Burton on the Bay:
We've Been Missing You
Age appears to be best in four things - old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.
-Francis Bacon, 1561-1626
We're he around today, nearly 400 years after he penned those words, the astute Sir Francis might have added "old politicians to trust," which admittedly these days appears an oxymoron.
Especially when one considers the politician in mind, one William Donald Schaefer, best known the past five years in this column as 'King Crab.' Yet often as we have been at odds with him, it's appropriate to welcome him back at age 77 to both the political and governmental scene.
King Crab, you were missed. As long as you are up to the rigors of public life, there will always be a niche for you in Maryland from the outhouse of the Eastern Shore - your words, not mine - to the mountains of Garrett County, where the rural folks appreciated you more - and remember you still.
We've had our scuffles, but in retrospect you were praised by this writer as often as disparaged. You deserved both.
In your retirement, you were missed - and not just as a doll to stick pins into. One thing about you, King Crab, we always knew where you stood, and like it or not, we - meaning other citizens of the Free State as well as this writer - appreciated that you were maneuvering for what you firmly believed the best interests of the citizenry - though with Baltimore and Baltimoreans ranking tops in your considerations.
When we crossed paths last July on the set of Dan Roderick's Sunday morning TV show on the shores of Hopkins Creek in the Middle River complex, you were fresh from a victorious scrap with your successor, Parris Glendening, concerning who should succeed my dear friend and hunting and fishing companion Louis Goldstein as state comptroller.
I cheered you on, told you it did an old-timer like me good to see someone about five years older than me come out of retirement and get back into action with the vigor of someone a decade or two younger. You asked my age, and on hearing 71, told me I was a mere baby.
But there was more to this writer's comment than simply an ego thing among the, shall we admit, elderly.
You have much left to give this state, yes, and even your beloved Baltimore, so go to it.
Friend of The Little Guy
There has never been a doubt in this mind that you were a man of compassion, and what is more important among those who are bosses of the bureaucrats? Nothing is.
I was in the second row at the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Annapolis when dry eyes were as scarce as Chesapeake Bay crabs as you spoke of comrades who didn't make it back from the European Theater. Your eyes weren't too dry either. You have always worn compassion on your shirtsleeve - though there have been times when some, including me, have figured your compassion misdirected.
The plight of the little guy - whether a wounded buck private, a street sweeper in Baltimore, an unwed mother or a poor tenant farmer on the Eastern Shore - has always been of concern to you. No doubt about it, never was, never will be.
It came as no surprise shortly after you were sworn in as state comptroller that one of your first public pronouncements was directed at solving a new problem among Maryland taxpayers.
We expected as much; the shortsighted bureaucrats and legislators couldn't intimidate you. King Crab would come to our rescue - this time to untangle a legislative snafu that has skyrocketed the blood pressure of taxpayers and enriched the fraternity of accountants who figure our state taxes.
We know you will live up to your promise to replace the tax forms that are driving us nuts, also driving us to tax preparers to figure the damned things out for us. We'd hate to be the bureaucrat in your office who designed the 10 new lines and four additional worksheets.
Why for some of us, the additional costs to our accountants - mine has already apologetically informed me of the extra charge - will eat most of the minuscule savings in taxes granted us by vote-conscious legislators, some of whom must be accountants. Which goes to prove, we better beware when government tells us it wants to do something for us.
The rules are different now: local taxes are different from state taxes, the basic one-page form is gone, replaced by four pages of gobbledygook. Why didn't we listen to our arithmetic teachers? Even algebra wouldn't help with the new forms.
You have promised us it will be different next year, something we would have expected of Louis, your predecessor, and we take you for your word because we're little guys and government is once again messing us up.
Mayor Again? Go for It
I see by the Washington Post, you're pondering a campaign to once again be mayor of Baltimore after holding that job for 15 years, eight more as a city councilman. If that's what you want, King Crab, go for it, but first please get our tax form dilemma straightened out.
Also, give a bit of consideration to what you might do for us on the three-member Board of Public Works where we need an independent and assertive member representing us a la Goldstein.
We know you won't be intimidated by the guv (you've been there, done that) and his sidekick State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon. You'll be looking out for us, the little guys - though I must concede it's reassuring to know there won't be, hopefully, any new contracts coming up for more stadiums, a subject dear to your heart, especially if in Baltimore.
In short, if you stay where you are, we won't have to worry too much about the state giving away the barn even though we know a few of the sacred cows therein will get a bit more grain than others.
Regardless of your decision, thanks for a past that reminds us some politicians do have concerns for their constituents. Enough said ...
| Issue 7 |
VolumeVII Number 7
February 18-24, 1999
New Bay Times
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