Between The Lines


May 17, 2004

Where's she been?

Plenty of people got worked up after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. called multiculturalism "crap" and "bunk" on a talk radio show.

Ehrlich made the comments May 6 to support Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who a day earlier had publicly vented about a fast-food worker's limited English skills.

There was a flood of e-mail, letters and calls from supporters, who said the governor was right to say immigrants need to learn English. Critics, who considered his words bigoted, held demonstrations and demanded apologies. The Montgomery County Council even passed a resolution calling on Ehrlich to say he was sorry.

The buzz was still at cicada pitch last week - all over television, talk radio and the newspapers - when City Council President Sheila Dixon was asked about Ehrlich at a news conference. Just the day before, Mayor Martin O'Malley had rebuked the governor on the radio, in Spanish.

When a reporter asked Dixon to weigh in, it became clear that at least one Marylander hadn't been swept up in the controversy. Dixon didn't know anything about it.

"Was it somewhere in the paper or something?" she asked.

- Laura Vozzella

`Senor' Schaefer to you

At the Flower Mart, where Schaefer likes to hold court every year, he ran into a few who weren't afraid to make light of his recent ramblings.

"Spanish ambassador?" asked Frank Lynch with a wink when he saw Schaefer.

And the gruff expression melted into a smile.

- Jamie Stiehm

Gubernatorial advice

When Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., attended Villa Julie College's commencement ceremony Friday afternoon, he decided to share with the audience what he called his "10 Life Lessons."

After suggesting that the new graduates honor and love their families and always exhibit integrity - especially when no one's watching - the governor got to No. 3: Volunteer.

"Be a volunteer for a soup kitchen, for the Boy Scouts, for Little League, for Meals on Wheels, for the cancer society, for Habitat for Humanity, for the Peace Corps," Ehrlich said. "I don't care which organization you choose."

By the time he got to his ninth life lesson, however, such indifference to the particulars would not be believed.

"You know I'd include this one," the Republican governor said. "Vote. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Natural Law - I don't really care how you vote."

He quickly corrected himself. "Actually, I do," he said, drawing audience laughter. "But if you decline to vote, think harder about suggestion No. 8."

That would be to attend a Memorial Day service and think about the men and women who "have died in order for you to enjoy unlimited futures and incredible freedoms."

- Jennifer McMenamin

The gift-refusing season

Hoping to earn a little good will among members of the city's Board of Estimates, Baltimore's Parking Authority put a baseball cap and T-shirt on each member's chair before last week's meeting.

The timing couldn't have been worse.

Later that same day, at least one City Council member was expected to testify before a federal grand jury investigating, among other things, the council's acceptance of gifts.

The testimony wound up being postponed. But the matter still loomed large for the board, which also happened to vote that day to reform the council's lax expense account system - something else federal prosecutors are investigating.

One by one, board members and their staff pushed the hats and shirts aside, even though acting City Solicitor Donald R. Huskey, a member of the board, assured them it was OK to accept gifts valued at less than $50.

Someone from the authority was summoned and he hurriedly collected the hats and shirts before the meeting began. Jeff Sparrow, the authority's executive director, said he wasn't sure what he was going to do with the stuff, piled on the floor in the back of the meeting room.

At least one person there decided to accept, saying he'd gladly sport gear with the EZ Park logo.

"It's a $3 shirt and a $3 hat," said Councilman Robert W. Curran. "That's really a little too far. I'm keeping mine."

- Laura Vozzella

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