For Schaefer, reason replaced emotion

March 10, 1994|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer John W. Frece contributed to this article.

No, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer thundered in December. "I have not worked for nine years for Mr. Cooke to say, 'I'm going to move to Laurel.' " If there is to be a new football stadium, he insisted, it will be "in Baltimore. Baltimore. Period."

TC Ah, but on the political calendar, that was a very long time ago.

Tuesday night, Mr. Schaefer ambled over to an Annapolis res

taurant, had a collegial cup of tea with legislative leaders and agreed to sign a statement that included the line, "We welcome the Washington Redskins to Maryland."

And to Laurel.

What happened between early December and early March to bring the famously stubborn governor around?

Lots of lobbying by legislative leaders, who appealed to Mr. Schaefer's interest in economic development. Plenty of references to the number of Marylanders who go

to Redskins games. And the gloomy realization in the governor's office that, by snarling at Mr. Cooke, Mr. Schaefer could drive the Redskins -- and the National Football League -- out of Maryland forever.

Mr. Schaefer, Baltimore's mayor when the Colts were spirited away in 1984, did not want to be known as the man who watched one team leave and kept another away. And so, over the last couple

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of weeks, the political posturing -- by Mr. Cooke's supporters and the governor's allies -- ended, and the compromising began.

"We did a lot of talking," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, who has won the governor's confidence with years of loyal support.

"It's a new day," Mr. Schaefer said yesterday as he sat with Mr. Taylor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's. "Situations have changed. . . . Two weeks ago, I don't know whether we would have gotten here."

"There was the fury of emotion that surrounded this in December," said Mark L. Wasserman, Mr. Schaefer's secretary of economic and employment development. "There was a vehemence in December that's gone now. What you have now is reason settling in."

As late as Friday, Alan M. Rifkin, Mr. Cooke's lawyer in Annapolis, expressed doubt about whether the parties could agree on a cooperative statement to accompany a report on the highway costs that a new stadium in Laurel would entail.

But Mr. Taylor said he kept talking to both sides. "The paranoia started to recede. I think I knew what each individual's agenda was, and we tried to accommodate those agendas."

Mr. Cooke wanted Laurel. Mr. Schaefer wanted to continue to pursue a new team and a new stadium for Baltimore. The negotiators believed they had to succeed.

"The speaker has been saying it's important not to turn down an investor who's bringing a $200 million economic development project to Maryland," said Del. Gary R. Alexander, D-Prince George's.

"I think everyone was aware of the statewide consequences," Mr. Wasserman said.

Tuesday was consumed with drafting the joint statement. Mr. Taylor; Mr. Alexander; Del. Timothy

F. Maloney, D-Prince George's; and Del. Kenneth H. Masters, D-Baltimore County, sat down with Mr. Wasserman and John R. Stierhoff, chief aide to Mr. Miller.

All afternoon, in Mr. Maloney's conference room, they drafted and redrafted a statement, stopping from time to time to update Mr. Rifkin.

The first draft came from Mr. Wasserman's department and did not contain a sentence welcoming the Redskins to Maryland, participants said. But as the day dragged on, the drafters decided to add that line to the statement.

About 7:30 that night, with a final version in hand, the group decided to go out for dinner. And Mr. Taylor decided to invite Mr. Schaefer.

"He sat down," Mr. Wasserman said. "Read the document. The lights were dim. He made a few adjustments. He said OK."

"He read every word," Mr. Taylor said. "He stayed two hours,"

His dinner companions said the governor was relaxed and happy and positive -- nothing like the man who was so angered by Mr. Cooke's approach to Laurel in December, so soon after the NFL had twice rejected Baltimore's bid for an expansion team.

"It's just a win-win," Mr. Alexander said yesterday as he strolled the State House corridors in a Redskins tie and hat.

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