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Schaefer's Legacy With Baltimore Communities Reconsidered
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April 27, 2011
There was a crowd of people lined up outside City Hall. They smiled, laughed and took photos of each other. Although the mood was festive, the backdrop was solemn because all of those gathered had come out to pay their respects to former Governor and Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
His loss was evident, as flags flown at half-staff and a black bunting stretched across the pillars outside of City Hall. Inside, mourners got the chance to revisit the Schaefer years, as a video of the mayor played in a small corridor.
Mike Schaefer, who is not related to the former governor, stood in line for the public viewing at City Hall wearing a brown tie with the City’s insignia. He shared old memories of his relationship with the former Maryland leader.
“I’ve known him for 25 years. I had the honor of taking him out to dinner three times-a-week.”
The former mayor’s shy, but friendly style, he added, was always on display.
“Well, he would like to be able to say hello to people. He didn’t know how to do it, because he was a little bit shy and he is who he was. So, it would be up to me to go over to a table of older people and I say: ‘Are you folks visitors or you Marylanders?’ And they say: ‘Oh, we’re Marylanders, many, many years.’ And I’d say: ‘Well, you’re having dinner with Governor Schaefer over there; you’re welcome to say hello to ‘em on your way out’. And then, when they would leave, they would walk over and say, ‘Thank you.’”
Schaefer appeared at public restaurants frequently. One of his favorite places to eat was here at Jimmy’s in Fells Point. Jimmy’s co-owner, James Filipidis, spoke about Schaefer.
“He was a man that was very direct and very forward. He was very accessible to anybody and everybody. You got an answer immediately. It was sincere, it was heartfelt and it was to the point, whether you liked it or not.”
But Schaefer’s “Do-It-Now” approach didn’t resonate with everyone. Longtime critic and housing advocate Ralph Moore thought his approach to addressing some issues of community residents was a little slow.
“I was critical of City Hall, in terms of what it was not focusing on. That it was focusing too much attention on the Inner Harbor development and not enough attention on poor neighborhoods, and housing needs and job needs of poor people.”
When it came to change, added Moore, some neighborhoods were favored over others.
“Some of the communities got more attention than others. And all of that had to do with whether not you were in political favor with City Hall at the time.”
Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke served while Schaefer was mayor. She said they may not have agreed on the issues, but he was concerned with the needs of the people.
“One thing about William Donald Schaefer, the mayor, was that he really cared about people. And, sometimes, he would be opposed to an issue. But once he understood the people part of it, he would come around.”
The former governor and mayor wanted the words, “He cared,” inscribed on his head stone. For those who came to pay the final respects, that epitaph certainly seems fitting.
I’m Bobby Marvin, reporting in Baltimore, for 88-1, WYPR.
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