Past, present city leaders celebrate But some key figures miss event marking Baltimore's 200th

February 08, 1997|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,SUN STAFF

For the most part, they were there -- the city's present and former cutters of ribbons and red tape, of taxes and budgets. They stood as one on the dais -- wreckers and reformers of schools, firers and hirers of police chiefs and school superintendents, people who had fought with one another, run against one another, engineered slights and nurtured grudges.

The occasion yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the day the incorporation of Baltimore was signed into law, but not everyone was in the mood to celebrate.

Two notable felons, Wally Orlinsky and Jacqueline F. McLean, didn't show. Neither did William Donald Schafer.

So it was left to people such as Clarence "Du" Burns, Peter G. Angelos, Barbara A. Mikulski and dozens more of Baltimore's former elected officials to mark the occasion with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

And they did, with suitable pomp and circumstance, rededicating City Hall.

The idea had been to gather as many present and former mayors, City Council presidents, comptrollers, council members, solicitors and finance directors as possible at the War Memorial Building for a few songs and speeches. And it didn't matter whether they had moved on to become a senator, as with Council Member Mikulski, the owner of a major league baseball team, as with Council Member Angelos, or an inmate in a federal penitentiary, as with City Council President Orlinsky -- now a free man.

All were welcome in the spirit of civic solidarity, and once the first round of talking was done everyone would snap a few photos and march across the chilly plaza to City Hall for a few more songs and speeches.

But as often happens with politicians, the real show took place before and after the official program, in the hallways and the lobbies, in groups of twos and threes, among much backslapping, handshaking and reminiscing.

"I kind of enjoyed watching them all talk to one another as much as anything today," Mayor Schmoke said afterward. "They told a lot of old stories.

"And, of course," he added with a laugh, "they gave us a lot of advice."

With so many former adversaries on the same stage, the dynamics reminded Mikulski of old times in the mid-1970s, when she was elected to the council from the 1st District "by beating two political machines." But because of a renovation of City Hall going on at the time, she said, she had to share an office with the other two 1st District members, machine products Mimi DiPietro and John Schaefer.

"I learned a whole new vocabulary," she said. "I was exposed to a whole new style of politics, and I loved every minute of it."

The no-shows were nearly as intriguing as the sideshows.

There was the absent Orlinsky, City Council president for 11 years, famous not only for his extortion conviction in 1982 but also for moments such as when he slipped a resolution onto the agenda to re-name War Memorial Plaza "Albert Speer Plaza."

It was a tweak of then-Mayor Schaefer for his tendency toward grand gestures and grander structures (Speer being the Third Reich architect who blueprinted so many of Hitler's outscaled ideas).

McLean, the former comptroller convicted of theft and misconduct in 1994, responded to a telephoned invitation with a brusque refusal, according to a mayoral staffer. Also not attending was Michele McCloud, the fictitious McLean employee whose salary brought on the charges.

Former City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who lost to Schmoke in the last mayoral election wasn't present, but was attending a funeral.

Then there was the matter of former mayor and governor Schaefer. No felonies or even misdemeanors spot his record. In fact, he's still reputed to have been one of the city's most effective mayors. But he's never been known for his forgiving nature, and his relations with Schmoke have almost always been testy.

He was the only one among the city's four living former mayors -- J. Harold Grady (1959-62), Thomas J. D'Alesandro III (1967-71), Schaefer (1971-87), and Clarence "Du" Burns (1987) -- who didn't show up yesterday. Among other things, it ruined an opportunity for a fine photo.

"We had a number of people contact him," Schmoke said. "He said, 'Yes, no, yes, no,' and we just sort of waited to the end to see what would happen."

A few minutes after the ceremonies ended, a receptionist at Schaefer's office explained that he was too busy attending board meetings this week to make it. Immediately after that, Schaefer answered a call to his home. He was asked why he didn't attend.

"Was Du Burns, there?" Schaefer wanted to know.

Yes, he was told. Burns, an old ally of Schaefer's, was ousted from office by Schmoke in the 1987 mayoral election.

"I'll be dog," Schaefer said, sounding surprised, a bit miffed. "I know the last time I talked to him he was a little mad at the mayor."

But why hadn't he attended?

"I had other things to do," Schaefer said. "Just one of those things. I had several people call me about it, and I urged them all to attend."

Had he come, he might have discovered that, old rivalries notwithstanding, there would have been a chair for him on the front row of the dais. But there will be further events to commemorate the bicentennial, Schmoke said. "We'll hope he'll

be coming to some of those."

Pub Date: 2/08/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.