Smile, you're on Frank Conaway's camera

Frank Conaway and family are giving away 500 cameras Thursday and urging law-abiding Baltimoreans to use them to snap pictures of crime in progress.

"Frank M. Conaway, Clerk of the Circuit Court, today called on Baltimoreans in high crime areas to shoot back at criminals — with cameras, not guns," begins the news release. "People in the neighborhoods know where crime is taking place. I am hopeful that they can discreetly document dangerous situations with these cameras. They can either develop the pictures themselves or they can turn the cameras over to the police."

I asked Conaway: In a city known for "Stop Snitching," is it safe to start snapping?

"I certainly don't want people going out on the corner snapping pictures of people," Conaway said. "We've got to do something. They said they're tired of having rallies. They want something to stop this crime. I think this is a way, if criminals think they're being watched, it might help catch some people."

Of course, Baltimore's blue-light cameras haven't done much to curb crime. But Conaway said that's because "you have to be right there under it" to get caught on camera. If the criminals know there are lots of little cameras in their midst, Conaway's theory goes, they might be more likely to behave.

The cameras were purchased with campaign funds from Conaway; his wife, Mary Conaway, who is running for re-election as register of wills; their son, Del. Frank Conaway Jr.; and five state Central Committee candidates running on their slate: Lisa Dungee, John Green, Jessica Brockington, Brian Brown and Charon Wilson. The Conaways' daughter, City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, is not up for re-election this year.

This is not the first, or even most unusual, campaign freebie the Conaways have come up with. Back in 1982, when Frank Sr. ran unsuccessfully for re-election to the House of Delegates and Mary won the office she still holds, the couple gave away hundreds of whole chickens and about 1,000 smoke detectors as they campaigned in West Baltimore.

The incumbent Mary ousted, Patrick J. Duffy, accused her of buying votes, but she prevailed in court.

This giveaway was much cheaper. The cameras cost $1.50 apiece.

"When you divide that cost among all eight of us candidates," Frank Sr. said, "it comes to approximately 19 cents per candidate."

Gimme a whiskey — no gluten

Just how wild and crazy could the gluten-free bar scene be?

Baltimore's liquor board will ponder that question Thursday, when it reconsiders whether to grant a liquor license to a proposed gluten-free restaurant in the 100 block of 27th St. in Remington, next door to the gluten-free Sweet Sin Cupcakes and Café.

The board turned down the cafe owner's request in July after neighbors expressed concern that the operation would create a lot of noise and traffic.

But the board decided to reconsider the matter after it took a closer look at petitions submitted against the plan and noticed that "the immediate neighbors are mostly not opposed," board Chairman Stephan Fogleman told me.

Stay tuned.

Think he's taking sides?

A reader reacted to news that Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld had posted a campaign sign in his yard for Gregg Bernstein, who is challenging State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy. He e-mailed: "Good for Bealefeld. Jessamy has been an INEFFECTIVE FAILURE to the police & citizens of Baltimore." If we have to have failures in office, thank goodness they're ineffective failures.

Look what he's done for Baltimore

Tracy Gosson, a president of the Baltimore marketing firm Sagesse, gave an address about economic development recently to Greater New Orleans Inc., a business group there. She opened her PowerPoint presentation with images from David Simon's gritty Baltimore-based dramas — "Homicide," "The Corner" and "The Wire." Then came a picture from "Treme," Simon's current New Orleans-based project. Finally, a photo of Simon himself. "Meet your new director of economic development marketing — David Simon," it read. "Hope you're watching 'Treme,' " Gosson told the group. "That's what everyone's going to think of New Orleans now."

Something David Simon missed

I'm always skeptical about those corporate surveys that rank Baltimore top such-and-such, like the recent study by Dole Fresh Vegetables that claimed we're "among the top U.S. salad cities measured by per-capita consumption, the potential for consumption or the intention to serve salad as a meal."

Look around? Does this look like a city full of salad eaters? Maybe we're a city of "potential" salad eaters who somehow get sidetracked and suck down lots of Berger cookies by mistake.

But I'll give credit to Edge Shaving Gel for creativity, if not validity, in its survey. The company claims to have commissioned a study to determine the top 10 most irritated cities. Baltimore came in fourth.

Some factors that played into the ranking: Baltimoreans spend an average of 44 hours a year in traffic compared to a study average of 36.8 hours; they average 9.2 sleepless nights per month, above the 8.5-night average; and have very few comedy clubs per capita to take their minds off their troubles.

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