Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

July 26, 2004

Tolerating repetition

The state Developmental Disabilities Administration, an arm of the health department, decided after a hearing Thursday to shut down Autumn Homes, an operator of group homes for the developmentally disabled.

Asked to comment Friday, state health Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini had this to say:

"What we showed as a result of yesterday's hearing is that the Ehrlich administration is not going to tolerate substandard care."

The comment was reminiscent of others Sabatini had made while serving in former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration.

On Nov. 3, 1990, for example, The Sun quoted Sabatini, then deputy health secretary, in an article about the state taking disciplinary action against a nursing home:

"This is clearly consistent with the mandate the governor has given that we will not tolerate the abuse and mistreatment of nursing home residents in this state."

- Sara Neufeld and Jonathan Bor

Clear conscience

The education world was gossiping last week about a conference at a luxury California hotel where superintendents from across the country met with textbook publishers, computer manufacturers and other companies who'd like their business.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the superintendents each got an expenses-paid trip and $2,000 consulting fee, quoting business ethicists who questioned the practice. Among the superintendents listed as participants was Baltimore County schools chief Joe A. Hairston.

But Hairston's conduct was, in fact, on the up and up. Conference organizers at the Nebraska-based Education Research and Development Institute confirm that the Baltimore County school district paid Hairston's way and he did not accept the consulting fee.

A school system spokesman said the conference was a great opportunity for Hairston to learn about new educational materials.

- Sara Neufeld

Thanks for nothing, dad

Benjamin Eisinger turned 4 last week, and he got to spend part of his big day at ... Chuck E. Cheese's? Gymboree? The zoo?

No, a Board of Estimates meeting.

His dad, activist Ward Eisinger, wanted to address the board about a plan to set up a $1 million revolving loan fund for environmental cleanup projects, to be run by the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm.

The elder Eisinger said the fund would amount to "$1 million in walking-around money for BDC," which is not subject to open meetings and records laws. The board, which approved the plan, said the loans would be reported publicly at the end of each year.

Pretty tough stuff for the average preschooler to take in.

But Benjamin made the best of it. While Ward Eisinger addressed the board with Benjamin's kid sister, 10-month-old Jennifer, in his arms, the birthday boy marched around the meeting room.

He seemed to take Deputy Mayor Jeanne Hitchcock for someone he knew, walking straight up to her and saying something that was indecipherable but came across as an order. Benjamin later seemed to take a shine to a woman assigned to Mayor Martin O'Malley's security detail, sticking by her side even as she repeatedly shushed him.

- Laura Vozzella

Making (air)waves

The community group ACORN has brandished inflatable sharks at bankers, dumped trash in front of City Hall, and brought a busload of protesters to Mayor Martin O'Malley's house. Last week, the group tried a new tactic to draw attention to its causes: radio ads.

ACORN paid for spots that took aim at city housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano and called on listeners to join a protest outside City Hall last Thursday. The ads aired on "Magic" 95.9 WWIN-FM and cost the group about $1,500, said Mitchell Klein, head organizer for ACORN.

"Hey, girl," the spot begins. "Look across the street. There is a giant vacant house with weeds and trash all over the place."

"You know, I'm disgusted," the woman replies. "I just called Commissioner Graziano at housing and they never came out or did a thing."

Graziano is scheduled to meet with ACORN to hear its concerns today.

- Laura Vozzella

And furthermore ...

Bearing boxes of legal papers and laptops, three attorneys and several assistants moved into a downtown hotel Wednesday, ready to do battle the next morning for their client, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

The lawyers came from the Washington firm of Howrey, Simon, Arnold and White, which represents the ACLU in a lawsuit filed nearly 10 years ago that seeks adequate state funding for Baltimore schools.

The firm has never taken a dime for its services, saving the civil liberties group millions of dollars in legal fees.

Why a D.C. firm, not one from the city whose children are at the heart of the suit?

"When we went to Baltimore firms back in 1994," said Bebe Verdery, director of the group's Education Reform Project, "none of them wanted to sue the state."

- Mike Bowler

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