A happy thing happened on Broening Highway last week. On the same day General Motors President Robert C. Stempel announced a mammoth retrenchment plan to close 21 plants and lay off 74,000 employees over the next few years, minivans with a new rear look rolled off the Baltimore assembly line for the first time.
Gone was the center post in the rear window that annoyed countless Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari drivers and turned off countless potential buyers. Despite plunging auto sales nationally, the new feature should boost the fortunes of one of GM's most popular vehicles. Demand is so great that Broening's 3,700 employees are working overtime and increasing production levels to 14,000 vans a week -- a rise of 18 percent.
Precisely two weeks before Mr. Stempel's grim news, something else delightfully out of kilter with the times occurred at the Broening Highway plant. After seven years of wrangling with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Maryland Department of the Environment was at last able to certify that the plant's painting operations were not in violation of Clean Air Acts. It took millions of investment dollars and strong-arm politicking, especially by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who heads the subcommittee with jurisdiction over EPA appropriations, to bring about this welcome change.