Maryland remains a one-governor state

Emissions: Comptroller Schaefer, with Treasurer Dixon, push limits of their authority.

January 19, 2000

HE HAS done it for much of his illustrious career in public life.

Former governor and former Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer never saw a schoolyard fight that didn't offer an opportunity to promote William Donald Schaefer or a policy he favored.

Fights drew attention to issues and seemed to build support for the Schaefer position. People backed a Baltimore subway or an aquarium because they backed him as the city's mayor or the state's governor.

Now, Comptroller Schaefer seems to relish biweekly combat with Gov. Parris N. Glendening -- who slighted his predecessor publicly when the Cleveland Browns came to Baltimore and later in other less-public forums.

Mr. Schaefer forgave and subsequently endorsed Mr. Glenden- ing's re-election. Since then they have differed, sometimes bitterly, on a range of substantive issues -- from the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery County to the recent award of a $122 million contract for vehicle emissions testing to Environmental Systems Products Inc.

Mr. Glendening's administration wanted to renew its emissions deal with the current operator. But Mr. Schaefer, joined by Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, ordered more attention to the lowest bidder. With two of three votes on the Board of Public Works, the Schaefer-Dixon duo could and did frustrate the governor's wish.

It's within their prerogative -- their duty in fact -- to ask for a review of important business. But since the low bidder has had distinct problems in another state, their reasons seemed suspect.

Both men should take great care in the future when such matters arise. The state has but one governor and, unless he is demonstrably off-base, his initiatives deserve respect. If Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Dixon want serious attention paid to issues of real importance, they should avoid unnecessary conflict.

As long as the purpose of their disputes is to promote the public good, Marylanders will applaud the independence of their comptroller and treasurer.

If their opposition seems transparently personal, they will appear to be venting personal antipathies.

Neither the state nor ultimately the comptroller and treasurer will be well served by injecting personal disputes into public business.

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