- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2004

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says he agrees with Democratic Comptroller William Donald Schaefer’s criticism of immigrants who don’t speak English.

Multiculturalism, said the governor, is “damaging to the society.”

“Once you get into this multicultural [stuff], this bunk, that some folks are teaching in our college campuses and other places, you run into a problem,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said during an appearance on WBAL-AM radio Thursday. “There is no such thing as a multicultural society that can sustain itself, in my view, and I think history teaches us this lesson.”

Mr. Schaefer’s earlier complaints about fast-food workers who don’t speak English drew criticism last week from Hispanic leaders who said he displayed an insensitivity toward immigrants.

Mr. Schaefer’s remarks also could hurt Democratic Party efforts to build support among members of racial minorities in Maryland, said Delegate Victor R. Ramirez, Prince George’s Democrat.

“It’s definitely inappropriate,” Mr. Ramirez said. “I respect him as a politician, but I think the statements were way out of line.

Mr. Schaefer often begins meetings of the Board of Public Works by sounding off about something that he finds annoying or upsetting. On Wednesday, it was service at fast-food restaurants by employees who speak little English.

The comptroller recounted two recent instances in which he had trouble placing an order, including a stop for breakfast on the way to work that day.

“I gave my order to the new girl, a nice little girl,” he said. “She was very accommodating. The little girl beside her had to take the order. I don’t want to adjust to another language. This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us.”

Roberto Allen, president of the Baltimore Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the comments were troublesome.

“It just seems like it’s a counterproductive kind of commentary,” Mr. Allen said.

Still, he agrees that immigrants should learn English.

“But if somebody just starting here is working in a fast-food job that nobody else wants, what are they supposed to do?” Mr. Allen asked. “They sort of learn the language at work.”

Michael Golden, a spokesman for Mr. Schaefer, said the comptroller believes most Americans and most Marylanders expect that people serving them will be speaking the same language.

“That isn’t a swipe against immigrants,” he said. “It’s just part and parcel of doing business in this country.”

• Matter of principle

Virginia state Sen. Charles R. Hawkins, Pittsylvania County Republican, was unable to be in Richmond on Friday to cast his intended vote for the final budget compromise because of pressing personal business.

Sen. Stephen D. Newman, Lynchburg Republican, a conservative who opposed the nearly $60 billion budget, was there to vote, but he didn’t. To him, it was a matter of principle.

In explaining his decision not to vote on the budget, Mr. Newman said that had Mr. Hawkins been present, their votes would have canceled each other out. So, with passage clearly assured, Mr. Newman chose not to vote out of respect for the net outcome had Mr. Hawkins been present.

The Senate passed the bill 32-5, ending the record 115-day General Assembly session. Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax County Democrat, was also absent and did not vote.

• Incumbents out

The first Tuesday in May was a bad day for incumbents on city councils in three Virginia cities. And a mayor went down to defeat, too.

In Portsmouth, voters ousted two City Council incumbents, paving the way for three new members and possibly moving the power base away from longtime Mayor James W. Holley III, who was unopposed in his re-election bid.

In a campaign dominated by talk of taxes, school funding and Portsmouth’s finances, incumbents J. Thomas Benn and Cameron C. Pitts were on the losing end of the race for three at-large seats on the seven-member council.

“The people of Portsmouth have sent a message,” said lawyer Stephen E. Heretick, who garnered the most votes. “They want fresh faces and fresh voices making the decisions.”

Mr. Heretick campaigned on a platform of cutting city spending and directing more money to help the struggling school system retain teachers. His running mate, former School Board Chairman Ray A. Smith Sr., finished second with a similar message.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Heretick are expected to bring power to existing council members who have been outvoted on redevelopment matters.

Businesswoman Elizabeth M. Psimas won the third seat.

In Harrisonburg, voters swept out three newcomers who had transformed the City Council four years ago. Challengers Charles R. Chenault, George W. Pace and Rodney L. Eagle outpolled the three first-term incumbents, according to unofficial results. Mr. Eagle was voted out as mayor in 2000.

Incumbents Carolyn W. Frank, Dorn W. Peterson and Joseph Fitzgerald finished out of the running.

The three 2004 election losers had swept into power on the five-member council four years earlier. They were part of a grass-roots movement against the council’s decision to build a municipal golf course in the city’s west end.

Mr. Fitzgerald changed his mind on the issue once assuming office, arguing that construction plans had progressed too far to halt them without substantial losses to the city.

Members subsequently drew criticism for frequent bickering among themselves and for strained relations with the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors.

In Fredericksburg, Mayor Bill Beck lost his bid for a second term to a political newcomer, Dr. Thomas Tomzak, who said he thinks he won Tuesday’s election because of his stand on taxes and the need to plan for transportation and increased traffic.

Two at-large seats on the Fredericksburg City Council also were up for grabs, and two-term incumbent Scott Howson came in last in the four-candidate field. Debbie Girvan and Kerry John were the two top vote getters.

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