Schaefer the lion-hearted

Forum Extra

May 15, 1991|By Walter S. Orlinsky

FOR many years Don Schaefer and I shared the center stage in a city growing to meet its potential. As president of the City Council for almost all of the time that Schaefer was mayor, I got to know him fairly well. We were often at odds on important issues, and I carry to this day a bruise or two from our struggles.

Life with Schaefer was never dull. In a world of no-risk, dull bean-counters, Schaefer is a real live passionate human being. Like all of us, he is not perfect or always right. What he does is needle, push, pull, argue, shout, curse, exhort, dance, sing or whatever it takes to make us move. It is impossible to be around Schaefer and not get involved.

To poke mean-spirited fun at him for wearing hats or funny bathing suits is to willfully distort and degrade noble devotion. In a world of bland, Schaefer is spice, excitement and commitment. If "giving a damn" is something to be derided, then we are lost.

As one who has fought with Schaefer more than most, who has felt the full brunt of his anger and hostility, I have also known his approval and support and kindness. I expect that we will disagree again. I expect he will get roaring mad and so will I. The passion of the battle in the past has, I think, helped forge better public policies.

The governor's hats aren't goofy and his world is no fantasy park. Schaefer's giving someone a rose because she or he kept a beautiful home and yard, or Schaefer's scolding someone who did not is human, proper and what government needs to be about. Government can never be abstract. All government is local, and Schaefer always remembers that.

No one has to love or even like Don Schaefer. What is compelling to me is the respect he deserves for caring, trying and pushing. That respect is best given by supporting what we agree with, opposing with alternatives what we disagree with. All the rest is background noise, transitory and not really worth the time we spend on it.

The writer runs the state tree-planting program.

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