Louis L. Goldstein, 1913-1998 State comptroller: Popular politician, inveterate campaigner, staunch fiscal watchdog.

July 04, 1998

WHAT CAN you write about Louis L. Goldstein that hasn't been recorded numerous times during his 60-year career in public service?

He was truly a legend in his own time, the best-known and best-liked Maryland politician of the last four decades.

Call him "Mr. Maryland." Or as one speaker put it at a fund-raiser last year, our "state fossil." Up until his death last night at age 85, Mr. Goldstein could -- and did -- run lesser-aged politicians ragged on the campaign trail and in the hallways of state government.

Voters elected Louie Goldstein state comptroller a record 10 times. His love of people and his perpetual optimism made him one of the few tax collectors in America who drew cheers, not jeers, from constituents.

But Mr. Goldstein was far more than a popular campaigner. He ran one of the best tax-collection departments in the nation, receiving awards for keeping his office on the cutting edge of technology. His latest success: A vast increase in computerized tax filings this year.

It was on the Board of Public Works, though, that Mr. Goldstein may have performed his greatest service. This largely unknown panel -- the governor, the comptroller and the state treasurer -- holds immense power over billions of dollars of state contracts.

It was Mr. Goldstein who acted as board skeptic, grilling bureaucrats mercilessly on the merits of projects. What a ferocious fiscal watchdog he was! He poured over voluminous reports to the point where he knew as much about them as those making the presentations.

Often, proposals were pulled even before the public hearing -- after Mr. Goldstein had brutally dissected the plan at the panel's pre-board sessions.

Given the immense power granted the governor in Maryland, the need for checks and balances is critical. Louis L. Goldstein performed that role brilliantly. But he did so with a smile on his face and a keen understanding of the benefits of government when it is made to work in favor of the best interests of its citizens.

God bless Louie Goldstein, real good.

Pub Date: 7/04/98

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