A tidy desk, a tidy mind and a fresh coat of paint

2b

January 21, 2007

She's been dogged by ethics issues, but that doesn't mean Sheila Dixon won't clean up City Hall. At least when it comes to office clutter.

It seems the new mayor is a bit of a neatnik, and last week she let staffers know they'd better be, too.

"Mayor Dixon is very meticulous, detail-oriented and sort of - I've got to make sure I give you the right word - she mentioned this in our first Cabinet meeting, her affinity for cleanliness," said Ruffin Brown, Dixon's executive director. "Her longtime staff knows she has to have things neat and clean. Your work space says something about how you work."

To make her own space spiffy, Dixon ordered up a small face-lift for her office, delaying her move to the second floor for several days.

By all accounts, the mayor's office was ready for an extreme makeover, with the walls done up in dust-collecting brown burlap dating from the first half of the Schaefer administration - 1978, to be precise, the year Sun City Hall reporter John Fritze was born.

It's a two-week job to rip that stuff down, which is why other mayors, eager to get into their new offices, haven't bothered, said Blaine Lipski, the city's chief of building maintenance. Dixon didn't want to wait either, so she settled for an easier fix: painting the burlap.

City workers consulted with a Duron paint rep and tested a section of the wall first, Lipski said. "It worked out well," he said.

Taxpayers will be pleased to learn that the paint is one of those neutral tones that shouldn't be objectionable if a new mayor assumes the space a year from now.

The color: Duron's "Impressive Ivory."

Lipski assured me that Dixon's office, after consulting with the City Hall curator, selected the shade in a nod to historical and architectural propriety - not to flatter the boss.

Too many candidates thin the soup

If Mayor Dixon is sweating all the people out there intending to run against her, she's not alone. Warren Brown is worried, too. The Baltimore defense lawyer is concerned not because the list of mayoral hopefuls is long but because it's black.

"As of the writing of this letter, there are no less than five African Americans who have declared their intentions to pursue the Mayor's Office," Brown wrote in a letter Friday to Dixon and six potential rivals.

He warned that the crowded field would split the black vote, put a white mayor in office and, in the process, do more damage to black Baltimore's reputation than a David Simon series.

"It is easy to imagine that the Country's perception of Baltimore's African American community will not only center around the negative images as portrayed on `The Wire,' but will also focus on the ridiculous scenario of five or more African American Candidates undermining each other while the White Candidate is elected," he wrote. "It is difficult to believe there exists such naivete amongst you as to disregard the reality of a White Candidate entering the race primarily because of your numbers."

Brown called on the declared and potential candidates - Dixon, Del. Jill Carter, Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway, educator Andrey Bundley, Councilman Keiffer Mitchell, Comptroller Joan Pratt and State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy - to put aside their "selfish interests and coalesce around one Candidate."

I called Brown to ask: Is a white mayor an inherently bad thing?

"Not at all," he said.

But he said the city's biggest problems - crime, bad schools, poverty, etc. - are the problems of "poor folk." Blacks.

"I think the sensitivities of some African-American candidates are significantly greater than any white that would hold that position," he said. "These [black] people, they go to church in predominantly black churches, they live in predominantly black neighborhoods, their relatives, many of them live down in the 'hood, subjected to illegal arrests."

Brown also said black voters would demand more of a black mayor: "We understand why the white man doesn't do it, because he don't much care. But `Come on, you are from our community. Solve the problem.'"

Connect the dots

As mayor, Martin O'Malley was all homeland security all the time. As governor, he's throwing caution to the wind: He said last week he'll have newspaper boxes put back in the State House. Bob Ehrlich had them yanked in 2004; at the time, his staff said they posed a security threat. ... The identity of the boy who licked raindrops while Nancy Pelosi addressed the news media in Little Italy has, at long last, been confirmed. He's the House speaker's grandson, Ryan Kenneally. So says another family member, Thomas D'Alesandro IV, son and grandson of the former Baltimore mayors. ... John Waters popped up on My Name is Earl last week, playing an undertaker.

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