Ehrlich woos city neighborhood

Governor focuses on Park Heights crime

O'Malley works on turnout

November 01, 2006|By Andrew A. Green and Rona Marech | Andrew A. Green and Rona Marech,sun reporters

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took his campaign's questions about Mayor Martin O'Malley's crime fighting to Park Heights yesterday, telling residents of the Northwest Baltimore neighborhood that the mayor has ignored the safety of their community to pursue his ambition for higher office.

With just one week to go before the election, the governor stepped up his attacks on O'Malley's record. He repeated accusations that the mayor has cooked the city's books to make crime seem less prevalent and ordered police to arrest thousands of residents without cause.

O'Malley, meanwhile, traveled to Montgomery and Baltimore counties, where he continued a weeklong get-out-the-vote push. He spent some of his time attacking the governor, particularly on his environmental policies, but he mostly focused on politicking to make sure voters are enthusiastic about voting on Tuesday.

Ehrlich made his accusations at the Park Heights Barber Shop, a neighborhood institution where the windows are plastered with signs for Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. He got a mixed reaction in the neighborhood, where residents say they are worried about a string of homicides.

"It used to be safe in this neighborhood," Ehrlich said outside the shop. "You used to see foot patrols walking up and down this neighborhood, but you don't see that anymore."

As he spoke, six Baltimore police officers were standing nearby.

In Rockville yesterday, a platoon of more than a dozen elected Democratic officials from the Washington suburbs gathered to support O'Malley and promote his concern for the environment.

A crowd of about 50 people -- many holding pro-O'Malley or anti-global warming signs -- stood outside the Montgomery County Council building to hear U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and others pronounce O'Malley the "green" candidate and take jabs at his opponent's record.

"On the first floor of the State House, you have lots of leaders who have stepped up to the plate to begin to address issues of air pollution, energy policy and environmental protection," Van Hollen said of the General Assembly. "But on the second floor of the State House, we have a governor now who is not willing to lead."

Speakers criticized Ehrlich's 2003 veto of an energy-efficiency standards act (later overridden by the Assembly) and his refusal to join a coalition of seven Northeastern states attempting to tackle the problem of global warming.

"I do not think that there is any single issue that more purely underscores the conflict between powerful, narrow special interests and advancing the common good than the issue of our environment," said O'Malley, who spoke last. "We are going to choose to make Maryland a leader again in clean air, in fighting against global warming and yes, in one of the most important moral causes of our times, which is to discover clean alternative energy sources."

Ehrlich got a mixed response in Park Heights. Some people walking down the street stopped to listen to the governor and nod their approval for his criticisms of O'Malley's policing tactics. Others yelled at the governor from across the street, in some cases, things that are unprintable.

"Shut up, you turkey," a man yelled while riding his bicycle. "Vote O'Malley!"

Inside the barbershop, Ehrlich struck a chord with James Greene, a patron who said that the mayor has done nothing to address what he says has been a spate of violent crime -- particularly homicides -- in the area.

"It seems this city is completely controlled by people supportive of Mayor O'Malley," said Greene, who likes to play the horses at nearby Pimlico Race Course. "I hate to put it that way, because it seems like a political statement, but it is just a statement of what exists. ... You see an effort by this mayor to advance his political career and not the interests of the people of this city."

While Ehrlich was in Park Heights, O'Malley and his running mate, Anthony G. Brown, stopped by an afternoon Halloween party at the Parkville Senior Center. As costume-clad senior citizens danced the electric slide, the mayor and Brown went from table to table shaking hands and posing for photographs. O'Malley danced ballroom style for one song with Marguerite Ward of Forrest Hill before jumping on stage to sing "Danny Boy" with the party's disc jockey.

andy.green@baltsun.com rona.marech@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Doug Donovan contributed to this article.

CANDIDATES TODAY

O'Malley -- 7 a.m., leave Baltimore for all-day bus tour of Baltimore, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties. Plans include an 11:20 a.m. walking tour around Market Street in Frederick, followed by a visit to Frederick Community College; and a 3 p.m. tour of Canal Place in Cumberland.

Ehrlich -- 2 p.m., visit Asbury Methodist Village, Gaithersburg.

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