Woman keeps up her end of the deal - and gets a city fine for her troubles

July 30, 2000|By GREGORY KANE

"THERE WAS A little boy, the cutest thing, who couldn't have been more than 10."

Sheila Hull, owner and chief hairdresser of the Hollywood Beauty Salon, worked conditioner into the scalp of a woman as she spoke. She's 54 now, much of her clientele older, and she still refers to her elders with a respectful "Miss."

She's from another generation, you know. The ones who grew up saying "Yes, sir" and "Yes, ma'am" to grown-ups. The ones who went to school knowing the agenda was learning, not disrupting. The ones who took pride in keeping a clean neighborhood. Today, even before the clock struck 9 in the morning, she was holding forth in the salon she has owned, by her estimation, more than 20 years now.

"He does nothing but sell drugs all day," Hull said about the 10-year-old boy. "He stands out there and counts his money."

"Out there" is the corner of Hull's shop at Monument and Port streets in East Baltimore. She works 12-hour days, frequently opens before 8:30 a.m. and has to sweep up the trash that drug dealers and addicts leave in front of her property overnight. She stuffs the debris - some of it drug paraphernalia - into a bag and leaves it in a trash can provided by the city on a corner in front of her salon.

For her efforts, city officials rewarded Hull with a citation for using the trash can and fined her $100.

Apparently, they didn't know who they were dealing with. This is the same Hull who has waged a relentless campaign to rid the Monument Street business corridor of drugs and crime. She's written to Gov. Parris Glendening, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, former mayor Kurt Schmoke, state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden and Del. Talmadge Branch. The citation led her to whip off a letter to Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"I have no choice but to clean the trash that surrounds the area around my salon before and after entering the building ... every day for the safety of my clients," Hull wrote. "There are drug addicts who leave their used paraphernalia on the corners and sidewalks of my salon and behind my salon everyday. There are food boxes and other trash items left there constantly. If I do not go out and clean the area myself or pay someone to do it for me, filling at least a bag or two a day, then my clients and I would be stepping over and into trash in order to enter my establishment. Where else should I deposit these filled bags of trash if not in receptacles that are provided on the corners that half the people who are shoppers, loiterers or just passing by seem to miss."

Some of the trash is so disgusting, Hull says as she rinses the conditioner from her customer's hair, that she refuses to keep it in her trash cans. So she uses the ones provided by the city. Drug dealers and addicts are the city's problem, thus city trash cans should be used for their garbage. Sounds fair.

O'Malley received Hull's letter and referred it to Richard Krummerich, the executive director of the Environmental Control Board for "review, consideration, and if warranted, further action."

Hull is used to such responses by now. She's been getting them from government officials for years.

"Although I sympathize with your plight, as a U.S. senator I feel that I can best assist my constituents in matters pertaining to federal legislation and federal agencies," Mikulski wrote in reply to one of Hull's missives. "The matter you raise is more appropriately handled at the state or local level."

Glendening passed his letter on to Schmoke. McFadden contacted Eastern District police about Hull's complaints. The most passionate letter was from Branch to a police major at the Eastern District. Branch's mother is one of Hull's regular customers.

Schmoke, while not helping much, did provide some insight into what Hull - and he, as mayor - were facing.

"Clearly, we must get more adults involved with their children and make certain that the adults are handling their own problems of trash and sanitation matters," the former mayor replied.

Hull reclined in the hairdressing chair, waiting for the customer's hair to dry. Without mentioning Schmoke - or any other public official, for that matter - she offered her theory on why much of society has gone to hell.

"Parents need to take back control of their children," she asserted. "We had rules and regulations in my house, and everybody followed them. Don't tell me you can't do nothing with a 5-year-old child. You can, if you start [the discipline] when they're five days old."

Hull and her husband both worked - he at Bethlehem Steel, she at the salon and another job - to put all their children through private school. She is not allergic to hard work, and Hull has little sympathy for those who hang on the corners, take drugs and complain they can't find work.

"Miss Norris, there's no reason why these people can't work," she tells her customer. "There are jobs out there. If you only have a McDonald's mentality, work at McDonald's."

She's a tough one, this Sheila Hull. Addicts and dealers hanging around her property know to hit the road when they see her coming. Now, city officials have aroused her ire.

It makes you feel almost sorry for them.

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