A touchy subject on Liberty Road


January 10, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

If a black woman complains she's been mistreated by a white police officer, you might expect somebody like Del. Emmett Burns - the guy who pushed to have BWI renamed for Thurgood Marshall - to call a public hearing.

And if the hearing strays into who owns the shops on Liberty Road, no surprise if this preacher of social justice starts praising the role of micro-lending in small-business startups.

At least that's what it sounded like Burns was doing, when he told an audience that certain businesses in the area are owned by Koreans, who pool their money and help each other out. Until he added:

"It does bother me. The next group that comes in will be the Iraqis. ... We buy from everybody but us."

The Sun's Josh Mitchell, who was at the hearing this week at the Best Western near Martin's West, reports that one woman in the audience then complained that some businesses "aren't owned by anybody that looks like me."

Steve Whisler, president of the Westview Improvement and Civic Association in Catonsville, piped up and reminded the crowd of the coming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"You look at a man's character," Whisler said, "rather than skin color and heritage."

Reached yesterday, Burns said he didn't begrudge any "foreigners" success in business. He said he just wished more African-Americans could achieve it.

"If they have the wherewithal, no problem," he said. "Why can't we do the same thing?"

A complaint and an explanation

The basis of Burns' hearing: A woman who was involved in a minor traffic accident in August said Baltimore County police did not take the case seriously. In fact, the officer left the scene before he finished taking the report.

The reason?

The officer got a call that shots had been fired into a home nearby, said police spokesman Bill Toohey.

"He had to respond," Toohey said, pointing out that the officer returned to the accident scene after checking out the gunshots. "We investigated, we reviewed and determined the officer acted appropriately."

Burns said he stands by his contention that the case shows "insensitivity on the part of Baltimore County police to African-Americans."

Yeah, humility, that's the ticket

Aaron Altscher, a 25-year-old Columbia native who made his debut Sunday on The Apprentice, thinks he has what it takes to land a job with Donald Trump.

"Aaron thinks he should be the next Apprentice," the NBC Web site says, "because of his `passion for real estate along with his personal integrity, resilience and humility.'"

Humility? Can that possibly be a good fit with The Donald?

Altscher can't say, because NBC won't let the Wilde Lake High School grad give interviews until he's off the show.

But his dad, Baltimore attorney Harry Altscher, is free to weigh in. A partner at Miles & Stockbridge and a longtime fan of the show, the elder Altscher says Trump doesn't always pick proteges in his own image. "Humility cuts both ways. If you're too humble, it doesn't work in the business world," he said. "But that doesn't mean you can't be aggressive or clever or bright or get the job done."

The name on the letterhead

Is Kenneth Montague staying on as juvenile services secretary?

That's been the rumor ever since some staffers came across a box of new stationery in the basement. The department letterhead says Martin J. O'Malley, Governor; Anthony G. Brown, Lt. Governor; and, right underneath, Kenneth C. Montague Jr., Secretary.

I called Montague and the O'Malley transition team to try to find out but didn't hear back. One longtime state government hand tells me that even agency heads whose days are numbered sometimes order letterhead, since they'll have to conduct business until their replacements are named.

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