Leonard R. Skolnik, Former Chairman of City Board of Liquor Licensing Commissioners and Political Kingmaker, Dies – Baltimore Sun

Leonard R. Skolnik, former chairman of the city board of liquor license commissioners who was active in Democratic politics and had been a developer and apartment manager, died of heart failure July 12 at Sinai Hospital . The longtime Mount Washington resident was 85.

“Lenny Skolnik cared about people. He cared about Baltimore,” said retired Baltimore County District Court Judge Robert J. Steinberg, a friend of more than 50 years. “He cared about good honest government and was an expert on it.”

Leonard Ronnie Skolnik, the son of Russian and Romanian immigrant parents, was born in Baltimore and raised on Francis Street near Druid Hill Park. His father, Jack Skolnik, and mother, Elise Skolnik, were grocers and the family lived above their store.

Mr. Skolnik, a football and basketball enthusiast, was 14 when he started school at Baltimore City College High School and graduated two years later in 1952. After high school, despite his parents’ objections, he traveled to Israel where he lived on a kibbutz for a year.

After returning to Baltimore, he attended the old Baltimore Junior College for six months, then dropped out to take a counseling position at Camp Moshava. He then returned to college at the University of Baltimore where he earned an associate’s degree in accounting.

After working for a car dealership and realizing it wasn’t for him, family members said, he made a living for a time playing hearts, bridge and pinochle.

He then went to work for Baltimore developer Morton “Morty” Sarubin in property and project management. From 1974 to 1981, he managed the Uplands Apartments, a 1,000-unit apartment complex on Edmondson Avenue that spanned 45 acres.

Mr. Skolnik then oversaw development and later managed Fox Chase, a 2,100-unit apartment complex in Alexandria, Va., which was also owned by Mr. Sarubin.

After leaving Mr Sarubin, he worked for 15 years for the National Housing Partnership which became AIMCO, where he worked for two years until his retirement in 1996.

In 1961 he married the former Sandra “Sandy” Morrison, who later became executive director of the Maryland Committee for Children and head of the Baltimore City Board of Election Supervisors. In 1965 they moved into a house on Everton Road in Mount Washington where they lived for decades.

The couple shared a love of Democratic politics and were founders and active members of the former 5th District Reform Democratic Organization. They also helped chair the campaigns of former state senators Rosalie S. Abrams and Barbara A. Hoffman.

“I learned club politics as a teenager in Lenny Skolnik’s house. Everton Road was the birthplace of the 5th District Reform Democrats – FDR,” Judge Steinberg said in his eulogy. “Our members have become legendary: Barbara and Donald Hoffman, Rosalie Abrams, Ben Cardin, Tom Waxter. We filled Lenny’s living room. Never an officer, never a candidate, Lenny has orchestrated every alliance, crafted every ticket and overseen every campaign. Why? Because he liked it.

“Leonard created the alliance between Clarence Blount’s Five in Five Democratic Club and FDR. In the 1970s, we won in the former 5th District with the first integrated ticket ever elected in Northwest Baltimore.

Judge Steinberg said in a telephone interview that “the candidates ignored his advice at their peril. Others took advantage of his political instincts and wisdom.

Mr. Skolnik played a pivotal role in Martin J. O’Malley’s campaign for mayor.

“It was Leonard who decided Martin O’Malley was the best man for mayor when he was an underdog in a crowded primary the first time he ran citywide. approval was pronounced on the lawn of the home of Barbara and Donald Hoffman,” Judge Steinberg recalled in his eulogy. “Leonard did it!”

In 1997, Skolnik was appointed to the Board of Liquor License Commissioners and served as chairman until his resignation in 2003.

When a spate of nearby underage drinking took place at a number of York Road bars in 1999 near Belvedere Square, the liquor board determined that the students were using fake IDs or fake driving licenses that could have been bought or borrowed from a friend. .

“Everyone has twins there,” Mr Skolnik told The Sun in an interview. “Surprising.”

“He had fun fining people for selling alcohol to minors when, of course, as a boy he drank himself,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family.

“But all of his power doesn’t impress Leonard half as much as the fact that his position allows him to do something he never thought possible: silence lawyers at liquor board hearings,” he said. noted Baltimore magazine in 2000 when they named Mr. and Mrs. Skolnik a local power couple. “’I say, ‘Cancelled,’ he sings. “’And they listen to me! It’s a riot.

They had protested housing racism, fought for civil rights and participated in the 1963 March on Washington where they stood on The Mall and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We were dyed-in-the-wool walkers,” Ms. Skolnik told the magazine. “There was nothing we didn’t walk for or against.”

She died in 2007.

The couple enjoyed spending time at a second home they owned in Falling Waters, West Virginia.

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A folk music enthusiast, Mr. Skolnik, who enjoyed listening to Pete Seeger and the Weavers, was also a classical music enthusiast.

Judge Steinberg said Mr Skolnick “was fiercely loyal to his friends”.

“Leonard Skolnik turned stumbling blocks into stepping stones,” Judge Steinberg said in his eulogy. “Leonard Skolnik was brave because his principles overcame his fears. Simply put, Leonard Skolnik’s life was a moment of human consciousness.

“But Leonard had what it took in terms of character and intelligence,” according to the biographical profile. “He understood that a person should be kind and genuine. You shouldn’t think you know everything; you should listen when people are talking because you would learn something. Common sense and learning from books, as he would say, go hand in hand. Well, it’s the derekh eretz Jewish ethical credentials that characterize a good man. Leonard was, and his memory is for a blessing.”

He was a member of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Services were held July 15 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

Mr. Skolnik is survived by one son, Adam D. Skolnik of Canton; his daughter, Baltimore District Court Judge Rachel E. Skolnik of Mount Washington; and three grandchildren.

Milton S. Rodgers