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Md. Comptroller Stickers It to 'Em

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Md. Comptroller Stickers It to 'Em

By Matthew Mosk

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, May 20, 2004; Page B01

An unrepentant William Donald Schaefer offered no regrets yesterday for the political grass fire he sparked two weeks ago with comments about Spanish-speaking restaurant workers and instead handed out this bumper sticker:

"Schaefer: He says what you think."

The former Maryland governor, now in his second term as state comptroller, may be moving more slowly through the State House hallways. But, at 82, he still hasn't lost a step when it comes to grabbing headlines.

He did so with a flourish two weeks ago, complaining about an awkward encounter with a Spanish-speaking clerk at McDonald's. The attention his remarks drew intensified after his political ally, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., rushed to his defense and called multiculturalism "bunk" and "crap."

Despite a tide of criticism from immigrant groups and editorial boards, Schaefer (D) said he's convinced the gripe resonates with most Marylanders.

"All I said is, if you're going to be in this country, speak English," the comptroller said during a rambling 30-minute commentary yesterday focused largely on the reaction to his remarks.

Just as he had two weeks earlier, Schaefer launched into a soliloquy during the opening moments of the Board of Public Works meeting, where he joins Ehrlich ® and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) twice each month to dispense with the dry business of state spending.

Schaefer partakes vigorously in the meeting's laborious agenda. But sessions that were once rendered lifeless by the minutiae of procurement policy have now become something else entirely.

"Open-mike night" is how one state employee at yesterday's meeting described it, saying he would not give his name for fear of angering the man who votes on his agency's spending proposals. "It's the most bizarre form of political theater."

Of course, this is nothing new for Schaefer, who was known as the acid-tongued Mayor Annoyed during four terms in Baltimore City Hall, and who was even less of a wallflower with his emotions when he arrived in Annapolis as governor.

Perhaps his most famous barb came in the winter of 1991, when Schaefer compared the Eastern Shore to an outhouse. When the remark circulated, Eastern Shore residents erupted in protest, even hoisting wooden outhouses and bags of manure on their pickup trucks and heading for the governor's mansion.

His reputation only grew when he returned to Annapolis as comptroller and turned the Board of Public Works meetings into ground zero for his long-running feud with then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) -- or, as Schaefer frequently referred to him, "Ayatollah."

At one meeting, the comptroller filled a pause in the action by clucking and flapping his arms at Glendening, then calling him "a chicken." At another, he squished up his face, puckered his lips and began shooting sarcastic kisses at then-Treasurer Richard N. Dixon (D), who had angered the comptroller.

These days, Schaefer's warm relations with Ehrlich have sent him out in search of new targets for his musings. A frequent subject is Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D).

Yesterday, Schaefer blasted the mayor for going on the radio and reminding the comptroller -- in Spanish -- that "few of us would be here if our non-English-speaking relatives hadn't struggled for a few years, or decades, to learn English."

"He ought to stick his nose into the Baltimore schools," Schaefer said. "See how well they're teaching English there."

But the bulk of the comptroller's comments were directed at the state's newspapers, which by his count had written 68 stories referencing the McDonald's remarks in just 14 days.

He had some particularly sharp jabs for the Baltimore Sun, which published a cartoon that called him a "geezer" and an opinion column that assessed Schaefer as "a cranky Democrat past his political prime."

Schaefer said the paper "will do anything to make a person who speaks out look bad." Then, the longtime master of the visual image took out a toy fish and wrapped it in a copy of yesterday's edition.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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He doesn't need to sugarcoat anything......he's 82. I thought the Glendening thing is hysterical. This is really how politics should be, say something to someones face, not to the media. If your going to put a man down, have the balls to do it looking at him in the eyes, not a video camera.

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Originally posted by bigchuck

As a MD resident, Ive always admired Schaefer. He has always spoken what was on his mind. Unlike most politicians, he sugarcoats nothing.

You got to love Ol' Schaefer.

As a Republican, I have only voted for 2 Dems in my life, and he was one of them. He tells it like it is, and he will do what he thinks is right for MD, regardless if it is a conservative or liberal view point.

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Schaeffer is GREAT. I wish more politicians would speak what's on their mind. Glendening was the absolute worst. He left the budget in ruins because he knew he couldn't run for another term. Schaeffer merely called him out on it.... many, many times.

VT Shock Joe,

Yeah, like the young dishonest crooks are any better. :rolleyes: I guess honesty is obsolete these days.

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This is their most recent:


Ehrlich's Words vs. Maryland's Actions

Skeptic of Multiculturalism Presides Over Expanding Services in Foreign Languages

By Nurith C. Aizenman and Matthew Mosk

Washington Post Staff Writers

Friday, May 21, 2004; Page B01

Call Maryland's Department of Human Resources and a message will suggest that you "presione el numero dos para continuar en Espanol." Log on to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's Web site and you can download the state driver's handbook in Spanish.

Inform the clerks at the state Workers' Compensation Commission that you speak only Korean and they'll provide a translator at your hearing free of charge -- though to set it up, you will have to leave a message in English on the commission's "Limited English Proficiency Help line."

Even as Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has dismissed multiculturalism as "bunk" and "crap," state agencies have been moving -- sometimes haltingly -- toward making services accessible to residents who do not speak English.

A state law approved two years ago requires agencies to provide interpreters and translate vital documents when enough residents speak a particular foreign language. If such efforts appear out of sync with Ehrlich's stated desire to promote assimilation, the governor begs to differ.

"My words were very clear," the governor said in an interview. "My comments were not directed to the language issue. They were to make a point about this politically correct movement against assimilation."

Two weeks ago, Ehrlich ® set off a passionate debate when he defended Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) for publicly complaining about a difficult experience with a Spanish-speaking employee at a Severna Park McDonald's restaurant.

Asked about Schaefer's remarks, Ehrlich said on WBAL-AM radio: "Once you get into this multicultural crap, this bunk, you run into a problem. With respect to this culture, English is the language. Should we encourage young folks here to be assimilated, to learn the culture and values? Of course."

On the same radio show yesterday, he said that his remarks -- and the criticism he has received from some quarters -- were aimed more at a liberal philosophy than at any state policy. "When you deal with multiculturalism, you're touching one of the sacred grounds for the left," Ehrlich said. "One is abortion, one is gun control and of course multiculturalism being the third."

The governor has voiced support for state policies that benefit those struggling with English, including an education initiative that directs additional aid to schools with a large number of limited-English speakers and a school regulation mandating instruction on other cultures. He said he also supports the state's efforts to make public services accessible in other languages.

According to the 2000 Census, about 5 percent of state residents speak English "less than 'very well,' " with about half of them speaking Spanish and the rest speaking a number of other languages. About 40 percent of the limited-English speakers are concentrated in Montgomery County and another 20 percent in Prince George's -- meaning state offices in those counties must provide vital documents in Spanish and possibly several other languages.

Even in the absence of the state's mandates, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires all state agencies that receive federal funding to ensure that no one is barred from getting service because of their limited English. For years, many states, including Maryland, ignored that requirement. Then, in 2000, the federal government began issuing a series of guidelines detailing what state agencies must do.

A few states, including Maryland, developed their own laws to comply with federal guidelines, said Ann Morse, program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under Maryland's law, agencies must translate vital documents such as applications and hearing notices into a foreign language if more than 3 percent of the local jurisdiction they serve speaks that language and does not speak English.

In the District, the D.C. Council approved legislation last month requiring nearly two dozen city agencies to hire bilingual employees and translate official material into Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese and Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, as well as other tongues. The bill also requires the appointment of a citywide language-access coordinator within the D.C. Office of Human Rights.

In Virginia, the legislature has not codified the rules into a law, but many agencies provide these services on their own, said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the attorney general's office.

The degree to which state agencies have implemented Maryland's law is unclear. Although the measure will not be fully phased in until July 2006, some agencies -- such as the Department of Motor Vehicles -- are ahead of schedule.

The state Department of Human Resources, which administers many social welfare programs, has translated 50 to 100 documents into Spanish and Russian, given the needs of Baltimore's large immigrant population, said Shelly Mintz, the state attorney general's representative at the department.

The department also uses a wide range of interpreters from private firms and the University of Maryland. "Our goal is to do whatever is reasonable to provide equal access," she said. "So if you are the only person in your jurisdiction who speaks Twi" -- a language spoken in Ghana -- "we may not be able to find a live interpreter for you, but we will have a telephone service that will provide someone on the phone."

The Workers' Compensation Commission also provides interpreters at hearings. However, the commission's chairman, Thomas Patrick O'Reilly, said it does not provide any documents -- including hearing notices and decisions -- in other languages.

Kimberly Propeack, of the immigrant rights group Casa of Maryland, questioned whether the agency is complying with the law. "Don't get me wrong, what the Workers' Compensation Commission is doing now is significantly better than what they were doing before," she said. "But they have a long way to go."

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Wow, I like this guy. SOmeone that tells if like it is

Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich of Maryland, generally considered a moderate in a liberal state, cheered conservatives when he spoke out against multiculturalism last week, denouncing it as "bunk" while appearing on a local radio show.

"Once you get into this multicultural crap, this bunk, that some folks are teaching in our college campuses and other places, you run into a problem," Ehrlich said during an appearance on WBAL radio in Baltimore. "There is no such thing as a multicultural society that can sustain itself, in my view, and I think history teaches us this lesson."

"With regard to this culture, English is the language," said Ehrlich. "Can [immigrants] obviously honor their ethnic traditions and languages at home and other places? Of course. They are not mutually exclusive. The point here is there is a major distinction between ethnic pride, which is appropriate, and multiculturalism, which is damaging to the society in my view."

After Ehrlich made these remarks, his Annapolis office was deluged with reaction, pro and con. Ehrlich Press Secretary Shareese DeLeaver told me five days later, "That's the only thing I'm being asked about."

She added that the governor is not backing down: "The governor stands by his comments," she said. "He has neither apologized nor shied away from them."

Several high-profile Maryland Democrats tried to capitalize on what they perceived as a politically incorrect gaffe. "It is troubling to hear anyone degrade our diversity and multiculturalism," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, who may run against Ehrlich in 2006. State Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez told the Washington Post Ehrlich's remarks were "dangerous." "What I am sensing is that these kinds of comments from leadership, from people who are in high-level positions, are really fueling an environment that is very dangerous and negative," she said. When I reached her and asked if she meant that she did not want immigrants to learn English, she said, "No, nothing could be further from my position. As a former school board member, I am a strong advocate of learning English. My complaint is with [Ehrlich's] attitude."

Ehrlich's comments were prompted by earlier remarks by State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. Describing to the Board of Public Works how he was unable to communicate with a Spanish-speaking attendant at a McDonald's, Schaefer said, "I don't want to adjust to another language. This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us."

On WBAL, Ehrlich said his views were "very similar to the comptroller's." The next day, when reporters tried to get him to amend or withdraw his comments, Ehrlich said: "The words stand on their own. It's a common culture, and the last message we want to send out is for people to separate themselves. We should celebrate the common American culture, the common American values and the common American language. I think that's common sense."

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