August 15, 2005
BEFORE THE Baltimore City Council votes on Mayor Martin O'Malley's proposal for the public financing of a $305 million convention center hotel, it would be nice to hear from Mayor Martin O'Malley. Exsqueeze me? Have you noticed that O'Mayor has been relatively low-key on this high-profile project?
We hear from his assistants and chief of staff. We hear from the council president. We hear from the city's respected economic development guy. But O'Mayor hasn't exactly brought passion and confident resolve to this debate, certainly not in the way one of his predecessors, William Donald Schaefer, did in his crusade for public financing of the half-billion-dollar stadium complex for the Ravens and Orioles.
At one point, O'Mayor said the hotel would be in the "best interests" of the city. He also said that, all things considered, the financing plan in the current convention market presented a "very acceptable" risk. And if you've been over that plan carefully you might even agree with him.
But those pronouncements sound like wish-wash from a mild-mannered financial geek, not the savvy, progressive mayor of a rapidly redeveloping East Coast city.
So, let's hear it, your honor. You could even go back to the place where you forged your reputation -- the floor of the City Council, tonight -- and tell us exactly how you feel about this, clearly and firmly. There's still time.
And I hear there's a belly dancer at one of the Belvedere shops, Egyptian Pizza, every Tuesday night.
A friend handed me a CD and I popped it in the player the other night while coming down Route 30 through Manchester and Hampstead. It was "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home," the Joe South song, as performed by the Kentucky Headhunters. Nice pick by this band, a tribute to a soulful Georgia songwriting star who burned bright and fast in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
I think I last heard that song -- Joe South singing about the New South rolling over the Old South -- back in high school, and almost every word came back, too. ("There's a six-lane highway down by the creek, Where I went skinny-dippin' as a child,/ And a drive-in show where the meadows used to grow, And the strawberries used to grow wild.") Y'all want to dig that one out when you're up for a dose of American country irony.
But this summer, something happened.
This summer, the tree is heavy with peaches of market size and shape, with spotless yellow-and-red skin. It's as if the tree had decided to do this on its own. Only professional self-consciousness about overstatement keeps me from calling this a miracle.
We picked three bushels, as excited as children finding treasure, but feeling a little guilty because no human enjoying this golden bounty had done anything, aside from last fall's limited pruning, to deserve it.
That evening in West Baltimore I attended a graduation for men and women who had completed one year of drug abuse therapy through Recovery In Community, the outpatient center in West Baltimore. It was an inspiring event -- adults who had put forth the hard sweat of recovery from cocaine or heroin to get to a better place in their lives. After years and years of addiction, lost in the city's dreary drug subculture, the RIC graduates had stepped into a new phase of their lives -- cleaner, healthier and closer to achieving their potential.
After the ceremony, I told one of the graduates about the surprising peaches -- a bounty we didn't see coming from a tree we never considered productive. "That peach tree had been forgotten, like we were," the graduate said. "It did a lot on its own, didn't it?"
Yes, and that seems to be a key to recovery -- doing a lot on your own when others have given up on you.
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