged primary campaign may have won him a third term, but did nothing to improve suburban perceptions of the city. Neither did his administration's mishandling of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit build trust between the city and county.

As for Mr. Ruppersberger, to date he's lived up to his own billing as a regional booster. But it's one thing to support the joining of forces to recruit business or fight crime -- the positive stuff -- and another to tackle the messy issues. He needs to calm down and engage other suburban leaders in coming up with some viable options to discuss with the mayor.

The future of this region is based on the leaders of these jurisdictions sitting down to confront a problem that in their hearts they know cries out for a solution. Those who believe in regionalism look to Messrs. Schmoke and Ruppersberger to get the ball rolling.

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