Karaoke is way to go to select next mayor

This Just In...

July 23, 1999|By Dan Rodricks

THOSE WHO HAVE heard it believe my proposal for a Candidates Karaoke Night favors Martin O'Malley, but I disagree. True, the O-Man is the only candidate for mayor with his own band and the experience of singing to crowds, but he's a niche performer at best, and it's not like he's down with the funk. The guy sings Celtic rock ballads -- and a little bit of that goes a long, long way.

Make him sing something by Silkk The Shocker, and we'll see what O'Malley's made of.

And we'd make the first-ever Candidates Karaoke Night fair for all contenders. Such an event -- televised live from The Forum, with local DJs picking the songs each candidate gets to sing -- would be an entertaining way for voters to get more information about all these candidates. I guarantee killer ratings.

Voters need help making a choice because making a choice in the September primary is getting more complicated by the day.

The issues alone give me a headache. We need to know not only where each candidate stands on crime and education, but how they feel about the Bromo Seltzer Tower being turned into apartments.

And there's all that "character stuff" to consider. It keeps turning up, like gum on your flip-flops.

We've had one candidate (Republican Dorothy Joyner Jennings) arrested on a burglary warrant. There's another (Democrat Phillip A. Brown) with a criminal record and current charges of harassment and reckless endangerment.

Then there's Carl Stokes fudging the truth about graduating from Loyola College.

This week, it's Lawrence Bell and his creditors. The Sun reported yesterday that Bell was sued for $12,000 in condominium fees and that his 1996 Mustang was repossessed because he couldn't keep up the payments.

If it wasn't clear before, we now have the reason Bell wants to be mayor -- it pays $30,000 more than his $65,000-a-year job as City Council president. He needs the cash. Who can blame the guy?

Less explicable is Mary Conaway's candidacy. She wants to give up a cushy $75,000-a-year job as register of wills to be mayor.

I don't get it.

Unless, having dealt with the dead for so many years, Conaway finds City Hall appealing.

Or maybe she's just sick of being register of wills.

I mean, it's not a hands-on glamour job, like medical examiner. I don't remember seeing any "Homicide" episodes with the register of wills as the pivotal character. You don't actually deal with the dead. You deal with paperwork of the dead -- wills and estates.

Which leads me to conclude that Mary Conaway must have a lot of good clerical skills by now.

And that's no small thing. "Sit tight, everybody!" one can almost hear a Mayor Conaway say at a Board of Estimates meeting, "I'll run off a few copies of these paving contracts. Don't vote on anything till I get back!"

(Pardon me, while I have an interlude: Being register of wills, with 60 employees and an annual budget of $20 million, is as good as any qualification for mayor of Baltimore -- with the possible exception of the directorship of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.)

Still, I'm wondering why Conaway would want to give up a job that pays $75,000 -- and she doesn't even have to go to the office every day.

That's what she told The Sun: "The register of wills isn't expected to sit in the office. My employees are very capable. ... I don't have to be in my office every day."

That's a good gig. Why give it up to run for mayor?

I heard Conaway during a candidates forum and didn't really get an answer to that question. I got the impression her platform is still a work in progress.

But I'll tell you one thing: That woman is loud. And passionate. I said to myself: She'd make a good preacher.

Then I discovered something: She is a preacher.

The register of wills is such a good job that, during the time Conaway held that position, she was able to be a full-time student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and get a master's of divinity degree.

She wants to give this up to be mayor? I don't get it.

(Pardon me while I have another interlude: I can't say Conaway doesn't have a shot in a Democratic primary with 16 other candidates. She has a lot of name recognition. She and her husband, Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway, have run for office numerous times. They've worked the political networks hard for a couple of decades.)

The choice is going to be tough for city voters. We'll need all the information we can get. We'll need a vigilant press. We'll need to attend candidates forums. We'll need televised debates.

Most of all, we need a Candidates Karaoke Night.

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