Never mind that state aid 2 ingrates do Larry Thing

THIS JUST IN ...

June 26, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

THOSE ARE two ungrateful palookas -- the mayor of Baltimore and the executive of Prince George's County. They've both gone and done the Larry Thing, taking their cues from Larry Gibson, endorsing that woman from Harford County and flippin' a digit at the incumbent governor of Maryland, a fellow Democrat they say cannot be trusted.

Trusted to - what? - deliver badly needed funds for Baltimore and Prince George's?

That can't be right.

It was only April that we ran the numbers on the city's fortunes in the 1998 General Assembly - $711 million in total allocations, $50 million more than last year. Under the present governor, the state gave the city about $250 million for schools, not to mention $220 million for that football stadium hard by Russell Street. You'd think that would count for something. But not with the mayor of Baltimore.

Ditto the top man in PG, Wayne K. Curry.

In May, he bragged in the Washington Post about getting from Annapolis millions in additional funding for public education, as well as "record amounts of school construction funds." Gov. Parris N. Glendening pledged a four-year, $140 million state aid package to help build as many as 16 schools in his home county of Prince George's.

But that still wasn't good enough for Curry. So yesterday he did that Larry Thing and endorsed Eileen Rehrmann for governor.

Which means the Democratic Party is split. Which means, come January, Maryland could have its first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew.

Why is this happening?

Easy: All politics is personal. The governor humiliated the mayor on slot machines two years ago, and you just don't do that sort of thing without feeling the Wrath of Larry. Of course, it's a lousy reason to divide the party, but that's what happens when egos grow to Godzilla size. The complaint that the governor left Curry with a financial mess in PG is far more legitimate and serious, but we'd not hear Democrats utter a peep about it had Glendening not dissed the mayor on slots. You dis the mayor, you dis Larry. Millions for school kids don't matter. Larry wants to show everyone who's boss.

Mayor annoying

The mayor appears either anxious to tick off even more Baltimore taxpayers or, at long last, too arrogant to care that he does. Sometimes he vexes the overtaxed residents in big ways. Sometimes it's the little things.

By his mighty hand, approval has been given for an 8 percent increase in our water and sewer rates, the second such increase in three years. (City Comptroller Joan Pratt and City Council President Lawrence Bell voted against the increase at the Board Estimates session Wednesday.)

How much does 8 percent come to? For a big commercial user like Domino Sugar, already paying $700,000 a year, it means another $56,000. For the average city homeowner, we're talking another $30 per year, which wouldn't be so bad had the increase not come at a time when the mayor gives millions to millionaires who want to build hotels.

But maybe there's a good reason, right?

The mayor wouldn't do anything just willy-nilly, without thinking it all out. So the reason: The guys over in Public Works don't have enough cash reserves. They got a 19 percent rate increase two years ago and, sorry, it just wasn't enough. You like that reason? No? How about this one:

Of 25 U.S. cities surveyed in 1997, Baltimore has the lowest average water bill for commercial users. Looking at it from a competitive point of view, we're No. 1! We can't have that now, can we?

A name is a name is a name

Well, I've done it. I came up with the name for Chesapeake connoisseur John Shields' new restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art. (It's not supposed to be announced until tomorrow, so you heard it here first. That's why we call the column This Just In.)

Gertrude's will be the name, though Shields had to gave it the hard sell to his investors.

Why Gertrude's?

Shields had a popular restaurant in San Francisco that featured a cuisine drawn from the Chesapeake. The restaurant was named after John-boy's Baltimore grandma, Gertie. Shields sold the restaurant, came back East and went to work on a public television series on the food and folk of the bay. ("Chesapeake Bay Cooking With John Shields" premieres here at noon tomorrow on Channel 22. The companion book is excellent.) The restaurant at the BMA, replacing Donna's, is Shields' latest project. When I heard he was struggling over a name, I proposed Gertrude's, more formal than Gertie's, still nodding to grandma, but also to the late Gertrude Stein, literary figure, former Baltimore resident and fast friend of the Cone sisters, whose Matisse collection graces the BMA. It was Gertrude Stein and her brother, Leo, who persuaded the Cones to collect Matisse.

Shields and friends gather to watch the cooking show tomorrow at Nick's in the Cross Street Market. The place has good seafood, sushi, cold beverages, great employees, interesting customers and big-screen TV. What's not to like?

Canoers' paradise

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