'Hon' man is invited to City Hall

March 17, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Robert Timberg | JoAnna Daemmrich and Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writers

With a twinkle in his eye and, no doubt, a million bucks on his mind, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke invited the "Hon" man this morning to a personal summit at City Hall.

The mayor, who was challenged by the state Senate last night to get a life, flashed a downright boyish grin as he asked for a meeting with the civic elf who has led a crusade to add the word "Hon" to the "Welcome to Baltimore" sign on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

"I would really love to meet the 'Hon' man and talk this matter out," the mayor said. "The 'Hon' man, God bless him. I just hope he doesn't get hit in traffic."

"Hon" man, whose identity has never been made public, was not available this morning to respond.

State senators displayed an impish streak last night by adopting an amendment to the proposed state budget that would hold hostage $1 million in city highway funds until the sign is changed to read "Welcome to Baltimore, Hon!"

In recent years, first one prankster, then a second, has been altering the sign that greets commuters and visitors to the city by adding the word "Hon" -- Bawlamer's time-honored expression of fondness. No sooner does "Hon" man work his will, however, than someone -- presumably a grinch in the employ of the city -- takes down or erases his handiwork.

"It's a good old neutral term," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat. "We thought it might be a good idea to encumber some of the city's money until the mayor develops a sense of humor."

The joke was not lost on the mayor. At his weekly press briefing this morning, the mayor first hedged on the "Hon" sign, then promised if the City Council passes an ordinance to add the Baltimore endearment, he would sign it into law.

Mr. Schmoke said he even received a mysterious missive from the "Hon" man one recent evening when he was giving a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. He was handed a cylinder, in which he discovered a simple poster with the word "Hon" and an admonishment, "Remember."

However, the mayor warned that he's conducted his own informal poll and found many Baltimoreans are split on the endearment. "In some ways, it's kind of light and funny," he said. "But there are some real strong views out there. Some people think it's patronizing."

Despite the Senate's action, the city won't have to change its civic salutation unless the House of Delegates backs the amendment, too.

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