A negotiated cease-fire takes hold among the Arbutans

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February 21, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

The peace that eludes so much of the world has come to a land long torn by political strife: Arbutus. After more than a year on the outs,members of the Arbutus Roundtable are back chewing the political fat at Paul's Restaurant.Most of the members,anyway.

There are three holdouts -- "dissidents," the others call them -- still in schism. Triggered in late 2005 when a framed photo of Paula Hollinger met with a "dusting accident," the rift really was about the Arbutan in the governor's mansion.

Since its founding 30-odd years ago, the lunchtime gabfest has been the scene of countless disagreements. That was the whole point: an hour of verbal jousting with a side of grilled cheese.

But last year, with a local boy in the political fight of his life, it got personal. Clem Kaikis, coowner of Paul's, was firmly in Bob Ehrlich's camp -- so much so, other Roundtablers grumbled, that he wouldn't let them invite speakers who didn't Luv Our Gov.

The tension boiled over when Kaikis removed Hollinger's picture from the wall. While he joked that it had fallen in a "dusting accident," Kaikis really was irked that the state senator, then running for Congress in the 3rd District, had become a vocal Ehrlich critic.

That was it for the other Roundtablers, including Hollinger's husband, Paul. They took their punditry elsewhere.

But elsewhere proved unappetizing. They tried several eateries, including a motel-based joint best known for the 1995 arrest of former Orioles outfielder Damon Buford on charges of soliciting sex.

So after the election, Salvatore "Mannie" Anello -- the guy who'd led the revolt -- polled the rebels: 17 voted to return to Paul?s, three voted to stay away and one abstained.

And so most were back there Monday, arguing about the death penalty, child molesters and other issues like an old married couple. Make that an old married, divorced and remarried couple.

"I'm glad we're back," Anello said. "Life's too short to carry grudges."

Said Kaikis: "Moving forward. That was Martin O'Malley's slogan, right? So, basically,we're moving forward."

Kaikis is quoting the guy who booted his guy out of office? Have times changed that much in Arbutus? "I wouldn?t go that far," he said.

No exile's return

Among the three Roundtable holdouts who stayed away from Paul's on Monday: Paul Hollinger. Any chance he?ll come back? "Between slim and none," he said. "I still enjoy the company. I just don?t see myself going back."

While I had Hollinger on the phone, I asked what his wife was up to. (She lost her race.)

"She is still looking for the right opportunity to present itself," he said.

Mr. Smith goes to ? well, nobody knows Jim Smith?s ears must have been ringing while the Arbutans were in session.

The hot topic of the day: Why is the term-limited Baltimore County executive still raising campaign cash ? cash,they noted, that can?t be spent on a run for federal office, since it's going into a state account?

Spokesman Don Mohler confirmed that Smith has a big fundraiser planned for April 19 at Martin's West.

And he confirmed that Smith will run for ...something.

"Jim Smith is somebody who?s always going to be prepared," Mohler said. "He's too young, too vibrant, to sit on the sidelines.Who knows what the landscape will be like 3? years from now, but Jim Smith will certainly be ready. He certainly has no intention of just going fishing."

More Catholic than Columbia

Columbia's one-size-fits-all interfaith centers get the thumbs down on the Internet forum catholic.com.

Someone named Cecelia writes: "I'll be at my family reunion in Columbia, Maryland, this August.

Does anyone know of a church that I could attend. Of course it goes without saying that the

Church would have to be one faithful to the Magisterium. Thanks!!!"

Betsy replies: "Hi, Cecelia! Welcome to Maryland! I wouldn't bother with either of the churches in Columbia."

She recommends St. Agnes in Catonsville.

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