Schaefer and Schmoke

November 11, 1990

With a solid election victory behind him, Gov. William Donald Schaefer can concentrate on goal-setting for his last term as chief executive. He should sharpen his focus and put aside past differences with political leaders if he hopes to enhance his record as a governor who strengthened and improved the quality of life in Maryland.

Mr. Schaefer can bask in glory of having won over the skeptical voters of populous Montgomery and Prince George's counties, who opposed him in 1986. This time, an astounding 73 percent of those suburbanites endorsed Mr. Schaefer as their choice. That's quite a compliment for someone once regarded in those counties as an alien mayor and booster of Baltimore.

Now he has a chance to turn this victory to his advantage. Mr. Schaefer's biggest challenge lies in finding ways to bolster Maryland's weakest and poorest subdivisions, both in rural and urban areas. At the top of his list: Baltimore City.

Unless the city's predicament is solved, Maryland's future will be clouded. Unless the city's slide is reversed, regional development will be blocked. Baltimore remains the heart of Maryland. Its coronary insufficiencies must be fixed.

To do so, Mr. Schaefer has to end his juvenile behavior toward Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. This ridiculous tiff has hurt the city tremendously. City efforts to gain a sympathetic State House reception have been stymied. The city is worse off now than it was before Mr. Schaefer became governor.

For his part, the mayor still must prove he has the qualities to pull the city out of its tailspin. With a city election and councilmanic redistricting looming next year, Mr. Schmoke is on the spot. He has to re-energize city leadership and broaden his outreach. Not only does he need to seek peace with a hostile governor, but the mayor has to act quickly to create strong ties with the region's four new county executives -- three of them Republicans. He'll never have a better opportunity to make headway on regional cooperation.

Equally important will be creating unity within the area's legislative delegations. Everyone in this region -- and the Washington area, too -- would benefit from a sensible revision of Maryland's tax structure. More aid be targeted toward the state's poorest; the state should give counties (and the city) revenue-raising options so they can reduce over-dependence on the property tax. That was a clear voter mandate last Tuesday.

None of this will happen unless the mayor and governor agree on a common agenda -- and persuade suburban delegations and executives to support it. The next few years will be crucial. Only Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Schmoke can show the way.

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