R. Robert Linowes Marylander of the Year

December 30, 1990

There are two ways to look at Maryland. One is as an odd collection of diverse regions, an administrative inconvenience. The other is as not only an original but a true state, a political unity whose people are bonded in that statehood.

The unequal ability of Maryland subdivisions to meet their responsibilities to citizens has long been recognized. When Gov. William Donald Schaefer in 1987 appointed a Commission on State Taxes and Tax Structure, it looked like just another study. But the result, after three years, is 16 reports totaling 1,000 pages, urging transformations in sales, income and property taxes and in the state-county relationship to support the schooling of children and to improve transportation. These proposals, breathtaking in scope, would overcome localism and bring to Maryland the unity its history and statehood demand. They may not all be adopted; they will not be ignored.

The commission set out its values, "We make one central recommendation: Maryland must be committed to the proposition that a fairer, more equitable tax system -- one that is truly focused on people rather than jurisdictions -- is crucial to the long-term social and economic well-being of every part of the state. It is necessary to ensure that the opportunities for a more uniform quality of life are available to each and every citizen."

For the commission's grasp, courage and commitment to One Maryland and to the moral equality of all Marylanders, The Sun honors the chairman whose relentless purpose brought it to this conclusion: R. Robert Linowes of Chevy Chase is our Marylander of the Year.

Mr. Linowes, a lawyer direct and blunt in conversation, is the ultimate Washingtonian. He agreed to become commission chairman on condition that he alone pick the staff director and panel members. The hands-on governor kept hands off. The first sign of something special came when the four legislator-members quit. This freed the commission to proceed with intellectual integrity rather than political compromise. The second sign was the General Assembly's refusal to fund the commission to study all it wished. Despite that, the commission did its essential work.

Mr. Linowes, a native of New Jersey, worked in federal and Montgomery County government in the 1950s. In 1956, he founded Linowes and Blocher, a Silver Spring law firm specializing in zoning and property development, though Mr. Linowes also lobbied in Annapolis for the billboard and nursing home industries. Linowes and Blocher won fame for thorough preparation of rezoning petitions, and a success rate of some 90 percent. It helped rewrite the county zoning law. Mr. Linowes lawyered the build-up of Montgomery County.

In 1974, Mr. Linowes' interests broadened. He added a District office and replicated his success in spurring the commercial development of the capital. He soon was president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and taught aloof D.C. businessmen to plunge into politics with heart and checkbook.

Meanwhile, the pro bono side of Mr. Linowes' work ethic emerged. He served on or headed boards for D.C. public television, the Boy Scouts, American University, the Greater Washington Research Center and the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger Library.

Mr. Linowes, at 65, did not have to take on this immense and thankless chore; it was not going to please his neighbors. But once committed, characteristically, he did it right. The energy, intelligence and loyalty that had served Montgomery County and Washington became Maryland's.

The reports by Mr. Linowes' panel have set Maryland's agenda. Its conclusions, if not adopted, must be answered. For striving to make this state whole and for reminding all us who and where they are, R. Robert Linowes is unquestionably Marylander of the Year.

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