Between The Lines


July 19, 2004

AAA driving people away?

The American Automobile Association sent out a curious warning Friday to the million or so people planning to visit Baltimore for Artscape, concerts and other events this past weekend.

Basically, AAA said, think twice before heading into the city.

The group put out a news release headlined: "Baltimore City Serving Motorists a Recipe for Confusion if Driving to Weekend Events." The release went on to detail the numerous road closures and detours in effect and said that drivers could easily find themselves "frustrated and confused."

Might it be better to just stay home and avoid the mess?

AAA spokesman John White said that wasn't the point at all. He said, "When we saw the list of closings and one-way streets and parking restrictions, we thought we'd warn motorists that you better know where you're going and what you're doing before you try to go into Baltimore."

City officials were surprised to learn of AAA's warning. They said detours are well-marked and that people shouldn't have any trouble getting into and out of the city.

"What are they trying to do? Are they scaring people from coming into the city?" asked David Brown, spokesman for the city transportation department. He offered this assurance: "There's nothing to be afraid of."

-- Stephen Kiehl

Tubing on the falls

In an era of urban sprawl, the Gunpowder Falls in northern Baltimore County provides an unexpected escape from the artifacts of modern civilization.

If you don't look too closely.

On a recent trip by kayak from Monkton to Phoenix, two paddlers were delighted by escorts of blue herons and kingfishers. They drifted quietly past placid families of Canada geese -- 22, 16 and six in number. The crystal-clear water revealed trout. A deer and her fawns browsed in a streamside meadow.

It was idyllic enough for one to overlook the plastic bags snagged in low branches during flash floods; the tires, bottles and cans half-buried in the river bottom. But who could ignore the 13-inch television, with old-fashioned rotary channel dials, lodged firmly about four feet up in the crook of a tree on the west side of the stream? Is there no escape?

-- Frank D. Roylance

A disagreeable twosome

Skeptics say it would be easier to raise someone from the dead than to get Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mayor Martin O'Malley to agree on anything.

Consider the latest challenge before them: choosing someone to lead the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

Both are supposed to have a say in the appointment, but the Ehrlich administration installed the Rev. Floyd R. Blair over O'Malley's objections. O'Malley sued, and last week, a city Circuit Court judge sided with the mayor and gave O'Malley and Ehrlich 45 days to find a mutually acceptable replacement.

Ehrlich suggested turning the selection over to a committee of five, whose members would include the Rev. William E. Johnson Sr., pastor of Union Baptist Church in Turners Station.

However, Johnson died last month.

-- Laura Vozzella

No hasty reward

Less than a week after slain Baltimore police Officer Brian Winder's funeral, the informant whose tip led police to his killer came forward Wednesday to claim the $35,000 reward.

The informant, who did not wish to be identified, said he needed the money as soon as possible because he could no longer stay in his house.

The reason?

People in the informant's neighborhood were threatening his life and accusing him of being a "snitch."

Within 24 hours of turning in Charles Bennett, the informant and his family had to move out of their home in fear of their lives.

"I want to continue to work and go back to being an average person," said the informant, tears forming at the corner of his eyes.

One obstacle to obtaining the money may be the informant's claim that he unwittingly let Bennett sleep in his basement the night before the murder suspect was discovered by police at a nearby hotel. The informant said he turned Bennett in the next day after recognizing his guest's picture on television.

Police spokesman Matt Jablow acknowledged that the informant was in line for the money. He added that nothing would happen with the reward until after an investigation was completed, which could take months.

"One week," he said, "is hardly a lot of time."

-- Scott Waldman

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