Surely this isn't the campaign's sole issue

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June 24, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Frank Conaway formally announced his bid for Baltimore's highest office the other day with a red high heel in hand. This should surprise no one, since the dominant political image of the mayor's race is shaping up to be a shoe.

Specifically, Sheila Dixon's shoe. The one she waved in City Council chambers 16 years ago, in the midst of a racially charged redistricting battle and in response, it was said, to a racial slur.

"You've been running things for the last 20 years - now the shoe is on the other foot," Dixon said at the time.

Keiffer Mitchell's campaign was recently sniffing around City Hall for video of the shoe waving. No telling what the councilman's camp would have done with the footage, which, alas, was not caught on the public access camera.

But Conaway didn't need old video to make hay. The Circuit Court clerk held up the shoe to reveal a mock bullet hole. His point: control of the city has shifted once again - this time, to the criminals.

So where did Conaway, who proclaimed himself the "cobbler" who can fix the city, get the shoe?

"I picked it up on the corner from a hooker," he said. He was probably joking, but he wasn't budging from his story.

How about the other candidates? Are they going with the shoe, too?

Too dated, said Del. Jill Carter, the only one of the bunch known to wear high heels.

"I don't have to search back [16] years for a shoe incident," she said. "I think there's enough there without the shoe."

Too superficial, said schools administrator Andrey Bundley. "I'm not talking about the shoe because that's not going to save lives, fix schools, bring about affordable housing, etc.," he said.

I couldn't reach A. Robert Kaufman, but I wouldn't rule him out. The Socialist has a sense of theater, and, perhaps, a Khrushchevian appreciation for politicized footwear.

Baltimore is trashy, and we've got video

John Tully has found an innovative use for YouTube: Making the world a better place. No, really.

The Southwest Baltimore resident has posted video of trash-strewn lots and alleys, hoping he can get the attention of city leaders in a way that a call to City Hall might not. He's trying to shame politicians into action, which is a higher calling than most YouTube endeavors.

"Rather than making videos of myself spinning plates and putting it on YouTube, I thought I'd do something constructive with it," said Tully, 49, a federal Transportation Security Administration worker who lives in Violetville and did his filming in nearby Mill Hill.

Titled "Who is Responsible for Southwest Baltimore," the video shows piles of debris with a techno beat in the background. Locations - "Next to the U.S. Post Office" - are flashed across the screen, along with this:

"Are the residents responsible for these conditions? Sure they are. But they are either unwilling or unable to improve the situation on their own. They need help from our elected officials. And they obviously are not getting it."

Tully sent the YouTube link to the offices of the mayor and every City Council member so it wouldn't get "lost in a sea of videos of stupid pet tricks and stuff."

As of Friday, he'd heard back from exactly one office. Kevin Cleary, director of community outreach for Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake replied: "Have you called these locations in to 311?"

Drat! The one thing not in the purse

Comptroller Joan Pratt is Baltimore's chief bean counter and someone who gives lectures on personal fiscal discipline. So why was she offering, on a whim, to give away $7,000 in front of the crowd at Bethel AME Church?

Pratt was giving a motivational speech as part of a women's lecture series, called "Dreamgirlz," at the church last month. During her speech, which can still be viewed at the church's Web site, Pratt offered boxes of candy to seven women with purses. Then she offered to pay whatever bills they had in their purses, up to $1,000 each.

Luckily for Pratt, only two of the women had bills in their bags. But they were whoppers. One was from the IRS, for $793. The other, a Sears bill for about $2,900. Pratt paid $1,000 of that.

The other five were sorry they'd left their bills home. "They were crying," Pratt said, "`Please can I go home and get it?'"

Pratt told them, "I was moved to do it at that moment," but the moment was gone. She did, however, give them $100 apiece.

Connect the dots

Merchants on Annapolis' Maryland Avenue and State Circle have decided to hold their first annual Irish Festival today. Hmmm. Who do you think inspired that? ... Warning to politicians whose names start with "O": Bob Rothgaber is ready to mock. Last fall, he had a "NO'Malley" sign in the front window of his Roland Avenue house. These days, it's "NObama."

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