E-mail? We have people to do that for us

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January 24, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

What happens when a technology hipster becomes governor in a town where cobblestone streets pass for the information superhighway? Asked another way: Is Annapolis - where leaders of the Senate and House don't use e-mail, wirelessly or otherwise - about to become a BlackBerry kinda town?

As mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley was addicted to his portable e-mail gizmo. But that doesn't mean other Annapolis leaders, eager to be in touch with the new gov, are limbering up their typing fingers. House Speaker Michael Busch gives the gadget the thumbs-down.

"I don't have one, and the last couple years I've been averse to e-mail because every time I turned around, they [reporters] were filing a Freedom of Information Act [request]. ... They [the messages] can always be taken out of context."

O'Malley knows that only too well, since some of his salty mayoral e-mails were aired in a lawsuit filed by an ex-police chief. The new Gov evidently feels the efficiency of e-mail trumps the risks of its electronic trail.

But Busch figures he can do business with O'Malley in person.

"I would like to sit down and communicate with him face to face," Busch said. "I think you get a better feel for what people are trying to talk about. It's tough to negotiate by BlackBerry."

Senate President Mike Miller, however, figures he'll "eventually" get a BlackBerry. He called O'Malley "a good role model" for using the device.

"We are in the information age, and everyone needs access to information as quickly as possible," Miller said. The Senate president pointed out that it was he who first issued laptops to senators and required that they file bills electronically seven or eight years ago - a year ahead of the House.

Not that Miller is fully up to speed.

"I don't do e-mails," he said. "If I didn't have so much staff, I think I probably would. ... I'm not a very good typist, and it's kind of frustrating to have to hunt and peck."

He added: "But I do know how to open up the computer."

Miller has incentive, beyond good gubernatorial relations, to Get In On It.

"I have 10 grandchildren, and I want to keep in touch with them," he said. "And they're all so far ahead of grandpa."

Paper and pen were good enough for Lincoln

No surprise that another Annapolis figure is still living in the pre-e-mail age: Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold. He doesn't have a computer at his home or in his office, and didn't even have a cell phone until two years ago.

(Like Busch and Miller, Leopold stressed that his staff uses computers and brings issues raised in constituent e-mails to his attention.)

The county exec, who dresses up like Abraham Lincoln for fun and has a cat named Francois Rabelais, admits he's smitten with the past.

"I'm a 19th-century person caught in the 21st century," Leopold said.

Leopold does intend to emulate O'Malley's program for tracking government efficiency. But he expects to do it without the O'Malley administration's modern, even futuristic trappings. County stats will be reviewed at Cabinet meetings, on paper - not in a darkened room with high-tech computer images. And the Exec won't call it CountyStat.

Leopold's term? "Just good management."

That little burg 40 miles south

It's been Tracy Gosson's job for the past nine years to sell Washingtonians on Baltimore. How? With a bunch of ads taking funny swipes at D.C. One had a picture of a Chia pet and read, "In a D.C. home, this is as much dog as you have room for."

Now the executive director of the Live Baltimore Home Center is moving on. (No job yet, but she's ready for a change.) How will the center send her off? With a parting shot at the capital.

The invitation for Gosson's farewell bash - Feb. 1 at The Red Star - shows a Twinkie and a Pabst. "In DC," it says, "this is the best going away party you can afford."

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