Passing motorist receives unexpected 'thank-you' noteA Maryland...


Passing motorist receives unexpected 'thank-you' note

A Maryland woman decided to express her dissatisfaction with state government last November in a very basic way.

The woman, who asked that her name be withheld, said she drove by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and some campaign workers on a Baltimore street on the eve of Election Day and gave a "thumbs-down" gesture.

Within days, she received an unsigned, typed note on stationery bearing the letterhead, "State of Maryland, From the desk of Don Schaefer."

The letter thanked her for her gesture and said, "It reminds me of an old expression I once heard: 'Your action only exceeds the ugliness of your face.'"

After receiving the letter, the woman said she felt "the gamut of emotions" from anger to intimidation, particularly as she wondered how her name and address were obtained.

Schaefer press secretary Paul Schurick confirmed that the letter was from Schaefer. Schurick declined further comment.

Hit the road, Jack

Politicians and political wannabes know it's important to have friends in high places. And in Maryland political circles, there's no one higher, of course, than Governor Schaefer. So it would be natural for Sen. Julian L. Lapides, the Bolton Hill gadfly who's announced that he may oppose Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in the next city election, to cozy up to the governor, right?

Well, Jack, don't count on the governor to move any mountains for you. Something Schaefer said last week suggests that he's not ready for a Mayor Lapides in the city of his birth.

As the governor was waiting in the State House hallway to enter the House chamber for Treasurer Lucille Maurer's ceremonial swearing-in, Schaefer looked up to see Lapides a few yards away.

Turning to a few lawmakers around him, Schaefer exclaimed with a touch of sarcasm: "There's the next mayor of Baltimore." He threw his hands into the air and looked upward. "God save the city. Can you imagine him mayor?"

Amen, Mr. President

It is a long-standing custom to open each House and Senate floor session with a prayer offered by a visiting member of the clergy. Given the opportunity to hold the floor, religious leaders are much like lawmakers -- they can be brief or, on occasion, they can go on and on.

At the end of one particularly lengthy invocation, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. found it necessary to explain to the lawmakers that the minister was retired and had plenty of time to write the prayer.

Turning to the cluster of reporters who had fidgeted through the prayer, Miller continued: "It's too bad some of our scribes aren't retired and can write so well."

A ski lift?

Legislators like to know about what they're voting on when they approve the budget each year, so naturally they would be quite upset to learn that state officials spent money on something they didn't know about.

Such was the case last week when a handful of delegates grilled health secretary Adele Wilzack about the money spent on the Maryland State Games, an amateur athletic program that an audit found to be riddled with financial irregularities.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Del. Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, asked Wilzack how spending for the program could grow so dramatically between 1989 and 1990 "without us knowing, without you knowing."

Wilzack maintained throughout the grilling that trusted aides kept her in the dark about the growing expenses, some of which went for a country club membership, cars, condominium rentals and athletic clothes.

A frustrated Ryan wondered to what lengths lawmakers should go to find out about such spending, particularly when it appears to be outside the agency's usual function.

Should he go to a department head, for instance, and say, "if you're building a ski lift, let us know?" Ryan wondered aloud.

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