Maybe hire a home handywoman to fix the schools

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June 15, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Baltimore school employees have been pretending that they fixed school buildings that are still falling apart,which is why state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick's minions recently let them have it.What this system needs is some good construction management, and the obvious choice is right under our noses, in a glossy dream home spread in the latest Baltimore magazine.

It's all about a couple who restored a tumbledown Georgian in Phoenix to its Roaring ?20s grandeur. Their names are Nancy and Lou Grasmick.

"Although restoring and reclaiming a house that had gone riotously to seed was no small feat, the power pair rose to the challenge and toiled for more than a decade to restore it to its former stateliness," the magazine said. " 'I wasn't unnerved by it at all," says Nancy. . . . "The thing I didn't anticipate was how much had to be done. It was almost like a series of jack-in-the-boxes -- you put three lids down and 10 more popped up, and you?re like, "Oh, now that's finished," but then it's the furnace, it's the plumbing, it's the roof.'"

City school officials can no doubt relate.

Maybe the new Baltimore schools chief should hire Grasmick and her lumber-tycoon hubby to oversee an Extreme Makeover of the many city buildings gone "riotously to seed." The magazine article is, after all, titled "No House Left Behind."

Reached yesterday, Grasmick said -- albeit with a laugh -- that she was game for the construction management gig.

She also had a good answer for one concern,raised by a photo of her playing the harp in her living room. The article gushes about the room, with its "wide-planked pine floors and 6-inch moldings," the "extensive collection of Lladro porcelain figurines, Lalique bottles, an ethereal cupid mural painted on the ceiling, and a porcelain,Faberge-inspired egg made by good friend Mitzi [Perdue] (wife of the late chicken titan Frank [Perdue])."

Frank Perdue's widow makes faux Faberge eggs? But I digress.

The photo shows something amiss in Grasmick's "oasis of blues, beiges and peach": A sizable crack running along the seams of one paneled wall.Is Grasmick?s own house not in order?

"They are the original wood panels," Grasmick said, explaining that they expand and contract with temperature changes. "Every time the heat goes on and the heat goes off,we have to do caulking. If you were to take those pictures in the next two weeks, it would have the caulking."

State inspectors will be by just to make sure.

It's real bad ? it's not so bad ? what was the question?

Sheila Dixon, at a news conference in the midst of a murderous month in Baltimore: "Theviolence is unacceptable, and it has to stop."

Sheila Dixon, at a swanky Howard County fundraiser in the midst of a murderous month in Baltimore: "I don't like waking up and reading on the front page of the Sunpapers that we're second in homicide in the country. I don't believe that's really factual."

Which is it? Unacceptable or untrue?

Of course,it's possible to question Baltimore's webeat-Detroit! homicide ranking -- based onFBI stats for last year -- without denying that the city ? on track to exceed last year's 276homicides and pass the 300 mark for the first time since 1999 ? is on a murderous tear.

But does the mayor have a reason, beyond politics, to question the FBI's figures?

She hasn't offered one. After her speech at the fundraiser, Dixon backed away from her statement, The Sun's Larry Carson reported. "I know they are FBI numbers," she said.

Councilman Keiffer Mitchell, who is challenging Dixon, blasted her in an e-mail to his supporters.

"Does the interim-Mayor really believe that she can get away with this kind of happy talk?" he said. "The reality is crime is getting worse,not better.We are in a crisis,and we need to change how we fight crime in Baltimore."

Asked to elaborate this week, Dixon spokesman Anthony McCarthy declined to comment but offered some good news on another front.

"No comment on the fundraiser remark," he wrote in an e-mail." I, however,did hear that 'The Wire' had to import trash to Greenmount Avenue to film some of their 'gritty city scenes' because the Mayor's cleaner Baltimore initiative is working too well."

Think of her as a patron of the arts

Should a city employee hold a fundraiser for his boss? I ask because Bill Gilmore, director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, is holding a $250-a-head event for Mayor Dixon at his Cross Keys home next week.

"Everybody has connections," said Gilmore,who added that he thinks Dixon has been "really supportive of the arts. It?s sort of a natural thing to glom onto someone and be supportive."

It must be noted that Gilmore said all this from his home phone. I'd called him at work, but said he couldn't talk to me until he was out of the office and off the clock.

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