Halloween goes all tasteful


October 31, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Martin O'Malley's critics say he's a spender. Can't prove it by the Halloween decorations at the governor's mansion.

The hundreds of tax protesters who rallied on Lawyers Mall this week might have taken heart if they'd glanced at Government House next door: Two ghosts and a scarecrow. Hay bales. Cornstalks. A pair of leaf wreaths. Some mums.

Call it classic Annapolis. Understated. Dignified. I say, skimpy. Under the top. A little, well, Montgomery County.

Why go to the trouble of electing a tax-and-spend liberal if he's going to deck the halls like a penny-pincher?

For years under Bob Ehrlich, the capital's Williamsburg wannabes found themselves in inflatable nation. A giant blow-up pumpkin, an air-filled Dracula, tombstones, giant eyeballs and loads of other holiday trimmings blanketed Maryland's front lawn.

Did Ehrlich take the stuff with him?

I drove by the ex-first family's new digs, over by the Annapolis Mall, to see what was out front.

For some reason (homeowners association?) the Ehrlichs have decorated their brick-and-siding McMansion more sedately than the 1870 Georgian they called home for four years. There were some pumpkin planters on the front step and a smallish scarecrow, but not a single piece of air-filled eye-candy. The only glitz was a real pumpkin dolled up with metallic spray paint.

So what happened to the inflatables? Stuck in storage somewhere? Sold in O'Malley's everything-must-go state surplus sale?

"The giant inflatable pumpkin was never owned by the state," said General Services spokesman Dave Humphrey. "It was a loaner. It seems a citizen of Anne Arundel County loaned the pumpkin to the former first family for their Halloween enjoyment. The pumpkin remains in the custody of the owner."

The pumpkin-lender's identity was not disclosed.

Someone sure can write up a storm

Governor O'Malley is looking for a new speechwriter. And to save taxpayers money, he let that be known without actually taking out a paid ad. He just slipped this bit into his speech to the General Assembly this week:

"On the common ground that exists between us, cooled by the clear waters of civil discourse, and breathing the honest air of mutual understanding, let us forge a consensus for the One Maryland we carry in our hearts and that all of our children deserve."

In other words, go taxes!

Who wrote that? I'm guessing the same guy who worked up his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, which included this gem: "America the beautiful, whose alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears. O my friends, to govern is to choose."

Gee, no one asked about his marriage

State Sen. Andy Harris wants to oust Wayne Gilchrest because, as he says in a fundraising letter, the congressman "believes gays should be able to get married, adopt kids and promote their lifestyle to your children."

So why has Harris hired a Republican political consultant who married his gay partner and adopted two children with him?

A political blog named wryoak.com posted a link to an April 2005 New York Times story about Arthur J. Finkelstein's Massachusetts wedding. The blog's headline: "Did Andy catch the bouquet?"

Back in 2005, The Times reported that many associates of Finkelstein, who represented politicians "fiercely opposed" to gay rights, were "startled" to learn about his wedding. Two and a half years later, Harris said that Finkelstein's private life was news to him.

"I don't ask for marriage certificates for every person who works for the campaign," Harris said. "It's a contractor. It's a pollster. ... Do they expect everyone to ask for the marriage certificate of everyone you do business with?"

If Harris did, he added, "They'd probably say I have a litmus test."

Harris called the blog part of a "dirty tricks campaign" orchestrated by Gilchrest Chief of Staff Tony Caligiuri.

Caligiuri said he'd never heard of the blog and was not involved in a "push poll" that Harris said raised the issue with voters last week.

"The only people who care [about Finkelstein's personal life] are people who are extremely exercised about gay unions and gay adoption, and I used to think Senator Harris was among that crowd," Caligiuri said. "It's great that Andy Harris has come around on this issue."

Connect the dots

Johnny Holliday, the voice of the University of Maryland football and men's basketball teams, accomplished local theater actor, author and Baltimore Sports Media Hall of Fame inductee, finally has something to brag about. One of his daughters, Dr. Kellie Smaldore, just made Baltimore magazine's list of top docs. She's a family practitioner in Bel Air. "This beats everything," Holliday said. ... Ralph Nader, John Waters and longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas talked free speech, freedom of the press and artistic expression at a symposium last month put on by the Maryland Institute College of Art and the ACLU-Maryland. If you missed it, you can hear it broadcast at noon today on WYPR's Marc Steiner Show. ... Former Governor Ehrlich made his twice-yearly visit yesterday to Professor Richard Vatz's class on rhetoric and communication.

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