This morning, as almost every morning the last 500...

AT 4:30

December 30, 1991

AT 4:30 this morning, as almost every morning the last 500 weeks, Ray Jenkins was out of bed and at work. First, to read the day's news, in The Sun, New York Times and Associated Press files on his computer screen; then to write an editorial, sometimes two, for that day's Evening Sun. On keyboard command his praise, his anathemas flashed downtown to the composing room for proofing and printing. Fridays, it was his column for the Sunday op-ed page.

Come Wednesday, Ray Jenkins says, he'll still arise by dark; but to read. As to writing, after 40 years of daily papers and deadline imminence, he's more for stretch-out prose, for book length.

This is good news for fat cats, crooks, charlatans and fabricators of malign public policy. It's bad news for Marylanders with a conscience: the retirement of that tall, bald, courteous, smiling fellow (upon meeting Ray, no one would take him for an avenging angel), the bearer of the standard, always in the thickest part of a fight and always marching up that long, stony slope toward justice and decency.

It was Reg Murphy who in 1981 brought Ray Jenkins here, trailing something of the Southeast behind him, of the White House, of Harvard. Did even Reg know of his new editorial page editor's interest in the whole world, memory for the printed word, rostrum skill? Whoever said writers make lousy speakers wasn't there as, all over town, Ray charmed the people at meetings who don't bother to read the editorial page.

In this new era of common newspaper cause -- Sun and Evening Sun -- we morning-paper people feel uneasy about speaking a proper goodbye. So here it is old-style, print-fashion.

Aloud, in books, any way you like, Ray, keep the words coming.

* * *

WHEN MARYLAND'S governor talks cost-efficiency, his Office of State Planning listens. It found a way to get into the Schaeferean spirit of frugality and the holiday spirit at the same time.

While other state agencies in the Baltimore state office complex decorated their Christmas trees with the usual assortment of bulbs and candy canes, the state planners plotted a cheaper scenario: they recycled paper from discarded redistricting maps into holiday ornaments.

Workers spent lunchtimes turning rejected maps of congressional and legislative districts into paper angels, converting multi-colored district maps into paper roses, and shaping reams of outdated precinct population statistics into paper stars and Christmas balls.

This is known in the recycling trade as a "three-fer": First, planners used the paper for office work (redistricting maps); then they re-used the same paper as holiday ornaments, and finally, they ship the paper to a recycler for conversion to yet another use. Environmentalists should give planners a medal (recycled, of course); and taxpayers should cheer such cost-conscious ingenuity.

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