ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 16 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer was inaugurated to a second term today, promising "the four most interesting and productive years in the history of the state of Maryland" despite the gathering clouds of war and recession.
Under skies that cleared only briefly, Schaefer told a crowd of several hundred outside the State House that uncertainty about the future is no excuse for stagnation.
"There's a threat in the Persian Gulf. There's uncertainty about the future . . . . There's a sense of loss of optimism and confidence," said Schaefer, whose planning for the next four years has been hampered by budget shortfalls and bad economic news.
"It would be easy now to be scared, to say that we can't do anything because we're worried about the economy, to have a long face . . . . Right now we can't afford to be afraid. We can't afford to sit still and do nothing and wait for the economy to improve. Yes, we must have faith. Faith in ourselves. Yes, we have to be optimistic, even in the face of adversity."
Schaefer seemed to have overcome his long disappointment at the size of his November victory. In his upbeat address, he told the crowd that during his second and final term he will not succumb to lame-duck apathy and scoffed at the criticism that he is a big spender out of touch with the people.
"I'm a healthy duck that's full of energy, ready to take off and soar to new heights," he said.
During the campaign, "they made me sound like Donald Trump and not Don Schaefer. I'm still the guy who came from West Baltimore four years ago . . . . I'm still the guy who likes to go down to Ocean City and flounder fish . . . . I'm still the guy who likes to shop and compete with the women when there's a sale going on."
Schaefer and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, both Democrats, took the oath of office about noon in the Senate chamber. It was the 109th inauguration ceremony since Maryland became a state in 1777.
Afterward, Schaefer received congratulations from an aide to President Bush and delivered a half-hour inaugural address that was peppy but laced with references to the Persian Gulf crisis. From behind a lectern adorned with a yellow ribbon in support of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the governor said Marylanders and the rest of the nation should remain united during a war.
"America must not be pulled apart by dissension," said Schaefer, 69, a veteran of World War II. "We must have faith in our president, work with him, support him, as I do."
The situation overseas and doubtful economic times at home lent a somber cast to a normally festive day in the state capital.
"I feel like a spear carrier in an opera," state Sen. Howard A. Denis (R-Montgomery) said of the pageantry. "Reality waits out there."
Legislative reaction to the governor's address, though, was generally positive. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) called it "bold" for such uncertain times, while U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said the aggressive strategy was proper.
"I don't expect him to let tough times in Maryland prevent him from doing the job," Hoyer said.
House Majority Leader D. Bruce Poole (D-Frederick/Washington) said the weather was a sign of things to come. "In the next four years, there's going to be plenty of clouds, but sunny times too," he said.
However, House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey (R-Baltimore County) said, "He's calling for a lot of additional spending and programs when I think the mood of people is to retrench and make do."
Schaefer's policy agenda for the next year will be laid out in more detail during his State of the State speech Friday, but today he singled out the $800 million tax overhaul plan developed under the guidance of Montgomery County lawyer R. Robert Linowes.
"We have to seriously consider the Linowes report now," Schaefer said. "Not study it, not put it off . . . . It's only complicated to those who want it to be."
He also said the state should keep up its construction schedule and not let economic uncertainty cause a slowdown in building.
"Now, when times are tough, it is not the time to stop, to remain status quo," Schaefer said. "We have to keep building: the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure, the housing, the recreation centers, plant trees . . . . If the state won't invest in Maryland, how can we expect businesses to?"
Before taking the oath of office, Schaefer gathered with friends and fellow politicians at a State House reception. He was sworn in on two Bibles, a personal one and an official state Bible dating from 1856. His pledge to uphold the state and U.S. Constitutions was greeted with a 19-gun salute from 105mm howitzers set up by the Maryland Army National Guard.
Attendance was depressed by the rain. Many of the seats set aside for the general public were not filled. And the morning's entertainers, including gospel choirs and a military band, found themselves performing for only a few grounds workers and security officers weathering the storm to finish preparations.
The area inside and around the capitol was under tight security. There were as many as 300 state troopers and National Guard members serving as escorts or guards.
As Schaefer left a reception and walked toward the Senate Chamber, a trooper watched from an overhead walkway, an automatic weapon at the ready. Sharpshooters eyed the ceremonies from a State House window and from a cupola atop a nearby legislative office building.
"Security has been upgraded" not because of the world situation and the threat of terrorism but because of recent protests against state budget cuts, said Lt. Col. Howard S. Freedlander, a spokesman for the state's military department.