Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

August 30, 2004

Showing political muscle

Mayor Martin O'Malley and members of his Cabinet got to display their handyman skills last week, when they painted hallways, patched blacktop and made other improvements to Southwestern High School.

Some also used the occasion - part of O'Malley's "Believe in our Schools" campaign to fix up more than 150 campuses - to show off their muscles.

Sitting atop a steamroller in the sweltering heat, the weightlifter mayor shed his black "Believe" T-shirt to reveal a white muscle shirt.

Office of Neighborhoods Director Israel C. Patoka, who shares the mayor's passion for Baltimore but not his pastime of pumping iron, sidled up to O'Malley's spokeswoman and asked, "Who do you think has better arms?"

Raquel Guillory just laughed.

Patoka, who acknowledges his biceps are slightly less defined than the mayor's, got a better response when he posed the same question few years ago.

Someone had snapped a picture of Patoka and O'Malley, both in sleeveless shirts, at Artscape. Patoka e-mailed the picture to an impartial observer, whose reply was more heartening.

"She said, `You do, of course,'" Patoka recalled, "as a good wife should."

- Laura Vozzella

Kids' names didn't fit

Community activists confused their metaphors a bit during a small demonstration last week outside the federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore.

As school officials testified upstairs before a judge about the system's latest setbacks, about 20 members of the community group ACORN accused city and state officials of using the schools as a political football - all the while tossing around four small pigskins.

The problem was that the footballs, spray-painted gold, were labeled "Ehrlich," "O'Malley," "Grasmick" and "Copeland," in honor of the governor, mayor, state schools superintendent and city schools chief, respectively.

That didn't matter to Willie Ray, president of the group, who belted out his opinion about the politicians in a loud voice amid noisy lunchtime traffic:

"Our kids have been kicked around like footballs. We don't need that. We need our kids to get a decent education."

- Laura Loh

Oh, say can you schtick?

Mayor Martin O'Malley has a couple of things in common with Francis Scott Key, whose name came up last week in an unusual executive order.

In the order, O'Malley decreed that city buildings trade their modern American flags for the 15-star, 15-stripe variety that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814, inspiring Key to write the national anthem.

Like Key, O'Malley has written a song about the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. The tune that goes with Key's words is more famous, but O'Malley's is easier to sing.

Also like Key, O'Malley is a lawyer. Key, who successfully defended former Vice President Aaron Burr on treason charges, has the more historic client list. But O'Malley has the modern lawyer joke down pat.

While announcing his executive order, O'Malley said the national anthem "remains the greatest contribution that any lawyer has ever made to the United States of America."

- Laura Vozzella

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