It's just a damyankee rodent


August 01, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Maybe Sheila Dixon's "Cleaner, Greener" thing is working a little too well. In need of a rodent for that municipal ad campaign, Baltimore sent away to New York for a freeze-dried rat.

A cash-strapped city that only a decade ago had more rats than people, that had a fit when the last mayor plucked police chiefs from the Big Apple, blew $200 on a single Yankee vermin.

Just what Baltimore needs: another fur scandal.

But it turns out that buying mail-order rodents isn't throwing money down the proverbial rat hole.

"For the record, this is far less than the cost of a custom photo shoot or a rights-managed stock image," said Matt Doud, president of Planit, the Baltimore ad agency behind the city's campaign. "It would not only be difficult but quite likely very inefficient to try to capture any animal and get it to pose just the right way."

FOR THE RECORD - An item in Laura Vozzella's column in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly described the relationship between Mayor Sheila Dixon and Mildred Boyer. Boyer employed Dixon's sister at her company.
The Sun regrets the error.

Working with the freeze-dried variety - ordered from The Evolution Store, a SoHo purveyor of "unique natural history collectibles" - enabled Planit to position the rat just so. Tail curled in front, nose in the air and pointy little teeth bared, he appears on the sides of city trash trucks and waste bins with this slogan: "He loves when you put your trash out too early."

Baltimore West - Get in on it!

We knew the new Mondawmin Target would give that corner of Baltimore a big retail boost. But a new name?

"Hello Baltimore West," reads a coupon book that recently arrived in mailboxes.

Baltimore West?

Sounds like a little neighborhood rebranding, like Harbor East on a budget.

What do the newly christened Baltimore Westies think about that? Though thrilled with the new store, they're not looking for a name change.

"Baltimore West might be a little more tony or whatever," said Earl Arnett, a community leader and former Sun features reporter. "It's not a community phrase, let's put it that way."

But Target does know a thing or two about marketing. Doesn't Baltimore West sound kinda hip, like the sort of place that, say, a renowned jazz singer might call home?

Ethel Ennis, who performed with Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, lives by Mondawmin Mall with Arnett, her husband of nearly 41 years. She had a tepid response to the Baltimore West thing:

"It's OK. And I guess it's someone's job to kind of give it a twist. It won't make me bust my buttons. We're just happy that the results are here."

The corn grows high for Bob Ehrlich & Family

The locavore movement goes GOP.

"Plenty of great food and drink supplied by various county and state farms and local restaurants," reads the flier for the Republican Corn Roast with Bob Ehrlich & Family.

The $30-a-head fundraiser for the Bob Ehrlich for Maryland Committee takes place Oct. 4 - "a month before the election, when money could be going to other, announced candidates," as my tipster points out.

If the event, at the Reynolds farm in Reisterstown, diverts campaign dough from Republicans on the ballot, at least it should fatten a few farmers' wallets. Particularly corn farmers, since the event features a corn-eating contest with three different weight classes: under 200 pounds, under 400 pounds and under 500 pounds. (Don't worry, the weight classes are per two-person team.)

Congratulations, and try hard to stay out of jail

Another departing Sun colleague unearths a bit of civic history while cleaning out his desk. Instead of amusing William Donald Schaefer memos, this one's a Jan. 6, 2004, letter from Mayor Martin O'Malley. The Sun's Doug Donovan turned it up.

"Congratulations on your receiving the 2003 Minority Contractor of the Year award from the Maryland/Washington Minority Contractors Association.

"Your achievements are quite remarkable, and I applaud you for your commitment to build and sustain strong minority business in Baltimore.

"Best wishes, and keep up the good work."

The recipient? None other than Mildred Boyer of Utech.

You know, Sheila Dixon's sister, whose employment got the state prosecutor sniffing around. Whose company was kicked out of the city's minority subcontracting program because it looked a lot like a phone-and-mailbox-only front. Who pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges in March. Who agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

On that last count, let me echo O'Malley: Keep up the good work.

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