For the fans at Camden Yards, a fresh catch

This Just In...

March 29, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

ORIOLE PARK, where the first shots were fired in the brie-Chablis-and-baseball revolution a decade ago, this season adds sushi to its menu. Stadium vendor Aramark will position sushi chefs at an Asian-themed stand near the club-level Diamond Bar to serve club and skybox patrons. Six bucks gets you a California or spicy tuna roll or two cucumber rolls.

Tzu Ming Yang, the entrepreneurial owner of Kawasaki on North Charles, will provide the chefs and the fish. Yang, who was born in China and grew up in Japan, says sushi is a staple of ballparks there, the cultural equivalent of the hot dog in America.

"We're trying to stay current with the trends," says Aramark executive chef Russell Szekely.

If the sushi is a hit, it may be expanded to the rest of the stadium, Szekely says. Which gives me the scary picture of vendors yelling, "Wasabi?" as they toss yellowtail to customers.

Bipartisan buddies

A letter from a regular reader, who uses Baltimore Joe for an e-mail handle, suggested that dabblers in political punditry were overlooking a large and obvious facet of the brewing campaign for governor: Martin O'Malley and Bobby Ehrlich are in bed. "If O'Malley enters the governor's race," Balto Joe wrote, "he'll split the Democratic vote with Kathleen K. Townsend and Ehrlich will back in with the win."

Translation: The Democratic primary will be a bloody mess, leaving Ehrlich in good shape to become Maryland's first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew. O'Malley will still be mayor, and someone he respects will get the daddy chair in Annapolis.

Interesting theory, except it's impossible to imagine Martin O'Malley getting into a campaign to lose it.

But I tend to agree with Balto Joe that O'Malley, the Democrat, and Ehrlich, the Republican, are kindred spirits. This was made abundantly clear Wednesday at the Board of Estimates meeting, where the two-year mayor had another one of his outbursts.

O'Malley castigated the American Civil Liberties Union for sending the city a bill for legal fees with an ad hominem diatribe to direct our attention away from a real issue - in this case, the 1996 federal court settlement that required the city to use millions of dollars in federal funds to break up its public high-rises and mainstream tenants into other areas of the city.

In a partial consent decree, the city and the ACLU agreed to work to relocate hundreds of public housing tenants long concentrated in city housing complexes.

Progress has been slow. In fact, a federal judge says the city has "substantially failed" to comply with the consent decree, while a federal magistrate describes the city's efforts as "sluggish." (This same magistrate, Judge Paul Grimm, invoked lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's "The River" to support the point of better housing being a reality for hundreds of poor families only with the city's compliance of the court order: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?")

In his first year as mayor, O'Malley had a chance to show some leadership by supporting a plan to move 10 low-income families into houses scattered around Northeast Baltimore. Instead, he appeased a room full of angry residents by saying he would back off the idea and get the court order changed.

O'Malley, the urban Democrat, has dismissed the remedy prescribed in the agreements with the ACLU as "forced busing applied to housing" and used a barnyard epithet to describe the court-validated concept of moving poor, black families out of overwhelmingly poor, black neighborhoods. Ehrlich, the suburban Republican congressman, offered a less crude but similar view in 1996.

"The ACLU and Baltimore have been working together from the outset to craft a plan which ... will compel black public housing residents to relocate to overwhelmingly white suburban neighborhoods," Ehrlich complained, suggesting that federal money go instead to fight crime, improve schools and renovate vacant homes. (Once there was a federal Vacant House Program here. Funds were cut during the Reagan years.)

So it must have been with glee that Ehrlich read of soul mate O'Malley's blast this week. The mayor called the ACLU a gang of "elitist, liberal, arrogant lawyers" who make him "really sick" because a federal judge ordered the city to pay the group's legal expenses related to its public housing discrimination lawsuit, to the tune of $1.1 million.

Leaving no one to doubt his skill at the cheap shot, O'Malley suggested ACLU lawyers haven't even "met the class they purport to represent," stinging overworked, underpaid attorneys who have taken the case of many a poor client and spent hundreds of hours - according to the city's own attorneys - meeting with public housing residents.

Congratulations to Susan Goering, the Maryland ACLU executive director, for her fine rope-a-dope rejoinder to all this:

"It's always hard when you're a public official [and] have a court say you haven't complied with the Constitution and you're still not. Some public officials handle that with more grace than others."

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