Running things was simpler in City Hall

October 03, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA | LAURA VOZZELLA,laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

In an article titled "Stat Governor," the latest issue of Governing magazine ponders this: "Martin O'Malley ran Baltimore by the numbers. Can he make it work for all of Maryland?"

Author Jonathan Walters observes O'Malley wresting stats out of criminal-justice bureaucrats and concludes that the answer is "a qualified yes."

"The O'Malley team has made measurable progress in some key policy areas," Walters writes.

"What has yet to be demonstrated, however, is the extent to which some of the most crucial outcomes of state government lend themselves to the practice. Still, Maryland presents a promising model that more governors may decide is worth a look."

Perhaps more interesting, in the article, O'Malley sounds like he misses his old job. Being a big-city mayor was a cinch compared to being gov, he tells Governing.

"In city government ... you get a call from a citizen complaining about a pothole," O'Malley tells the magazine.

"The mayor calls the head of public works, who tells his guys to fill the pothole. So, one, two, three, you're there." In state government, he said, "it's a much more attenuated chain of delivery. ... Bigger ship, smaller rudder."

William Donald Schaefer could have told him: Mayors have more fun.

One side, Phelps: It's the Caped Crusader

Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff will share tomorrow's parade spotlight with Batman. A guy dressed up to look like Batman, you're thinking. But no, the Caped Crusader in question insists he's the real thing.

"Around eight years ago, I started becoming Batman," says the man, whose secret identity is not Bruce Wayne, cave-dwelling playboy-industrialist, but Lenny B. Robinson, divorced dad from Owings Mills with a commercial cleaning firm.

Robinson, 45, said the bat bug bit him during a snowstorm, when he and his then-6-year-old son, Brandon, were cooped up at home. Brandon was into Batman, so they decided to build a Bat Cave in the basement.

Dad got into it in a big way.

"It was like one of those movies when I was a little kid, the original Freaky Friday, and the mom changed into the daughter and the daughter changed into the mom," he said. "It's so weird, but I just became Batman."

Next thing he knew, he was writing a $65,000 check for a Chrysler Prowler decked out to look like the Batmobile. He paid some costume-maker in South Jersey $10,000 for an authentic Batman suit with custom mask and leather cape and gloves. "I didn't want the ones you go to Party City to buy." (Not that there's anything wrong with that, he hastened to add. Party City happens to be one of his cleaning accounts.)

Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz has known Robinson for years. "He's having a real identity crisis. He doesn't know if he's human or a cartoon character," Kamenetz said.

But it's the kind of identity crisis that pols don't mind hitching their wagons to. Kamenetz has asked to ride in the Batmobile.

"They're putting all the elected officials in the back of a truck," the councilman said. "You can bet all the cameras will be focused on Batman."

Robinson, however, is hoping to share the two-seater with his son, dressed as Robin. Brandon, now 14, has long since outgrown Batman. But Robinson thinks his son might indulge him, especially since the parade takes place far from North Jersey, where the teen lives with his mom.

"He loves being Robin, but mostly down here," Robinson said. "Believe you me, if I arrived at his high school dressed in my Batman gear with the Batman music blaring through the speakers and put my microphone up to my mouth and said, 'Brandon, please come out to the parking lot. This is Batman speaking,' I would definitely lose joint custody."

Yes, we cannot help

Phelps-A-Palooza adds a hitch to yet another wedding.

Erin Brooks and Ben Hoyle are tying the knot at 5 p.m. Saturday at a church in Federal Hill. That would seem to be a safe distance from the afternoon parade in Towson and the evening festivities at Fort McHenry.

But the bride lives on one side of York Road. Her parents live on the other.

The bridesmaids - there will be 10 of them - were to meet at the bride's house in the afternoon, then take a limo to her parents' for pictures before the wedding. Then the limo and a trolley were supposed to take the party and a few relatives to the church - on a route that also involved crossing York Road.

All during prime parade time.

Any chance they could hold up the parade just long enough for the limo and trolley to scoot across?

"It's just two cars," argued Lauren Rask, sister of the bride and the wedding's transportation point person.

The answer - from county police and the offices of County Exec Jim Smith and Governor O'Malley - was a polite no. So they'll just have to pay the limo and trolley an extra hour or so - at $135 an hour each - to take a long detour around.

Still, Rask was impressed that officials with all of those offices returned her calls and seemed sympathetic.

"Maybe I should have my mom send the extra trolley charge to them."

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