Stokes, Tufaro are best in tight mayoral field; Citywide races : Dixon, Pratt are best among Democrats for council president and comptroller.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CARL STOKES has the best-reasoned proposals for Baltimore's rebirth. As a former City Council and ex-school board member, he also is best-equipped to assume command of municipal bureaucracies and restore the confidence of both residents and outside investors in the city's ability to reverse its sagging fortunes.

That's why he's our choice in the Democratic mayoral primary.

The next mayor must not accept continued decline as inevitable. Baltimore has to be turned around. Accomplishing that requires a mayor who has realistic ideas and is not afraid to act and implement them.

Our decision to endorse Mr. Stokes, 49, was not easy. Two-term Councilman Martin J. O'Malley was an attractive alternative. City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III also had to be considered.

Mr. O'Malley decided to enter the race late in the season. He was also late in developing a comprehensive platform. Until the final week of August, he only had well-formulated plans for attacking crime and drugs.

Although he has now presented an impressive overall blueprint, his early superficiality on other issues -- particularly housing and development -- revealed his unfamiliarity with them.

As for Mr. Bell's program, it is much too vague, considering the expertise he claims. A mayoral aspirant cannot solve today's complicated problems with one-line proposals that merely evoke the successes of the past.

Mr. Bell is trying to do this when he contends that the city can fight housing abandonment by selling surplus properties to homesteaders for $1. High rehabilitation costs have made duplication of that successful 1970s approach virtually impossible.

By contrast, Mr. Stokes offers many ideas that are doable.

Mr. Stokes would combine the housing and planning departments, make them more sensitive to neighborhood aspirations.

He would overhaul the nine Neighborhood Service Centers by making their employees, who represent various city agencies, answerable to center directors rather than their own bureaucracies.

Mr. Stokes would also designate about a dozen neighborhoods with solid infrastructure and strong community support as the first stabilization and reinvestment areas destined to receive targeted resources. Once these neighborhoods are improved, the city's attention would shift to a dozen adjacent areas.

Although Baltimore's public school system operates independently, Mr. Stokes distinguishes himself in his detailed discussion of how he would use the mayor's office as a bully pulpit to promote smaller class sizes, adequate facilities, functioning libraries and modern technology.

As a candidate, Mr. Stokes has suffered from self-inflicted wounds. It was stupid of him to lie -- several times, apparently -- about having a college degree.

However, this misstep doesn't seem to be part of a wider pattern of dishonesty. On the contrary, Mr. Stokes has been a highly regarded public servant for more than a decade.

Mr. Stokes, despite his blemishes, is a thoughtful, mature candidate who has shown an ability to grow as a leader. His whole public life is testimony to his commitment to his native city.

Baltimore needs a leader with courage, foresight and determination. We believe Carl Stokes is that leader.

In the Republican primary, our choice is DAVID TUFARO. His educational, professional and business credentials make him by the far the most qualified of the seven candidates on the GOP ballot.

Mr. Tufaro has been a lawyer with Piper & Marbury and an executive with Oxford Development Corp. and Summit Properties.

He has worked on projects as varied as Waterloo Place and the Louis Foxwell Housing for the Deaf.

Mr. Tufaro has also been active in many community and business associations.

Mr. Tufaro's positions on non-real estate issues such as crime and education appear hastily developed.

Nevertheless, he far outshines his competition and deserves the party's nomination.

City Council President

Among Democrats, Councilwoman SHEILA DIXON is The Sun's choice for City Council president.

In three terms representing West Baltimore's 4th District, she has shown steady growth and maturity that warrant her nomination.

Her chief rival, Nathan C. Irby Jr., has solid credentials as a former state senator and councilman. He would do a good job, just as he is doing now as the liquor board administrator.

The political theatrics of the past few months have shown what happens when there is not purposeful cultivation of new political leadership. At 45, Ms. Dixon is at a critical juncture in her political career. She is still hungry, ready to take on the world.

By contrast, Mr. Irby, at 67, is approaching the end of his political career. As a result, he probably would be a more docile City Council president than Ms. Dixon, whose supporters see her as a future mayoral candidate.

In Baltimore's strong-mayor municipal government, the City Council president's job has often served as a training and testing ground for chief executives. William Donald Schaefer and Thomas J. D'Alesandro III used the post to launch mayoral careers. So did Clarence "Du" Burns, who filled an unexpired term.

In many ways, Ms. Dixon and Mr. Irby would approach the City Council president's job similarly. Because of the city's heavy dependence on state and federal funding, both see an increasingly important role for the president as a liaison to Annapolis and Washington.

Because she is on the City Council, Ms. Dixon has a better handle on the strengths and weaknesses of city government's performance. She wants to review city laws to rid the books of unnecessary ordinances. She also advocates major changes in the way the Department of Public Works functions.

Four other Democrats are running for the City Council president's job. Among them is Frank M. Conaway, a perennial candidate who last year was elected to the Circuit Court clerk's position, and Sheldon J. Stewart, a former sheriff has been convicted of a felony.

Democratic voters would be wise to nominate Sheila Dixon.

The primary winner will face Republican Antonio Wade Campbell in November.

Comptroller

JOAN M. PRATT, who was elected city comptroller in 1995, is The Sun's choice in the Democratic primary for City Hall's No. 3 leadership position.

Her token opponent is Melvin J. Brechin, a construction superintendent who has no compelling agenda or realistic chance for an election upset. She also will face only token opposition in November.

Among Ms. Pratt's achievements during her first term has been her effort to bring some order to the city's real estate matters. But the more she and her real estate officer, Anthony Ambridge, have tried, the more they have encountered resistance from heads of other agencies.

This is a matter the next mayor has to resolve. The city could save millions of dollars if all municipal real estate transactions were handled by the comptroller's office.

Pub Date: 9/03/99

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