Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

August 16, 2004

Hear that wheel squeak

At the City Council's luncheon meeting Aug. 9, President Sheila Dixon served up a plate of what passes for political brinksmanship in Baltimore.

Mayor Martin O'Malley's administration wanted Dixon to introduce legislation to place a $7.6 million bond issue on November's ballot to pay for improvements to public buildings. A delay would have scrapped the administration's chances of getting the request before voters.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in some Aug. 16 editions stated incorrectly that the
Baltimore City Council unanimously agreed Aug. 9 to advance a bond issue to a final vote in September. In fact, the council gave the measure its final approval at that meeting.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Dixon said she could not discuss the matter because a reporter was in the room.

She then said: "This could all be resolved very easily." She then paused and added, "I'll say one word: Wyman Park."

After the lunch Dixon denied she was holding back the legislation until the administration answered the Wyman Park community's concerns about a pumping station proposed in the neighborhood west of the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.

But council member Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. said that's exactly what was happening. "We're trying to use whatever leverage we have," he said. "We want the Public Works Department to sit down with the community to talk about the pumping station."

Dixon announced later that afternoon that public works officials would be meeting with the Wyman Park community.

By the council's official evening meeting, the $7 million bond issue was back on the agenda and garnered the council's unanimous approval to move it to a final vote next month.

- Doug Donovan

Giving till it hurts

When Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. put in a pitch at the start of this week's Board of Public Works meeting for Marylanders to donate blood, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer decided to help him along, asking if Ehrlich ever gave blood. Yes, Ehrlich said.

"How much did you give?" Schaefer asked.

"In election years, a hell of a lot," Ehrlich replied.

- Andrea F. Siegel

Move over, Harry Potter

Baltimore County school board members were discussing the weighty Blueprint for Progress, an outline of sorts for the school system's even weightier 600-page master plan, when board Vice President Thomas G. Grzymski expressed concern that something was missing.

He told his colleagues on the 12-member panel last week that an important group of "stakeholders" - that's the nouveau term educators use to describe parents, the business community and other groups to whom they believe the school system is accountable - had been overlooked: the county's youngest pupils.

Grzymski wondered whether elementary school children would be able to penetrate the dense, oftentimes jargon-laden blueprint and accompanying master plan, and said he had always thought it was very important to have a version they could understand.

Schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston responded, "I think we can get enough pictures in there."

- Jennifer McMenamin

Who's counting anyway?

Time flies when you're having fun and, apparently, when you're running the city of Baltimore.

Mayor Martin O'Malley appears to have lost track of how long he has been in office judging from last week's "Taking Care of Business," an electronic newsletter he sends to business leaders.

"Almost four years into our journey, we have been fortunate to achieve great success on many fronts," the e-mail states.

O'Malley took office in December 1999, more than 4 1/2 years ago.

- Laura Vozzella

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