Image is everythingTHE developers planning to build a...

Sometimes Scene in the County

January 25, 1998|By Tom Pelton Sending a message

Image is everything

THE developers planning to build a 54,800-seat auto race track west of Fort Meade are trying to construct an image as much as a sports arena.

After being driven out of Baltimore County by residents who found the proposal obnoxious, the Middle River Racing Association has been trying to convince Anne Arundel County that stock-car races are a sophisticated, even high-brow form of entertainment.

Forget the roar of engines, the squeal of tires, the beery hoots and grandstands fuzzy with mustaches.

Think of racing as a feminine thing. The sport preferred by women, families and professionals.

The track should be thought of not as a loop of blacktop, but as a "motor sports university," where people with an interest in the industry could expand their minds, the racing association's Joseph Mattioli III said during a recent meeting with neighbors.

Perhaps thinking that a Sun reporter would best understand if he were treated as a fellow intellectual, Chris Lencheski of the MRRA compared the racing association's plans to the philosophies of Immanuel Kant.

"I am not a developer," sniffed developer Melissa Berge. "Throughout my life, I have always been a volunteer for social causes who has always tried to give back to the community.

"My father started Cellular One and sold it," said Berge, who made it clear that she is rich. "We decided to build a state-of-the-art, elegant motor raceway."

Elegant truck races. Upscale tailgate parties. Debonair motorcycle stunt men jumping over recreational vehicles in the parking lot.

The illusion ended Monday when dozens of out-of-town racing fans rallied by the track's supporters packed a community meeting at the Resurrection Roman Catholic Church on Brock Bridge Road.

Leather jackets. Long hair. NASCAR T-shirts. One sophisticate tried to smuggle a paper cup of beer into the church.

THE Ku Klux Klan and the Republican Party took a rhetorical beating Monday from politicians at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold. First, County Executive John G. Gary, a Republican, suggested violence against Klansmen when they stage a rally in Annapolis on Feb. 7. Then, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, compared Republicans in Congress holding up President Clinton's judicial and Cabinet appointments to Klansmen.

"I thought we gave the Klan the message the last time that we didn't want them here," Gary said, recalling a demonstration in October 1994 in which about two dozen Klansmen were shouted down by a crowd of 300 at Lawyers Mall and another 500 people marched up Main Street in a counterdemonstration.

"Maybe they need a 2-by-4 alongside the head to get the message," he said, setting off shocked murmurs in the crowd.

Mikulski, the keynote speaker, accused Republicans of "hiding in committees and hiding in processes" to anonymously bottle up Clinton appointments, then criticized Klansmen for "hiding behind hoods and white sheets."

"Let's tear down the mask of anonymity," she said. "Let's take off the sheets of the Klan and destroy their anonymity."

Joel McCord

Random kindness

RECENTLY, while trying to shove a dresser into my tiny car trunk, I landed on the receiving end of a random act of kindness.

I'd seen a cute walnut four-drawer dresser around lunchtime at Goodwill in Annapolis. I paid $75 for it and then went back after work to pick it up and take it home. A wiry, blue-eyed teen-ager named Kit, who was helping customers as part of a community service punishment meted out for motor vehicle violations, came outside in the rain carrying some rope. He tried to help me load it into the trunk of my Nissan Sentra. But no matter how we tried to turn and twist it, there was no way it was fitting in there.

Having no Plan B, no immediate prospects for an alternative, I asked the store clerk if I could have a refund but, citing store policy, she said she could only offer store credit. Just then Kit's dad pulled up in a blue Ford truck with a flatbed to take Kit home.

I told him my sob story and before I knew it, Kit and Chuck were loading my dresser into their truck and following me on 40-minute trip from Annapolis to my North Baltimore apartment. When we arrived, they jumped out, carried it up a flight of stairs and set it up in my apartment, telling me they enjoyed the drive because they got to sightsee on their way through town.

And all they would take as payment was money for a tank of gas -- and my most heartfelt thanks.

Elaine Tassy

Higher ground

MARJORIE Holt was the first woman Marylanders sent to Congress, and she served in Washington for 14 years.

Holt fought against the harassment of female soldiers while sitting on the Armed Services Committee and was widely respected for writing and maneuvering budget legislation through the House.

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