SOMETHING wrong with this picture: Baltimore County proudly announces that its curbside recycling program has been setting records and raising sweet amounts of cash to offset the cost of trash removal while the city of Baltimore gloomily announces that it needs to cut its underachieving blue-bag program to save $500,000.
I know: The county doesn't have a violent-crime crisis, a shrinking population and tax base, and the highest concentration of the state's poor. But maybe it also has smarter management of its government and, when it comes to recycling, maybe a stronger public-awareness effort to get more of its residents to participate.
Of course, there's another big difference: The county is not facing a deficit while trying to give its police officers a 33 percent pay raise (and its firefighters something comparable), which is what the young - so young - O'Malley administration is trying to do. It's a good idea to be generous with cops and firefighters - if you can afford it. But, apparently the city cannot afford it without slashing departmental budgets, laying off hundreds of city employees and cutting basic services, such as the curbside recycling of plastics, glass and metal - the highly visible, blue-bag program that affords Baltimoreans a simple, routine way to perform an act of environmental citizenship.
This is why we get peeved when the city gives millions of dollars in tax breaks to the millionaire developers of hotels and other tourist attractions, and when City Council members vote themselves fat pay raises. Five-hundred thousand? Isn't that roughly what the city plans to fork over for the El Dorado strip club? And did we really need to spend more than $11 million on not one, not two, but four new police helicopters?
Something wrong with this picture.
Instead of retreating from curbside recycling, the city should be giving it a boost, demanding a fresh round of public-service announcements from TV and radio stations, getting the message out to neighborhoods and school kids. There's a perfect opportunity here for a progressive act of regionalism, too. The city and county ought to strike a deal to share the costs and the revenue from recycling. The Dutch and the Irish ought to get together on this.
Hip Mrs. O'Malley
Spotted at last week's Barenaked Ladies concert at the Baltimore Arena: Katie Curran O'Malley, wife of the mayor, with friends and kids. Said TJI's spotter: "I don't remember moms being this cool when I was growing up." ... I've looked again and again at that parking garage going up near Little Italy, and you know what? It gets uglier and uglier. ... Baltimore Factoid: The big bubble covering the Mimi DiPietro Family Skating Center in Patterson Park ($3 for two hours of ice, 410-396-9392) is made out of a PVC-coated polyester. A lot of people don't know this, but it was stitched together from 3,000 of Mimi's suits.
Beware of these cons
Remember the clean-cut panhandler with the gas can who used to ask for "loans" at Golden Ring Mall? TJI named him Golden Ring Harry. He lied to his many patrons that he'd repay them at his place of employment - Big Al's Pit Beef on Pulaski Highway - and some of them showed up there looking for him.
Chris Emry, the 9 a.m.-to-2 p.m. host on WOCT-FM (104.3), reports a guy with a similar, but more upscale, modus operandi.
"I was leaving PetSmart at the Towson Marketplace," Chris says, "when a cleanly dressed guy, about 30 years old and carrying a large white plastic bag, stopped me. He told me he lived in Glen Burnie, didn't have any money for transportation home and that he was injured. He asked for $3 and told me that he worked the deli at Eddie's in Roland Park and would gladly make me any sandwich that I would like in return for the money.
"He then slipped off his right shoe in order to confirm his injury by showing me his 'blood'-soaked sock. I offered to drive him to Glen Burnie. He mumbled something and walked away. I circled the parking lot and returned just in time to see some poor sucker pulling money out of his wallet to help this weasel. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"
Raises and radio
Joey Amalfitano, TJI cultural correspondent, says: "I got an idea. The next time some bigwig wants to leave a shoebox filled with cash to Johns Hopkins, they can stipulate that a piece of the moolah go to a raise for hospital workers and to keeping WJHU owned by the university. Another thing: How about more local programming on that station? Do we really need that hour of Terry Gross and her I'm-so-hip-and-you're-not schtick from Philadelphia? How about an hour of local news and talk before 'All Things Considered' comes on? It could be called, 'All Baltimore Stuff Considered.'"
Phoning it in
Just when you think you've seen it all with cell phones ...
The Rev. Frank Brauer, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Edgewater, had breakfast at the local Friendly's last week and noticed something stuck in the neck of the waitress serving customers at a nearby table.
"As she was carrying two plates, nestled between her shoulder and ear was a cell phone," Father Frank says. "As she placed the plates on the table, she just simply continued her phone conversation and continued to talk on the phone as she gave a menu to a new customer."
I'm trying to imagine how this might have sounded:
"So I told Jerry I need to get a baby sitter for Amber, eggs over, who had the scrambled with scrapple? And no way can I be going out with him during the week, toast is coming right out, the weekend's are fine, can I get you anything else? I can go Saturday, even Sunday, more coffee, even Sunday night would be OK because my mother, here's your menu, my mother, I'll be right with you, my mother could stay with Amber, thanks and have a nice day, hon. You still there?"
TJIDan@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166.