Between The Lines

April 28, 2003

The lighter side of the news.

Airing dirty laundry

Mayor Martin O'Malley loves to blame President Bush.

At the slightest provocation, he'll climb up on his soap box and lecture about the federal government's failure to pay for the city's homeland defense costs ("a failure to provide for the common defense!"), the neglect of social services in favor of tax breaks for big corporations ("trickle-down fiscal irresponsibility!"), the EPA's demand that the city fix its leaky sewers ("another unfunded mandate!").

Last week he was stumped. Pinned down, with nobody to blame.

During a Board of Estimates meeting about the city's rising water rates, Ouella Dorsey Queen, a resident of the 3300 block of Auchentoroly Terrace, complained that the water running out of her faucet was so brown and muddy it was staining the clothes in her washing machine.

O'Malley squirmed in his chair, trying to figure out the link to the White House.

"We can't blame the brown water on George Bush," he said, finally. "We'll blame everything else on him, though."

-- Tom Pelton

Shy and retiring?

City Council members, police officers and even Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. spoke during the retirement party Wednesday night for Gary McLhinney, a former Baltimore police union president and now chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

But Edward T. Norris -- state police superintendent and former city police commissioner -- backed out at the last minute, and one of his top deputies filled his slot on the podium.

Then, it was John McEntee's turn to step to the podium.

"This is the second time that I thought I would be following Ed Norris," McEntee joked, sending the crowd of 300 into laughter.

McEntee served briefly as city police commissioner after Norris abruptly resigned in December, and he expected to get the job full-time. But O'Malley hired New York police commander Kevin P. Clark instead. McEntee announced his retirement as deputy commissioner April 11.

-- Del Quentin Wilber

Political gymnastics

William Donald Schaefer is playing mind games with O'Malley.

Last week, a reporter asked the former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor about the persistent rumors -- encouraged by Schaefer's friends -- that Schaefer may challenge the young upstart (whom Schaefer calls "Banjo Joe") in the next mayoral election.

Schaefer laughed and said he likes O'Malley, despite his occasional jabs at him.

"We play games here, we play games there," Schaefer said. "I don't think I will. ... I'm just keeping O'Malley off-balance."

-- Tom Pelton

In a perfect world

Samuel B. Morse Elementary School fourth-grader Shawheen McIntosh wrote the winning city entry in this year's "If I Were Mayor I Would ..." essay contest, sponsored by the Maryland Municipal League. Excerpts of his essay:

I would clean the parks and fix the swings so kids can play. I would clean the water so the fish could be healthy and we would not get sick when we eat them. I would encourage people to recycle so we can cut back on waste and be friendly to the environment. ...

Our schools have problems, too. Too many teachers don't want to teach and too many children don't want to learn. There are fights every day. I would take all of the bullies and put them in one class, so they don't bother the kids who want to learn, and I would take the bad teachers and make them work somewhere else. If I were mayor I would clean up the hallways and bathrooms. I would also have better lunches for kids to eat. I would have art, and music and sports teams to play on.

-- Jon Morgan

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