Friday, June 5, 2015

Former Mayor Schmoke: Baltimore moving in the right direction

Schmoke was Baltimore's Mayor in one of the city's most difficult phases, in a time of massive urban flight and record crime. Schmoke grew up in West Baltimore and is today is president of the University of Baltimore.

 With this span of local experience he was a natural "go to" person for National Public Radio who announced the interview with the former mayor with great fanfare but ultimately broadcast only a short segment. "In urban America" he said, "there is no final victory". The interviewer found Schmoke's "level positivity striking" when he noted that on that Monday of riots most high schoolers went home and not across the street looting. In closing he said that he sees Baltimore "moving in the right direction". In an audio trailer announcing his interview Schmoke also demanded to "close the skill gap".

Schmoke at the groundbreaking of  the HOPE III
"Nehemiah" rowhouse rehab in 1994  (ArchPlan
In his time as mayor (1987-1999) Schmoke had partnered with Jim Rouse in the efforts of rescuing Sandtown-Winchester, notably with HOPE III federal funds which were used for large scale rowhouse rehabilitation. The write-downs from the actual cost to the subsidized sales prices were so substantial that even large federal programs were not more than a drop in the bucket of abandonment in Sandtown Winchester, an area hard hit by urban flight. Schmoke: [there were "dislocations in the economy...Whites were moving out and then the black middle class started moving out". His rehabilitation program involved local churches and BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development), an organization still active. Today many see the $150 or so million invested in Sandtown largely as a failure, although this is debatable since nobody could know the extent of devastation in Sandtown without those programs.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

I worked as architect of record on about 200 rowhouse rehabs in Sandtown and East Baltimore as part of the federal HOPE III program. The AIA Urban Design committee conducted townhall meetings during Schmoke's time as Mayor.

Schmoke being thanked by me at a 1998 AIA
Workshop (AIA photo)

Schmoke and current Mayor Rawlings Blake during
Schmoke's investiture as UB president (SUN photo)
NPR Link

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