To become president was Calvin Coolidge, I...

THE ONLY MAYOR

March 30, 1995|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

THE ONLY MAYOR to become president was Calvin Coolidge, I wrote last Monday, in a column about Sen. Richard Lugar and Gov. Pete Wilson, two ex-mayors running for president.

Numerous readers have already corrected me, some in sorrow and some with glee. I am humbled to know I have such a knowledgeable readership. I wish I could acknowledge them all, but this is too short a piece for that. Two I must mention:

The Early Bird prize goes to Larry Pinsky. (The worm's in the mail.) He logged in on voice mail at 8:59 a.m. Monday to point out that Grover Cleveland was once mayor of Buffalo, N.Y.

The Trivia Master prize goes to George H. McAfee. (A Millard Fillmore post card is in the mail.) Alone of the correctors he pointed out that Cleveland and Andrew Johnson were ex-mayors, the latter of Greeneville, Tenn.

* * * *

I wish Senator Lugar and Governor Wilson good luck. Especially Senator Lugar, for, as I explained Monday, he believes in consolidated urban-suburban government. His Indianapolis merged with its adjacent county while he was mayor. That's the only salvation for most big cities, if you ask me.

In writing about that issue over the years, I have neglected one of the earliest and most imaginative advocates of replacing cities with something more up-to-date and rational.

I mean Walter Orlinsky. In 1967, when a Constitutional Convention was considering rewriting Maryland's, Orlinsky, who chaired the House of Delegates' Metropolitan Affairs Committee, testified in favor of this bold, new approach:

"I would suggest. . . the abolition of municipal and county governments and in its place establish a network of ten or more regional governments which correspond to the objective realities the social and economic forces that surround us.

"I realize that the trauma involved in such a monumental decision is enormous. Yet I firmly believe that it is mild compared to the trauma that Balkanized government will bring in the years ahead in face of current regional living.

"After all, what is a county or city line? We are not talking about anything sacred and meaningful. They have always been mere accidents of history or admittedly temporary lines created to make government work. These lines no longer make government work. They hinder government and, like a leech, suck away its very vitality."

If that or something similar in the form of metropolitan government had become part of a new Maryland Constitution in the 1960s, the Indianapolis-Marion County Colts might be the Central Maryland Region Colts.

* * * *

An almost-mayor enters the Republican presidential contest today. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

In 1967, Specter, the 37-year-old Philadelphia district attorney, came within 2 percentage points of ousting Democratic Mayor James Tate.

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