Phyllis Matlick remembers the remark dropped by City Councilman John A. Schaefer back in the spring when he and his two 1st District colleagues came to meet the new 1st District voters shortly after redistricting.
"He told us at a meeting at St. Anthony's Catholic Church that he didn't know if his bus [public transportation] came up this far," Matlick said last week after a candidate forum sponsored by HARBEL Community Organization Inc., the umbrella group for the communities in the Harford Road-Belair Road corridor.
As a result of redistricting, the 1st District picked up new territory and it now stretches from the northeastern corner of the city to Locust Point in South Baltimore.
For decades, the Harford-Belair corridor was in the 3rd District, but redistricting put it into the 1st. Matlick and many other corridor residents are unhappy about the change.
Schaefer has strong support in the "old 1st," where people have a 20-year history of dealing with him on constituent problems. But neither he nor the 86-year-old Mimi DiPietro, a councilman since 1966, has played well in the new northeastern area of the new district.
At St. Anthony's last May, Schaefer and DiPietro were practically hooted out of the meeting when they said they opposed the redistricting plan. Although the two did not vote in favor of the plan until the end, they didn't vocally oppose it as did the other 1st District councilman, Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.
Last week, Schaefer found his way north to Harford-Belair to attend a political forum for candidates running for City Councill in the 1st. DiPietro, however, failed to make the trip.
In his presentation, Schaefer, 63, stressed his 20-year experience in the council and how he "shepherded reductions in the property tax rate through the council." There is no substitute for experience, he reminded the audience.
Schaefer, DiPietro and Joseph R. Ratajczak are running on the same ticket. During the forum, Ratajczak, 57, noted that he had served 12 years as Schaefer's aide, handling constituent complaints.
Schaefer and Ratajczak promised to work just as hard for their new constituents as they have for their old ones.
Lois Munchel, for one, wasn't convinced.
"We've asked them to come to meetings up here and apparently they're too busy because we've seen very little of them," she said. "If re-elected, are they still going to be too busy for us?"
Ratajczak, Munchel said, is a nice man, "but he would just be John Schaefer's shadow and vote the way John Schaefer tells him to."
With all the experience Schaefer and DiPietro have accumulated during their tenures, "why is the city still in the mess it is in?" a befuddled Margaret Slater asked, adding: "People who stay too long in office get stale. The city needs elected officials with new ideas and new visions for the future of the city."
After the forum, Matlick and Munchel said they were impressed by D'Adamo, 33, a first-term councilman, and leading challengers Perry Sfikas, 35, and John Cain. These candidates have promised to be independent voices on the council who are free of the influence of political machines.
"D'Adamo has been up in this area a lot since redistricting, campaigning and coming to meetings," said Munchel. "Sfikas and Cain have done the same. Their activity seems to indicate they are willing to work for us in the council in return for our support."
Matlick likes Sfikas because he was the only one to talk of the importance of the environment. D'Adamo appears to be his own man, Matlick said, "and in this day and age you have to admire that."
"Let me say it this way," Matlick added. "I know where my bus goes; it goes right to the polling place and when I get there I won't be voting for Schaefer or DiPietro."
The Baltimore Teachers Union has asked its members to vote to re-elect Mayor Kurt Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.
The BTU also endorsed Mary Conaway in the comptroller's race and the following candidates in the council races: Dominic Mimi DiPietro, John Schaefer and Joseph Ratajczak in the 1st District; Anthony Ambridge and Carl Stokes in the 2nd District; Wilbur E. Cunningham, Martin Curran and Maegertha Whitaker in the 3rd District; Lawrence Bell, Sheila Dixon and Agnes Welch in the 4th District; Vera Hall, Iris Reeves and Rochelle Spector in the 5th District; and Timothy Murphy and Melvin Stukes in the 6th District.