Making a matched set

It's the great winter mystery of Mount Washington's Maywood Avenue.


About a month ago, a strange item popped up next to the city's traditional yellow salt box -- a black box with "pepper" stamped on the side.

"If you open it up, there's a single pepper shaker inside the huge box," says Linda Conrad, who lives around the corner from the salt and pepper boxes.


"It's been a great neighborhood mystery. I have a sneaking suspicion that I know who did it, but I don't know for sure."

As the first substantial snowfall occurred last week, word continued spreading around the neighborhood about the display, Conrad said.

"It's a good thing. We need some laughter around here."

-- Howard Libit

A sincere 'thank you'?

The New York Stock Exchange and its two political action committees recently made contributions to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and Rep. Michael G. Oxley, the authors of a corporate reform law inspired by the Enron scandal.

Last month, the Wall Street groups gave a total of $10,000 to Oxley's campaign and his political action committee, as well as $5,000 to Sarbanes, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, an organization that tracks campaign money and lobbyists.

Sarbanes and Oxley, an Ohio Republican, co-authored the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act, which became law in 2002. It resulted in sweeping changes in corporate business practices. Sarbanes is Maryland's senior senator and ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. His term expires next year.


-- Mike Adams

Critic converted, mostly

The new Stadium Place YMCA of Central Maryland on East 33rd Street might be the last place in Baltimore you'd expect to run into William Donald Schaefer. But there the state comptroller was on Friday, taking a good look around the swimming pool and the gym as he and civic leader Sally Michel were given the grand tour.

Few friends and foes can forget Schaefer as the most vocal critic of the city's plan to raze storied Memorial Stadium to allow the area's largest YMCA and an affordable housing community for seniors to be built on the 30-acre site.

But all that rancor seemed to melt. "It's an absolutely fantastic place," Schaefer said. "Everything is first-class. My enthusiasm is 100 percent. It's the best 'Y' I've ever seen." After musing about learning to box at the former YMCA on Franklin Street in his youth, only one complaint remained. Schaefer scolded Mayor Martin O'Malley for allowing the stadium facade, with its distinctive lettering, to come down.

"It's the wrong place for a great facility," Schaefer said. "They could have fit this in and kept the war memorial faM-gade."


-- Jamie Stiehm

By all means necessary

They've tried free sodas and discounted parking, not to mention the threat of imprisonment.

In their long struggle to entice Baltimoreans to show up for jury duty, court and city officials are finally pulling out the big gun: Juror Appreciation Week.

The hope is that a mayoral proclamation, to be made at 10 a.m. today at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, will inspire more people to respond to their jury summonses.

Baltimore has so many deadbeat jurors that the courts must call 900 people a day to ensure that 250 will appear for the jury pool.


-- Laura Vozzella