Schaefer calls himself a 'healthy duck,' is upbeat at 2nd swearing-in as governor

January 17, 1991|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- In an abbreviated, security-conscious inauguration overshadowed by the confrontation in the Persian Gulf, Gov. William Donald Schaefer launched his second term in office vowing to be undaunted by tough times and pledging to molt any lame-duck plumage.

"I'm a healthy duck that's full of energy, ready to take off and

soar to new heights," the 69-year-old governor told a crowd of about 500 people in a speech from the State House steps. "No lame duck will occupy the governor's seat for the next four years."

Elected by a less-than-expected majority in November amid criticism of his big-spending ways, faced with budget deficits and a troubled Maryland economy, the mercurial chief executive has been described by his confidants in recent months as discouraged and melancholy.

But in his half-hour speech to elected officials, Cabinet members, and supporters who braved the cool and drizzly weather, an upbeat and unabashed Schaefer emerged to sound familiar themes: state aid to the poor and homeless, continued economic development in the cities and rural areas, and support from the wealthier subdivisions to the poorer.

"I'm still the guy who is 'up' on Maryland . . . no hat or costume is too silly to wear to promote this state," said Governor Schaefer, reminding spectators of his common-man, West Baltimore row house roots. "I'm still the guy who cares about the poor, the hungry, the handicapped."

Yesterday's ceremonies began at noon in a crowded Senate chamber where legislators, members of Maryland's congressional delegation, state judges and others watched as Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy of the Court of Appeals first swore in Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, 57, to a second term as lieutenant governor.

The governor's longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, held the official state Bible, a brown leather-bound volume that has been in ceremonial use for 135 years, and Mr. Schaefer's personal Bible, while Judge Murphy administered the oath of office to Maryland's 58th governor.

Afterward, 105mm howitzers boomed a 19-gun salute courtesy of a Maryland Army National Guard artillery unit stationed at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mr. Steinberg and his family, Governor Schaefer and Mrs. Snoops, who appeared to be ailing from recent surgery, and her family were then escorted to the speaker's platform, a covered tent atop a stage on the steps of the State House's West Portico.

The capital bristled with extraordinary security. An army of 300 to 400 police officers, uniformed and plainclothes members of the state police, State House guards and Annapolis police, provided what officials admitted as a heightened security for the inauguration. They were joined by an estimated 300 uniformed Guardsmen.

State police spokesman Chuck Jackson said the increased security -- including sharpshooters perched on top of the State House and in the

cupola of the nearby Legislative Services Building -- was a reaction to events in the Middle East and the threat of terrorism, not because of any specific threats made against the governor or lieutenant governor.

In his inaugural speech, Governor Schaefer made no specific mention of his fiscal woes, the $423 million in cuts he was forced to make in the current budget, or how he will cope with a 1992 spending plan that is likely to be painfully austere. Instead, he took off his overcoat, toted a briefcase to the podium, and talked of "rolling up his sleeves" and diving into new initiatives.

Chief among those plans is the tax increase recommended by the Linowes commission. The 17-member committee chaired by lawyer R. Robert Linowes has suggested a restructuring and overall raising of state taxes that would lead to $800 million in new revenue in its first year alone. Much of the money would be redistributed to Baltimore and the state's poorest subdivisions.

The governor admitted that "some people are going to find it difficult to be bold" and back those changes but insisted that "when times are tough, middle- and upper-income people just can't say, 'I've done enough.' "

"We must look at Maryland as one state," Mr. Schaefer said. "When one area of the state is hurting, all pay. We all pay for the dropouts, the prisons, the juvenile delinquency, the teen pregnancy."

Mr. Schaefer also gave a plug for another gubernatorial committee, the Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Region, which has called for statewide controls on development.

The state is "not interested in regulating zoning," the governor insisted. "We want to help the counties preserve green spaces . . . plan development, to make sure the schools and the roads that serve people are built where they are needed."

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