About That First-name Thing ...

April 22, 2009|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake went into the family business, a line of work that demands glad-handing and baby-kissing. But apparently there are limits to how up-close-and-personal she wants to get with customers.

At a public hearing last week about her live entertainment bill, the City Council president and daughter of the late Del. Pete Rawlings let a woman have it for addressing her as "Stephanie."

The woman was testifying against the bill but was not the least bit confrontational, judging by the city's tape recording of the proceedings, which I heard Tuesday. Having calmly voiced her concerns, she was actually giving Rawlings-Blake kudos when she let the S-word slip.

"I know you, Stephanie, addressed some of these things and I think you ..."

"Please, please, please," Rawlings-Blake interrupted. "We don't know each other. I'm not going to call you by your first name. ... Show a little respect to the - to us up here."

The woman replied: "I'm sorry. I see everyone as equal. I apologize. Again, we may not think alike ..."

Rawlings-Blake broke in. "It has nothing to do with equal. It has something to do with respect."

The woman asked how she would like to be addressed.

"Madame President. Council President Rawlings-Blake. Mrs. Rawlings-Blake."

The woman tried to continue. "Madame President," she began.

"We're not friends, so - " Rawlings-Blake jumped in again.

Sounding a little shaken, the woman gave up. "I - you know what? I can't reason with the irra- tional," she said to applause.

A political group opposed to the entertainment bill, Independent Movement Political Action Club, issued a news release calling on Rawlings-Blake to apologize.

Rawlings-Blake spokesman Ryan O'Doherty would say only this much: "The council president had an exchange with a constituent that she regretted and wrote directly to the constituent to offer a sincere apology."

The handwritten note opened with a line seldom uttered by politicians: "I was wrong." It also said, "[T]here is no excuse for unfriendliness."

Don't say hey

Rawlings-Blake isn't the first Baltimore pol to demand a little titular respect. At a news conference not long after she assumed the office of mayor, Sheila Dixon took a WBAL reporter to task for prefacing a question with, "Hey, Sheila."

"Hey, Sheila?" she said. "Did you say that to Martin? ... 'Hey, Martin'? "

Dixon's tone was maybe jovial, maybe not, The Baltimore Sun's John Fritze reported at the time. No question about Rawlings-Blake's tone, though some didn't blame her for demanding to be addressed formally in the setting of a large public hearing.

"As a council, we don't address people in a formal hearing by their first names," said Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, who attended the hearing. "I really think she had the right to say it."

But Conaway did say Rawlings-Blake was more "direct" about it than she would have been.

"I wouldn't have handled it that way unless someone is confrontational with me," Conaway said. "There's a way to say everything."

A fit octogenarian

If you put two carrots, two stalks of celery and an apple in the juicer every morning and drink up, there's no guarantee that well into old age, you'll be fit enough to drive, work full time and do 50 push-ups.

But it's working for Marvin Mandel.

The former governor turned 89 Sunday, and he celebrated with breakfast at the Double T diner with lobbyist Bruce Bereano. The next day, he was back at the office, where he practices general business law five days a week. He even made an appearance in court.

"I feel great, and I don't feel any different than I did 20 years ago," said Mandel.

Mandel isn't sure the vegetable elixir deserves all the credit. Three days a week, he does 20 minutes on the treadmill and 50 push-ups.

A royal breakfast

Speaking of power breakfasts, the King of Jordan - His Majesty King Abdullah II, "43rd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad," as the royal Web site describes him - popped into Miss Shirley's new Inner Harbor outpost Sunday.

The king, who met with President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday, told Miss Shirley's staff that he was staying at a hotel nearby.

Dressed in "business casual," the king came in, unannounced, about 8 a.m. with eight or 10 others, all men, some of them presumably bodyguards, said a Miss Shirley's spokeswoman. They had omelets, waffles, pancakes, fruit and coffee. Since it was a big party, Miss Shirley's automatically tacked on a 20 percent gratuity, but the royal diner left something on top of that. How much more? Miss Shirley's wasn't saying.

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