NEGATIVITY must be in the eyes of the beholder.
When the boys who used to run the city kicked off the Baltimore News three months ago, the honorary chairman and investor, William Donald Schaefer, pledged to be positive.
"That was always my ambition, to have a newspaper that would have upbeat stories," the former mayor and governor said at the time. "I'm not going to fight anybody. I'm a gentle person who only wants to be positive."
Schaefer, who never had any use for the press other than as an object of scorn, and who whined for years about it being "negative, negative, negative," apparently sees things a little differently from this angle.
In an issue of the weekly tabloid two weeks ago, Schaefer urged Baltimoreans to "Do it now" -- to become involved in the city, for the sake of their neighborhoods and themselves.
He could not, however, resist taking a few shots at Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who has managed to draw fire from all corners lately for the woeful state of the city.
"There's so much right about the City of Baltimore that's being lost in a maze of incompetence," Schaefer began in the #i front-page article.
In the past, he wrote, the city "had problems with schools, vacant houses, welfare, and streets and roads needing repair -- but the problems were managed." (Which is to say that they are not managed now.)
He told readers, "don't depend on City Hall to get the ball rolling," and said residents should oppose the "unwise" increase in the city's hotel tax and "any increase in the personal income tax" because they would drive business and homeowners away.
But the former Prince of Pink Positive didn't even approach the lengths to which News publisher Walter S. Orlinsky has gone.
Orlinsky, the sharp-tongued, one-time City Council president (who made a career of taking shots at then-Mayor Schaefer), slam-dunked Schmoke in a scorching open letter to the mayor last week, urging him to put Baltimore back on track.
"For the most part we're positive, but we've always said we would not ignore the things that were wrong," Orlinsky said in an interview, explaining the News' recent tone. "Overall, I think we're talking about positive sides of the city.
"There's just one big glaring negative," he said. "It really seems to sit in City Hall. And not in all of City Hall. It seems to be isolated on the second floor -- on the right hand side, as you're facing the building."
Geez, Wally, don't sugar-coat it like that.
Orlinsky said that the paper's recent change in tone stems from Schmoke's proposed increase in the city's piggyback tax and his threat to close more city libraries.
"Before that, I think our tendency was really to ignore him and work toward trying to get people up to what they could do," he said.
"Then, Lord only knows what tells him to do what he does, but it certainly is demoralizing to a lot of people," Orlinsky said. "I think it's important for people to know they're not alone."
Schmoke brushed aside the paper's criticism.
"I have come to expect no less of them," the mayor said. He suggested that the News has a political agenda that is out of touch with "the current political scene."
"I don't expect them to say anything positive," the mayor continued.
"For some of their readers, I'm sure dumping on me is in their view positive, reconfirming impressions of me and my administration."
Which is not the reality, he added.
"We can get $300 million to correct the problem of public housing -- the warehousing of the poor -- by the end of the century, and they would write that this is an 'insider political deal' between me and the president," Schmoke said.
Running up the colors to see who salutes
As if there were any doubt, the Maryland Republican Party has made its agenda clear for the second floor of the State House.
For a buck, the GOP is selling "Let's Plaster Parris in '98" bumper stickers. They were going like hot cakes at the party's recent convention in Annapolis.
While the GOP's 1994 standard-bearer, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, is being coy about her gubernatorial intentions, the bumper stickers are in her colors -- black on yellow.
We're sure it's a coincidence.
Pub Date: 5/14/96