City Council heaps praise on Schaefer

January 24, 1995|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

Eight years have passed since William Donald Schaefer reigned over the Baltimore City Council as mayor. But any animosity seemed forgotten last night as council members fell over each other to heap tributes on him.

"He gave the city a sense of purpose, a sense of pride," said 3rd District Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, who introduced a flattering resolution to the departing governor saluting "his historic 40-year career in public office."

"Indeed, we shall never forget him," chimed in 4th District Councilwoman Agnes Welch.

Council Vice President Vera P. Hall praised Mr. Schaefer -- who was the mayor for 15 years after serving as councilman and council president -- for his constituent services. Fifth District Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector spoke of him as "a consultant, friend and stalwart."

Even Council President Mary Pat Clarke, whose independence and iconoclasm on the council earned her the enmity of Mr. Schaefer, reminisced about him in glowing terms.

"His pride in the way we [the city] looked and thought about ourselves was contagious," she said.

The oratory came after a month's hiatus for the council members, who staged an unusually long meeting to open this municipal election year. Nearly all of them delivered high-flown speeches. A half-dozen council members rose to voice support of two bills to repeal the city's unpopular beverage container tax.

One bill, supported by the Schmoke administration, would abolish the 5-year-old bottle tax if the state agrees to take over the Circuit Court operations -- which appeared unlikely yesterday after a gubernatorial commission concluded the change would be too costly.

The other measure, introduced by Mrs. Clarke, would phase out the tax over three years.

The council president, who is challenging Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's bid for a third term, also criticized the city Housing Authority's plan to tear down six cramped, outdated high-rise towers at Lafayette Courts. Mrs. Clarke said she's worried that more poor people in Baltimore will be left without public housing because the plan only calls for rebuilding about half the 807 apartments.

"What about everyone who is not going to fit back into Lafayette when the renovation is done?" she asked.

Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said tenants will be moved into nearby public housing developments or given Section 8 certificates for private apartments. The city also is about to begin building the first of 157 new apartments with $10 million from the state.

"She's picking an argument that doesn't have to exist," he said.

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