Between The Lines


December 01, 2003

Going without the flow

On a balmy-but-dreary post-Thanksgiving Friday, Baltimore could have used the bright, splashing cheer of public fountains. But alas, on the second day of a four-day holiday, almost all of the city's major fountains were turned off.

At midday, only the fountain on Eutaw Street between Lafayette and McMechen bubbled merrily, along with a pair of privately operated fountains in an enclosed two-level park at 1928 Pennsylvania Ave. operated by Martha's Place, a transitional home for women recovering from addictions.

Among conspicuous no-flows: the fountains in Mount Vernon Place, those in Hopkins Place in front of the Mechanic Theatre on the northwest corner of Charles and Pratt, along St. Paul Place, and - perhaps most famous - in Druid Hill Park Lake. (This fountain is said to operate only when a Baltimore mayor is running for re-election.)

The Inner Harbor was crawling with tourists Friday, but they couldn't enjoy the waterfalls on McKeldin Square at Pratt and Light, nor the ornamental fountain in Market Square.

Each fountain might have had its own reason for silence, including deep freeze forecasts. But great cities have great fountains. Rome has 280 of them, one, it seems, for every piazza and then some. They attract hordes of tourists and showcase world-class Italian sculptors. Most of them run year-round.

Not so the Monumental City, which seems in no hurry to activate fountains that have been dormant for years - and shuts off others with the advent of Advent.

- Mike Bowler

Crunching the numbers

The grande dame of Baltimore regional politics just got a year older: Helen Delich Bentley, the former Republican congresswoman and gubernatorial candidate who now goes by the title "Queen of the Port of Baltimore," turned 80 Friday.

About 250 people showed up for a surprise party for her at Della Notte in Little Italy on Nov. 24. After she hugged and kissed her way through the crowd, she listened as Comptroller William Donald Schaefer praised her as the "toughest, smartest lady ever."

"This is the only guy in the room who's older than I am," Bentley said, jabbing a finger in Schaefer's direction.

"The hell with that," the comptroller replied. "How old are you?"

"I'm 80," Bentley responded.

"Well, then I'm 78," said Schaefer, who turned 82 this month.

- Andrew A. Green

A frosty reception

The community group ACORN gave Mayor Martin O'Malley its annual Turkey of the Year award last week for his support of city school system layoffs.

The mayor has praised the hundreds of job cuts as a remedy for the system's long-troubled finances. ACORN, which stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, contends that the cuts will hurt schoolchildren.

ACORN members went to City Hall armed with an award certificate and a 10-pound turkey - frozen - but were turned away.

ACORN has used a live bird in the past, but switched to the supermarket variety when it ran afoul of animal rights activists.

"The PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] people got mad," said Mitchell Klein, ACORN's chief Maryland organizer.

Frozen birds are easier to handle, anyway. The live kind, Klein said, "was kind of unwieldy."

- Laura Vozzella

The `U' is usually silent

At the back of the playbill for The Exonerated, there is a list of people involved in the Mechanic and Hippodrome theaters. Above the title "consultant" is the name "Walter Soundheim." It should read Walter Sondheim Jr., a spelling all should know because he has been a major figure in Baltimore civic affairs for decades.

Now 95 years old and a senior adviser to the Greater Baltimore Committee, Sondheim brushed off the mistake. "That's a nice improvement to my name," he said.

- Scott Calvert

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