HARD TO TELL from his letter if the mayor of Baltimore has ordered dismissal of the $50 "environmental control" citation against Willard Leroux for growing tomatoes behind Gertrude Stein's old house (TJI, Oct. 18). But one thing is certain -- Martin O'Malley has learned a few things about taking care of loyal constituents and even winning back a soured one. Last week, he issued a smart and classy response to the longtime Mount Vernon resident, who found the city's crackdown on his "weeds" ridiculous, especially in light of Baltimore's chronic trash problem. The mayor agreed.
"Dear Mr. Leroux," O'Malley wrote on Oct. 24. "If it wasn't enough for you to receive a citation for growing unsightly `high grass/weeds,' you also had to endure the error of your name in the ensuing correspondence."(O'Malley's office and the city's Environmental Control Board had referred to Leroux as "Mr. Willard" in letters responding to his original complaint about the citation.)
"Please accept my sincere apologies for all of the above," the mayor continued. "Urban gardening is always welcomed and certainly encouraged within the confines of one's property. Regrettably, since it apparently was not a bumper crop for you this year, one would hope that even without the plant showing one, red lycoperscion esculentum on the vine that a knowledgeable source would not have issued the citation.
"It is clear that you care about Baltimore and your staying power certainly reflects that commitment. May this incident not deter your spirit. I can assure you that we will remain tough on crime and grime, but `tough on tomatoes' was [not] and will never be a priority or a consideration in my administration."
Good show, Mr. O.
Clean focus, potty mouth?
As clever as that letter was, you'd expect a little more from Mr. O. on the serious question of the state's financial support of drug addiction treatment in Baltimore.
"I understand the budget process," he told our City Hall reporter Wednesday. "What I don't know is why I'm getting jerked around for seven months."
Not a profanity, of course, but borderline barroom talk, and not the kind of prose that wins a public argument -- especially at a time when you've asked the governor for $300 million for a Digital Harbor.
The "jerked around" whine struck me as similar to O'Malley's statement in the legislature last winter: "I'd like to throw up when I hear sworn judicial officers of this state saying we should have a celebration."
Hey, after 12 years of City Hall as Sleepy Hollow, it's nice to hear a mayor using a sharp tongue again -- especially when he's trying to get blockheads moving on an urgent public health matter.
And O'Malley is absolutely correct about the moral imperative of the nation's wealthiest state, sassy with a budget surplus, committing more resources to end the scourge of heroin and cocaine addiction in the city.
But there's a way to spice rhetoric with urgency and drama, and not sound as if you just had a few at Mick O'Shea's.
As the letter to Willard Leroux demonstrates, there's a big difference between being clever and being crude.
Shoot from the lip, and you could shoot yourself in the foot.
For a good laugh, dial ...
National Discount Brokers, the Jersey City, N.J.-based brokerage that uses a duck for its logo -- "We take you under our wing" -- has a message for America: Your best option is probably laughter.
See what I mean with a quick phone call to NDB: 1-800-888-3999. Then listen for your choices. I suggest option No. 7. I wish Groucho were alive to hear this.
Bowl-off to aid Southway
Champions of duckpin bowling and the Southway Lanes have formed a committee to save the lanes, and the new owners, who are bent on turning the place into "New York-style loft apartments," have allowed time for the salvage.
To raise money for the extraction of lanes and equipment, the committee is staging a three-day fund-raiser, "Spare South Way: The Great Baltimore Bowl-off," during the weekend of Nov. 10.
"We've scheduled eight, four-hour time slots during those three days," says Sue Tobin, one of the committee members.
For a $250 tax-deductible donation, five bowlers get a lane for four hours.(For more information, call 410-752-6671). Sounds like a smile. Quintet anyone?
Do lyrics to `Blue' baffle you?
I've been listening closely to the Eiffel 65 song "Blue," on the group's "Europop" CD.
It's strange, and it's as catchy as Velcro, with that seductive techno dance beat I never thought I would like.
In fact, I've been listening way too much.
I've become fixated on the cosmic rap lyrics. "Blue" has a refrain that, officially, goes: "I'm blue da ba dee da ba die."
But the neighborhood youth and I are pretty convinced the lyrics are actually, "I'm blue, if I was green I would die."
Anybody else had this problem?
TJIDan@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166 or by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.