Economists, lawyers, kids --and 'hooters'



Why Lawyers Were Invented

You are a shareholder in Baltimore Bancorp. You watched with interest last April as First Maryland Bancorp offered to buy your shares for $17 in cash -- nearly $7 above its market price at the time. The offer was spurned.

During the summer and fall, Baltimore Bancorp continued to resist First Maryland's offer, with Chairman Harry Robinson leading the way in expressing the bank's interest in remaining independent and in suggesting that the $17 price was inadequate. You also watched as the stock market, and particularly banking stocks, went into the tank.

Even though First Maryland's offer is contingent on a full examination of Baltimore Bancorp's books, and could always be reduced somewhat, you might be forgiven just a touch of wonderment at Baltimore Bancorp's continued silence on this possible merger.

Last week, you watched as First Maryland withdrew its $17-a-share offer, on a day when your shares in Baltimore Bancorp were trading for slightly more than $5 share.


Why Economists Were Invented

Despite months of announcements of an impending slowdown, the nation's gross national product rose during the third quarter at a surprisingly robust annual rate of 1.8 percent. And the national unemployment rate in October held steady at 5.7 percent.

Maryland's jobless rate for September was also stable at 4.5 percent, although the unemployment rate in Baltimore continued be uncomfortably high -- 7.5 percent.

Balanced against these optimistic signs are a horde of negative indicators, including almost daily reports of substantial corporate write-downs and layoffs. Given the negative consumer psychology that has started to show up in sentiment polls, it's widely believed that the economy is declining right now.

The index of leading economic indicators was off substantially for the second month in a row -- three consecutive declines are considered a sure bet of a drop in the economy. The monthly survey of purchasing managers -- the folks who handle organizational purchasing needs -- is recording dismal demand for new goods and services. Even the steady unemployment figures belie an economy that is losing jobs -- only a dip in the labor pool kept October's jobless rate from rising.

Why Hooters Were Invented

Hooters is a nickname for owls.

The chicken wings 'n' brew chain called Hooters that recently opened up in downtown Baltimore's Harborplace is named after a collection of stuffed owls.

The well-endowed young women who work at the restaurant believe in showing off their stuffed Hooters, which is a nickname for owls.

To help show off their stuffed Hooters, which is a nickname for owls, the well-endowed young women who work at the restaurant wear revealing white T-shirts and bright orange shorts.

The Rouse Co., which runs Harborplace, is to be congratulated for bringing Hooters to Baltimore.

Harborplace is a good place to bring your kids for family activities.

Why Kids Were Invented

The Toys R Us chain, which has located its wildly successful toy-discount stores in suburban sites, is testing a downtown location in Manhattan. If the experiment succeeds, the chain may open units in other downtown locations.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor should be an ideal site for such a store, which would build on the area's deserved reputation as an entertainment center.

Along with The Sharper Image and some lesser-known stores, Toys R Us would provide downtown with a major draw in the adult game-playing business. In fact, an inventory of the shops already here might suggest some interesting possibilities for showcasing a range of play toys for grown-ups.

And, although Toys R Us is known generally for kids' games, the recent surge in Nintendo and other electronic video games has made it increasingly attractive to aging Baby Boomers.

Lastly, Baltimore's large convention business should guarantee a stream of out-of-town buyers who are also interested in a broader range of kids' toys.

Why Was the New CCB Invented?

The New Community College of Baltimore is looking all too much like the old CCB -- under-funded and with insufficient institutional energy to tackle present and future challenges.

This year's state takeover of CCB from the city of Baltimore was designed to provide new management and direction for the institution, streamline (translation: weed out) its faculty and, eventually, pump new money into the school.

Sadly, the state's fiscal pinch threatens to squeeze CCB all too hard. The prospect of funding cuts -- from already meager levels -- erodes what little staff morale still exists at CCB.

The cutbacks also make it nearly impossible for the school to respond to the challenge of improving its services to a group of undereducated kids and young adults badly in need of remedial and technical training.

Hopes for turning CCB's downtown campus into a strong training center for local businesses were strongly linked to an on-again, off-again "search" to find a strong director for the downtown program.

Finally, after nearly two years, a Washington woman was found to fill this position. Mysteriously, she resigned scarcely a week into her new job, offering no public explanation.

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