Help the city - and clean up

2B

May 21, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Mayor Sheila Dixon is turning the old-fashioned employee suggestion box into something resembling a slot machine.

Municipal workers who come up with ideas that help the city save or make money will get a big payoff: a 1 percent cut of the savings or increased revenue, up to $5,000. Workers who come up with ideas to improve city services are eligible for a $500 prize.

Only city employees may participate in the "Innovation Bank" program announced last week. (Supervisors who have the authority to implement their ideas aren't eligible. Nor are those who are already responsible for rooting out waste or improving operations.)

I'm guessing there are lots of Baltimoreans who don't work for the city but have an idea or two that might make City Hall work better. If you're out there, send your bright ideas to me and I'll print the best ones in the column.

I can't get you in on the municipal cash. But you'll win the enduring appreciation of city taxpayers. And you'll get your name in 2B bold.

LOCAL PAPER LOSES HEAD OVER HEADLINES!!!

"Bludgeoned!"

"HOLY STASH."

"INSANE?"

Examiner headline writers aren't just on a roll lately. They're under orders, from Clarity Media HQ in Denver, to splash punchy New York Post-style covers on all of the chain's papers.

So say Examiner staffers, who were recently briefed on the changes and have been grumbling that some of the sensational headlines detract from their stories. I rely on their accounts because I couldn't reach Examiner officials. Editor Frank Keegan did return my call, but we never connected. (Full disclosure: Keegan's message said he'd like to talk to me about working for The Examiner. Attention Sun honchos: Now's the time to give me that big raise.)

Screaming headlines arrive at The Examiner as the paper plans to cut home delivery from six days a week to two, relying more on newspaper boxes, hawkers and convenience stores for distribution.

"It's a street sales strategy, basically, and probably for what they're trying to do, it makes sense," said media analyst John Morton. (The Examiner is free, but if bold headlines prompt more people to pick it up, the paper can command higher advertising rates.)

The strategy is not without risk, Morton said.

"It's so easy to go over the line with those headlines," he said.

"Bludgeoned!" headlined a story about a teenager accused of beating his mother to death. "INSANE?" topped an article about the court plea of a man charged with drowning his three children in a bathtub. "HOLY STASH" - less startling, since for once the topic wasn't horrific death - was about drug dealers hiding their wares near a Virgin Mary statue at an East Baltimore Catholic school.

Funny, wicked, tasteless tabloid headlines add something to New York civic life. How will that play in Charm City? I asked City Councilman Bobby Curran, who picks up the New York Post and Daily News five days a week. Though Curran gets a laugh out of the headlines, he's not sure Baltimore will be amused.

"The Baltimore market," Curran said, "is probably more tasteful."

Mr. Smith to dine with his close friends

Well, now we really know Jim Smith is up to something.

The term-limited but still fundraising Baltimore County exec has agreed to be the victim of a roast, to benefit the Marine Trades Association of Baltimore County scholarship fund.

Marc Steiner will emcee the $65-a-head event May 29 at Martin's East. Among those lined up to poke fun: Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, Howard County Exec Ken Ulman, banker Ed Hale and Court of Appeals Judge Joseph Murphy.

Curiously absent from the list: Comptroller Peter Franchot, the man whose job Smith is rumored to be after.

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