Gov. William Donald Schaefer's "edifice complex...


August 06, 1994

TALK OF Gov. William Donald Schaefer's "edifice complex" -- the spate of buildings named for him as he approaches the end of his term -- reminded a colleague of some mischievous needling Mr. Schaefer took as mayor a dozen years ago. Checking at City Hall on details, the journalist unearthed what appears to be a heretofore undiscovered scandal.

Some history first. Mr. Schaefer and Walter S. Orlinsky, president of the City Council during the mayor's first three terms, did not get along. Mr. Orlinsky had a highly developed sense of mischief. He detested some of Mr. Schaefer's grand projects, including the plan to pave over Holliday Street in front of City Hall and transform it into the plaza that now graces the entrance.

To embarrass the mayor (and council members who routinely pass congratulatory resolutions without reading them), Mr. Orlinsky introduced a resolution in 1981 naming the new space Al Speer Plaza. Albert Speer was Hitler's favorite architect and the designer of the Third Reich's most ostentatious buildings. Could Mr. Orlinsky have had that Speer in mind in choosing the name? Mr. Orlinsky denied it. No one believed him.

According to two articles published weeks later in The Sun, the council routinely adopted the resolution, along with others, none of which had any force of law. But was it ever repealed after the council discovered it had been bamboozled by Mr. Orlinsky?

Ever the careful reporter, our colleague called City Hall. No such resolution, came the response. Hold on, The Sun is never wrong, a factotum was told. Threatened with legal action, the official checked the council's Journal. No such resolution recorded. But wait! The Journal listed passage of Resolutions 363 and 365. No Resolution 364.

So what was Resolution 364 about? No one knows today. With visions of finding the tracks of a municipal Ollie North shredding documents in the basement of City Hall, our colleague was stymied. They don't keep copies of ceremonial resolutions. But one old hand there seems to recall an effort to remove all copies of the Speer resolution once it was revealed for what it was.

Actually, the Speer resolution was the second assault on the plaza. As members of the Board of Estimates, Mr. Orlinsky and Comptroller Hyman Pressman had made a futile attempt to block funds for it. Mr. Schaefer was absent that day, so the approval motion failed to get a majority of the five-member board.

"The motion fails for lack of a majority," intoned Mr. Orlinsky. "It will be back next week." It was, so was Mr. Schaefer, and the plaza was approved. Unlike the City Council, the Board of Estimates knew what it was voting on.

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A SIGN spotted at the weekly Columbia antiques market: "OJ Knives -- $69."

Is this a great country or what?

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