Friday, January 05, 2007

Mayor Conaway? Probably not, but smart tactic

Nobody really expects Frank M. Conaway, Sr. to succeed in his bid to be Baltimore Mayor. The man has put his fair share into city politics, including a stint as chair of the Legislative Black Caucus while in the House of Delegates, but his past is more liability than asset. Conaway resigned his seat amid a scandal involving his personal business and already lost a mayoral campaign. He is also dogged by personal problems.

All said, Conaway is unlikely to emerge from a crowded field challenging Sheila Dixon, who will have a year's experience in the Mayor's office after she takes the reigns from incoming Gov. Martin O'Malley.

For one thing, how can anyone use the obscure position of Circuit Court Clerk to launch a mayoral campaign?

Conaway thinks he has an answer. And, we have to admit, it's pretty ingenious. Instead of resigning himself to the mundane tasks of his office, which typically calls for quietly keeping records and conducting other unglamorous court business, Conaway is using his institutional authority and public office bullypulpit to seize on an explosive issue.

Last month, The Sun published an investigative series documenting an arcane system in which residents must pay fees to those who own the property on which their homes sit. The paper discovered that the arrangement "is increasingly being used by some investors to seize homes or extract large fees from people who often are ignorant of the loosely regulated process." The expose caused outrage among those who rightly see the system as antiquated and unfair. In fact, addressing the problem is the General Assembly's first order of business when it convenes next week, The Sun reported.

So what does ground rent have to do with the Clerk of Baltimore's Circuit Court or the guy who holds that office, Frank Conaway, Sr.? Technically, nothing. But Conaway is cleverly using his office to seize upon the issue in a move that is certain to at least help his campaign. He organized a community forum to discuss the problem scheduled for 6pm next Monday, Jan. 8 at the Poly/Western campus. The tactic probably won't give Conaway enough momentum to propel him into the mayor's office, but it's a smart political move that could actually result in some benefits for the city, too.

from The League: Reassembled


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