Residents visit their City Hall

Departing O'Malley and incoming mayor Dixon are co-hosts of Holiday Open House

December 11, 2006|By Chris Emery | Chris Emery,sun reporter

When Niela Magwood arrived at City Hall yesterday, she found it decked with Christmas trees, evergreen wreaths and, yes, even a few boughs of holly.

"I have never been here before so I am excited," said Magwood, of Baltimore's Govans neighborhood, as she walked through the front door and into its rotunda, where a band played jazzy interpretations of holiday tunes.

Bright red poinsettias ringed the railing around the rotunda's upper floors, and a Christmas tree stood in the center, below the room's domed roof.

The festive decorations and music were part of the city's annual Holiday Open House, a time when people can see the inside of City Hall in all its holiday glory and meet the mayor.

This year, visitors got to meet both Mayor Martin O'Malley and City Council President Sheila Dixon, who co-hosted the event. Dixon is slated to take over as mayor when O'Malley leaves office to be sworn in as governor in January. Some visitors yesterday were already referring to her as "Mayor Dixon."

The two greeted people in the building's ceremonial room, an ornate hall hung with large crystal chandeliers. "It is a great occasion," O'Malley said between shaking hands and dispensing hugs. "People from all over the city, all different parts and walks of life, come and file through their City Hall."

In previous years, visitors were only allowed into the rotunda and the ceremonial room. But this year, as a parting gift, O'Malley opened up a larger portion of the building.

"I do not actually work in the ceremonial room," he said. "So we opened up the working office as well, which will soon start to get dismantled and have the pictures taken down."

Dixon said she also thought it was important for people to see what is really inside City Hall.

"People do not get to see where we work and what it looks like," she said. "And it is a good opportunity for them to meet us one on one."

Mark A. Smoot and Eugene M. Moultrie said they waited in the line that wound through the mayor's office so they could thank O'Malley for encouraging filmmakers to produce movies in Baltimore.

"He is film-friendly," said Smoot, who lives in Reisterstown and along with Moultrie owns a company that specializes in cleaning up neighborhoods after film crews are done shooting.

"We came to show appreciation and to remind him to keep working to get movies to come once he is governor," said Moultrie, of the city's West Lafayette neighborhood.

Judith Langley of Owings Mills said she volunteered for O'Malley's gubernatorial campaign and went to the open house to congratulate him on winning the election. "I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat," she said, "and I am just elated a Democrat is going to be governor."

James Crockett of Ashburton said he has attended the open houses at City Hall for more than 40 years, no matter who has been in office.

"It is nice to see the mayor and shake hands with him and tell him he is doing a good job or tell him what you would like him to do," said Crockett, 82, a retired firefighter. "They are very genteel and humble on these occasions."

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