The Baltimore Forum: Would-Be Mayor Addresses the Issues of the Day

As Baltimore’s disappointing Schmoke era draws to a close, Calvert recently attempted to elicit answers from potential 1999 mayoral candidates to some key questions. Surveys were mailed to seven people, either announced candidates or folk whose names have been mentioned as possibilities. These were Lawrence A. Bell III, the city council president; Mary Conaway, the register of wills; A. Robert Kaufman, a city activist; Kweisi Mfume, the president of the NAACP; Martin O’Malley, a council member and downtown attorney; William Donald Schaefer, the former mayor and current state comptroller; and Carl F. Stokes, a former member of both the city council and the school board. We asked nine questions, none of them particularly complex, though each did require a firm “yes” or “no” answer.

Disturbingly, we only received one completed questionnaire – from the indefatigable Bob Kaufman (see photo 1). Most recipients did not respond at all. Mr. Schaefer did not complete the survey on the grounds that he did not intend to run; Kweisi Mfume made the same claim, very politely and in writing. Through a spokeswoman, Carl Stokes declined to respond as he was “not sure he wanted to take a position publicly on these issues yet.” We fear this demonstrates a lack of the sort of conviction necessary to lead Baltimore back to its once proud position within the premier league of American cities. The other candidates’ deafening silence on the issues leads us to the same conclusion.

As for Mr. Kaufman, we salute his chuztpah. We do not believe his socialist approach to public policy has anything to recommend it; nonetheless, he has obviously put considerable time into thinking out his positions. Despite certain inconsistencies (he opposes New York’s approach to crime fighting, yet describes something similar to it in his platform), he is not afraid to speak his mind.

We find it particularly interesting that on many of the issues – such as corporate welfare – Mr. Kaufman’s critique from the far left is similar to our own conservative critique. This can only be indicative of the profound alienation from municipal authority experienced by many segments of the city population. Sad commentary. – Ed.


Name: Kaufman, A. Robert

Occupation: Civic Activist

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Age: 68

Calvert Question: In fiscal 1997, 43.8 percent of Baltimore’s budget came from state and federal sources. Given that non-local funding cannot be guaranteed indefinitely, would you favor reducing Baltimore’s dependence on outside funding by reducing costs by contracting out municipal functions?

Kaufman Answer: No. The question assumes that it is mere generosity on the part of the rest of the state to provide funding for Baltimore. The fact is, the rest of the state is economically and culturally dependent upon Baltimore. Most of the low-income, unemployed, homeless, illiterate and mental-hospital refugees in Maryland reside in Baltimore. Consequently most of the alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug-abuse felonies and murders in Maryland happen in Baltimore. Maryland does not give nearly enough to Baltimore. It doesn’t even provide equal education or equal teacher salaries throughout the state. Considering Baltimore’s greater need, even “equal” salaries would not be enough to compensate for the much more difficult jobs Baltimore teachers and cops have. On average, contracting out municipal functions would be far more costly than providing functions in-house. There are other and more effective ways to both reduce city operating expenses and raise city income.

Q: In 1997, the Calvert Institute conducted a survey of over 300 families that had left Baltimore City for the surrounding counties. A quarter of the respondents said they either would have remained, or would have considered remaining, in the city if they had been provided with public funding (“vouchers”) for private schools. Do you favor school choice as a means of stemming flight from Baltimore?

A: No. Public schools were too hard fought for by working people in the early 19th century for us to cavalierly go back to private and church schools. We must make our public schools so excellent that few would want to attend private schools. Baltimore will get superior schools just as soon as Baltimoreans demand them. Baltimore schools will improve to the degree that: (a) poverty and low wages disappear, (b) the war on drug addicts ends and (c) we democratize the school board. Currently, the school board is chosen (not elected) by a governor and a mayor who in turn are beholden to the oligarchy of the rich and powerful that constitutes our ruling class. The continuing ineptitude of such school boards only reflects the inability of this ruling class to even sustain an already shamelessly inadequate education for the majority of our children. The board should be elected through constituency groups most concerned with education. Parents’ groups, the teachers’ union, clerical and maintenance staffs, principals and students should each elect voting board members from among themselves.

Q: Do you favor following New York City’s “zero tolerance” anti-crime policy?

A: No. You want zero or near zero crime? Build a society of zero injustice or near zero injustice! Create decent, high-paying, socially rewarding, democratically structured and organized employment to repair, replace and rebuild our city, our nation and our world. We will have zero crime because there will be zero need. Three out of four murders and 90 percent of felonies in Baltimore are drug related. Take the profits out of drugs. Treat drugs as a medical, not a criminal, problem and leave the cops, courts and prisons to deal with the murderers, rapists and violent felons. Police brutality in NYC is out of hand. I don’t want six Baltimore cops pumping 40 bullets in the body of an unarmed black man because they have zero tolerance for difference. Baltimore voters should demand zero stupidity from our elected “leaders.”

Q: In 1994, in an attempt to curb violent crime in the public housing projects around San Juan, Puerto Rico Democratic Governor Pedro J. Rossell

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