- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

BALTIMORE — Mayor Martin O’Malley is being criticized by residents, community activists and officials who say he is neglecting the city in his quest for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Critics say Mr. O’Malley has failed to address accusations of illegal police arrests, has disregarded historic preservation and is ready to quit as mayor without fulfilling promises to reduce crime and improve schools.

“It’s more broken promises,” said R. Paul Warren, a community activist in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, where residents are angry about the proposed demolition of the 100-year-old Rochambeau Apartments. “Despite promises not to have any more historic sites destroyed, quite a few are being destroyed.”

The various complaints, which Mr. O’Malley’s spokeswoman said were unfounded, also reveal cracks in the mayor’s base as he campaigns to unseat Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election in November.

“There are people who are unhappy,” said Senate Majority Leader Nathaniel J. McFadden, Baltimore Democrat. “The city ought to be [Mr. O’Malley’s] first love.”

However, the mayor does maintain strong, if not universal, support in Baltimore and has not abdicated his duties as mayor “one iota,” Mr. McFadden said.

The mayor also has ignored widespread complaints about overzealous police tactics, said Sonya Merchant-Jones, head of the city’s chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an advocacy group for the poor that endorsed Mr. O’Malley.

“There are things that need to be addressed,” she said. “I think [Mr. O’Malley] could improve upon this arrest thing. I’m concerned about that.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the city in June, saying the Baltimore Police Department unnecessarily arrests thousands of people each year. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Baltimore City Council member Kenneth N. Harris Sr. pushed for an investigation of illegal arrests this summer after he obtained internal police documents that detailed the use of arrest quotas. He said the O’Malley administration blocked the inquiry.

“I don’t think enough attention is being dealt,” said Mr. Harris, a Democrat.

Critics say arrest quotas are intended to boost Mr. O’Malley’s crime-fighting statistics in a city struggling against drugs, violence and 269 homicides last year.

Charges this past spring that police underreport crime also cast doubt on the city’s crime statistics and Mr. O’Malley’s claim of reducing violent crime by 40 percent — the largest decline in the country — since taking office in 1999.

The mayor refused an audit of crime data, saying the review could not be trusted in such a politically charged environment.

“There is a belief that Martin gave up on the city a long time ago,” said a Baltimore police official who did not want to be identified.

The official noted the presence of large Ehrlich campaign signs in front of homes throughout the city. “That’s shocking,” the official said. “Four years ago, you never saw one Ehrlich sign in the city.”

Mr. Ehrlich has cut Mr. O’Malley’s lead among likely voters in the November election, according to a poll conducted last month for the Baltimore Sun.

The poll showed that 46 percent of likely voters support Mr. O’Malley, compared with 38 percent supporting Mr. Ehrlich and 16 percent remaining undecided. A poll conducted for the newspaper that was released in November showed Mr. O’Malley leading Mr. Ehrlich by 15 percentage points. In Maryland, there are about twice as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans.

Carolyn Carwile said she won’t vote for Mr. O’Malley again because the mayor’s office does not return her calls about the persistent rodents and crime in her North Baltimore neighborhood.

“I look out my window, all I see is junkies and rats,” said Miss Carwile, 63, a registered Democrat. “They act like they just don’t care.”

O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the mayor continues to run the city, has defended city policing policies repeatedly and reviewed the Rochambeau demolition thoroughly before approving it. “Just because they don’t like his decisions doesn’t mean he is not governing,” she said.

The Archdiocese Of Baltimore halted the demolition scheduled for last weekend until after a hearing today, during which city officials will reconsider the demolition permit.

“Most of the days, the mayor is here in the office,” Miss Guillory said. “When he’s not, he is completely accessible. … He does not spend his time on the radio or playing golf.”

She was referring to Mr. Ehrlich’s regular appearances on WBAL-AM radio in Baltimore and his affinity for golf.

Mr. Ehrlich says he has rejected traditional campaigning in favor of a rigorous schedule of public appearances as governor. The policy announcements, grant awards and other photo opportunities also serve to highlight his accomplishments in office.

“We have been running the state for four years, and our record is our record,” Mr. Ehrlich said last week at one of three events in Baltimore. “Most of what you do as an incumbent is that you have a record to run on, and you point it out.”

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