One more potshot at Annapolis snipers' favorite target
Almost nothing happens in Annapolis these days without a reference to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's well-chronicled bouts of letter-writing and personal visits to constituents -- not to speak of the odd memorandum questioning the loyalty of his lieutenant governor.
The syndrome was apparent on a bill to change the date of Maryland's presidential primary to March 3, 1992.
If Maryland votes early enough, the state will burst full-blown upon the national political landscape as a challenger to New Hampshire or Iowa, according to sponsors of the bill.
But Sen. Howard A. Denis, R-Montgomery, wanted to push the date back to May.
Big in presidential politics, he said, is measured in electoral votes. Big means California or New York -- not Maryland, he said.
A mere law cannot "turn Maryland into a big state," Mr. Denis said.
When others persisted, Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, arose to support his colleague.
"It's probably true that Maryland will be in the spotlight if the snow isn't too deep for the light to shine through. It doesn't take much more than a heavy dew around here for people to run to the market to stock up, hole up and never turn out again," he said.
Moreover, he added, with mock seriousness, "The date would give new prominence to the chief executive of the state and, of course, we all know that is something that's verydesirable."
KINDER AND GENTLER GUV
He's lengthened the workweek for state employees, opposed pay raises, threatened layoffs, and when he thinks the bureaucracy is lazy, he's been known to verbally chew them up and spit them out.
But in recent days, Maryland's governor transformed himself into a kinder, gentler governor, a Defender of the Embattled State Government Worker.
Several times, the state's chief executive has stood up for the beleaguered 60,000 or so people who work for the state.
He came to their rescue during a radio talk show, at a public ceremony in Annapolis and most pointedly during a Board of Public Works meeting.
When his fellow board member, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, sharply questioned a juvenile services employee over a contract, the Defender quickly intervened.
"I'm tired of people in state government always being put on the defensive," Mr. Schaefer said. "Our people get enough pushing around. They can only do what they can humanly do."
Later in the monologue, the easily agitated Defender admitted to some blemishes on his own record but promised to refrain from putting state employees on the defensive.
"I don't want to do it again," Mr. Schaefer said.
MAG LEV LEVITY
A resolution promoted by Delegate Clarence Davis, D-Baltimore, encourages the federal government to build a model train track in Maryland -- a model of the futuristic magnetic levitation train, or mag-lev.
As he sat down, Delegate Curtis S. Anderson, D-Baltimore, rose with a point of inquiry.
"Can you explain the dynamics of magnetic levitation," he asked with a wink.
Unfazed, Mr. Davis shot back, "Yes, I can."
A hush of anticipation filled the chamber.
But, thinking better of his brave declaration, Delegate Davis picked up a pamphlet from his desk.
"I brought along a book for you to read," he said, handing it to
Mr. Anderson laughed -- and handed it back.
"Those things are amazing," Mr. Anderson said. "They never touch the ground."
UPHILL ALL THE WAY
Clean cars help to make clean air, as almost everyone knows.
And if the pollution from cars isn't reduced, the pollution from factories has to be reduced -- a costly proposition that can threaten jobs.
Maryland may decide to attack the problem by putting tougher pollution standards on automobile emissions. The House of Delegates voted last week to adopt the strict air quality standards now governing automobiles in California. The day could come, then, when the state would have to demand cars that emit no pollutants.
A zero-emissions vehicle, of all things.
Delegate George H. Littrell, D-Frederick, could not conceive of such a thing.
"What would such a car look like?" he asked during debate on the clean air bill last Friday.
"It would be a car with four wheels," began Delegate Ronald A. Guns, D-Cecil, chairman of the Committee on Environmental Matters. Mr. Guns, who was explaining how the California plan would work, then added, "a car without an engine . . . with a battery [instead]."
"How would such a car work in Western Maryland?" Mr. Littrell wondered.
"Downhill better than uphill," Mr. Guns said.