BALTIMORE -- Walk down the street here, and you may encounter a homeless man rummaging through the dumpsters near what is known locally as "the Block," a collection of adult entertainment establishments.
The man, and the strip of flesh joints, is just a block from city hall, where yesterday Major Kurt L. Schmoke, the Public Securities Association, investment bankers -- and, by proxy, Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- gathered for a created reception to trumpet the advantages of tax-exempt financing.
Quoth the mavens, "Built by bonds."
Outside, in the park across from city hall, homeless men drank from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags, keeping company with cigarette butts, pigeons, and fast-food wrappers -- the flotsam of urban America.
Inside city hall, in an elegant, high-ceilinged reception room, Mayor Schmoke proclaimed Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 as "Built by Bonds Week," in recognition of the role bonds plan in building the nation's infrastructure.
The contrast between life inside and outside city hall yesterday could not be more stark. Nor could the comparison, perhaps, be more unfair. The mayor did not say so directly, but hinted that without municipal bonds, life outside city hall could be overwhelmingly dismal.
The mayor hailed municipal bonds as "essential to the revitalization of downtown Baltimore."
Gov. Schaefer also made a "Built by Bonds Week" proclamation, which was delivered by Steve Cordi, director of the sales and use tax division of the state's comptroller's office.
The governor said, "Municipal bonds contribute to a higher quality of life for Marylanders by improving our environment, infrastructure, health care, and education...."
Quoth the mavens, "Built by bonds."
The "Built by Bonds Week" proclamations in Baltimore yesterday represent a pilot project of the Public Securities Association to educate the public about the role bonds play in American life. The project is the brainchild of James A. Lebenthal, chairman of Lebanthal & Co. and a member of the PSA board of directors, who approached the association about the viability of launching a national public awareness effort.
The group jumped at the opportunity, and Samuel R. Fales, vice president and co-manager of Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc., helped get the wheels moving to have Baltimore chosen as host to the first "Built by Bonds Week" proclamation.
Mr. Fales, who is chairman of the Public Securities Association's municipal sales and marketing committee, said the association plans to have another 10 or so cities take part, with the next likely to be Minneapolis.
"I just hope this reaches a good number of people and the decision makers in Washington," he said.
Heather L. Ruth, president of the association, said she hopes the group's "Built by Bonds" logo will be used by construction companies when bond proceeds fund projects. She said she remembered when the Interstate Highway System was being built, and "all of the sudden you'd see these signs you'd never seen before, saying ~Your tax dollars at work.' I hope that in the same way, people will see this logo and associate bonds with the important projects they finance."
Quoth the mavens "Built by bonds."
Baltimore, like many American cities, is a study in contrasts. Within walking distance of the adult book stores and city hall is the National Aquarium and Inner Harbor, a sure stop on the itinerary of families visiting the city. It also is an old city, proud that it has been home to H.L. Mencken, Babe Ruth, and Edgar Allan Poe. Even new structures are built to look old, like the enormously popular Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Baltimore also is a city that has been molded in large part by bonds. In addition to Oriole Park, bonds have helped fund such projects as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the Fort McHenry Tunnel, the Southwest Resource Recovery Facility, and an expansion of Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Quoth the mavens: "Built by bonds."