Schaefer asks for advice on budget -- and gets it But meeting turnout is surprisingly small

November 10, 1991|By Douglas Birch

An article in Sunday's editions of The Sun incorrectly reported that David Yaffe, a spokesman for the Enoch Pratt Free Library appearing at a meeting in Baltimore, called on the legislature to raise revenues and restore cuts in the library system's budget. In fact, Mr. Yaffe called for the cuts to be restored but left it up to the legislature to decide where to get the money.

* The Sun regrets the error.

A correction published in Wednesday's editions was itself in error in identifying David Yaffe. He is a spokesman for Friends of the Enoch Pratt Free Library Inc., an independent group.

* The Sun regrets the error.

An article in yesterday's late editions about citizen forums on state budget problems incorrectly identified Hagerstown Junior College as Washington County Community College.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

* The Sun regrets the error.

Citizens showed up in small numbers at meeting rooms and auditoriums across Maryland yesterday to give Gov. William Donald Schaefer their best advice on how to cope with the state's marathon budget crisis.

But like their legislators in Annapolis, they couldn't seem to agree on solutions.

Raise taxes and save government jobs, said the half-dozen people who spoke in Baltimore.

Cut spending and root out waste, said many of the 45 voters who spoke in Anne Arundel County.

Others had special interests.

Librarians, in a crowd of about 50 at Washington County Community College, wanted to save libraries from the budget blade. Administrators of spouse abuse programs and community colleges spoke up for their programs, and the mother of two college-age students wanted the government to provide loans to middle-income families.

Pamela J. Kelly, the governor's special assistant, said public meetings were held from 9 a.m. to noon in each of the state's 23 counties and in Baltimore, chaired by members of the governor's volunteer "citizen's cabinet." Mr. Schaefer set up the 28-member group in May to keep in touch with public opinion.

Several of the "cabinet" members presiding at yesterday's meetings said the crowds were surprisingly small. "I was very disappointed by the turnout," said Gracie Rymer, the group's representative from Calvert County, where only about 15 people showed up.

But Ms. Kelly noted that operators manning a special toll-free number fielded 89 comments during the three hours lines were open. Many callers complained that they had a hard time getting through.

Sherma Bushrod, a library worker, came to the New Community College of Baltimore auditorium off Liberty Heights Avenue to plead for her job.

Faced with a $20 million cut in state aid, city officials unveiled sweeping budget cuts Friday, including a plan to eliminate 41 jobs at the Enoch Pratt Free Public Library and furlough workers there for six days.

Ms. Bushrod said that she feared she would be laid off and that Mr. Schaefer "should remember these are people he's laying off, not just numbers."

The 46-year-old West Baltimore resident later told a reporter that library workers would be willing to take a longer furlough: "We'll -- do any thing to save our jobs."

David Yaffe, a member of Friends of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, said, "When you close libraries, you're putting minds on hold," and called on the General Assembly to raise revenues to maintain library services.

"I find it incredible that a legislator can sit by and take it in stride and say we can't afford civilization this year," he said.

Patricia Joan Horsey, chairman of the Kent County meeting, said that Governor Schaefer showed up in Chestertown's Town Hall yesterday to listen to the concerns of about 40 people.

Ronnie Fithian, a Kent County waterman, went to Chestertown to tell the governor to ease hunting and fishing regulations and encourage tourism, Mrs. Horsey said.

Constance Berg, a Georgetown housewife, said state and local governments should learn to get along with less. "In bad times, you serve vegetable soup, not lobster," Mrs. Horsey quoted her as saying.

But no one suggested raising taxes, Mrs. Horsey said. "The overall thing was, we need to evaluate what we're doing and what we've got and cut inefficiency and cut waste."

By contrast, citizens at the Calvert County meeting decided that they would be willing to pay to save endangered services.

"I think the general feeling was that they would support a tax increase," Mrs. Rymer said.

Mrs. Rymer said one mother of five, whose husband is in prison, said she was trying to keep working and stay off welfare, despite cuts in medical and nutrition programs that help her make ends meet.

"She didn't want to be on welfare," Mrs. Rymer said. "And she didn't want to teach her children to be on welfare. She has three jobs, but she only clears $40 a week after child care.

"It was very moving. She said that with what she makes, she pays so little taxes that she can't speak for raising taxes. She was sorry she didn't have anything to offer."

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