Committee Endorses Lighthizer


January 23, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

State lawmakers might have thought O. James Lighthizer's confirmation as state secretary of transportation was a foregone conclusion Monday night.

But Arnold resident Frederick F. Broglie had plenty of reasons for rejecting Gov. William Donald Schaefer's appointee.

Angered by Lighthizer's "irresponsible spending" habits, Broglie appealed to members of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee to reject the former county executive as the new state secretary of transportation.

But the effort was to no avail. Committee members unanimously endorsed Lighthizer, many even praising Lighthizer's eight-year term during the 20-minute confirmation hearing.

The full Senateis expected to confirm Lighthizer Thursday.

About 30 appointees to every conceivable state post from the Court of Appeals to the Emergency Numbers Systems Board appeared Monday before the committee chaired by Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale.

The group included Lighthizer and County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, who was endorsed for the state Motion Picture and Television Development Advisory Council.

Yesterday afternoon, Broglie was not surprised by Lighthizer's endorsement.

"After you attend a couple of these meetings, you quickly adopt the philosophy that it's nothing more than a good-old-boy network," Broglie said. "There wasn't a real hearing on any of these guys last night. It was nothing more than a confirmation exercise.

"It was a legal rubber stamp for something that was already decided, a chance for these guys to slap each other on the back and joke around."

Wagner acknowledged yesterday that the hearing process was a formality.

If the senators on the Executive Nominations Committee have serious objections to a gubernatorial appointee, Wagner said he will try to persuade Schaefer or his appointments secretary, former County Executive Robert Pascal, to withdraw the nomination.

"It's embarrassing for the person to get to that point and not get confirmed," Wagner said. "Sometimes, if a senator has a problem with someone, they take a few shots at them in the hearing, but we confirm them."

Wagner said the confirmation hearing "is really a chance for us to have our say and remind them that they don't just work for the governor, they work for us and everybody else too."

Lighthizer was appointed by Governor William Donald Schaefer to the $105,000-a-year cabinet level post in November. He will oversee the transportation department's $2.1 billion budget. The county charter prohibited the two-term county executive from seeking a third term.

As county executive, Lighthizer was unresponsive to the taxpayers and would not have won re-election, Broglie said Monday night.

"He was milking so much money from the taxpayer, he was having trouble spending it," said Broglie. Broglie said he was particularly disturbed by Lighthizer's beautification programs and the $100,000 spent on a publication, "The Lighthizer Years," reviewing the county government's accomplishments during the 1980s.

"If any of you are concerned about the governor continuing with his big-spending plans, be advised that you are providing him with spending soul mate," said tax rebel Robert Schaeffer, who led a fight to put a tax cap referendum on November's ballot.

Sen. Phil Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Minority Leader Jack Cade, R-SevernaPark, defended Lighthizer, praising his fiscal policies in the 1980s.

"When Mr. Lighthizer stepped in, no disrespect to his predecessor, he was in deep s--- in fiscal terms," Cade said. "He took a countythat was in the red and turned it around."

Several committee members probed Lighthizer on his plans for mass transit, highway sound barriers and toll roads. Lighthizer said he will investigate creating more toll roads, but cautioned that such roads may not eliminate the need for a proposed 5 percent sales tax on gasoline.

"In urban areas, we've got to look more toward mass transit, fixed guideways," saidLighthizer. "We've already started in that direction, but I would like to do much more."

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