As the flak flies, the flacks flock


Sheila Dixon is trying to get her message out. I say "trying" because the City Council president has been advertising the job of communications director - a new slot in her office - since last year. Dixon is also looking for an executive director, another new position, to oversee "all areas of the office." That job's been posted since early this year.

What's wrong with all the shrinking-violet directors out there? Pay can't be the problem in a city where the median household income is about $30,000. Salary range for both jobs is $51,000 to $91,800.

Don't they know they could be working for the next mayor of Baltimore, if the guy currently occupying City Hall's second floor makes it to Annapolis? Don't tell me they're scared off by that jar in Dixon's office, labeled "Ashes of problem employees." Or by state prosecutors, who are looking into Dixon's official and familial ties to a company just kicked out of the city's minority contracting program.

"We've received lots of resumes," Beatrice Tripps, Dixon's chief of staff, assured me. It's just a matter, she said, of finding the "right fit."

Help Wanted: communications director to develop and implement a "strategic communications plan" for Baltimore's No. 2 elected official. Excellent verbal and written communication skills required. Grand jury experience a plus.

Try the Ferraro Stratagem

Maybe Lanny Davis should send his resume Dixon's way. The former Clinton adviser, who was all over TV in the administration's darkest days, knows a thing or two about crisis communications.

"If I could defend Bill Clinton on Monica Lewinsky," he told me, "I can do anything."

The Montgomery Countian couldn't talk specifics in Dixon's case. But he offered some general crisis management advice: "Do a Geraldine Ferraro."

"Invite in all the reporters, bring in all the people involved - the contractor, the company, relatives, friends, whoever is involved - and don't leave the room until every question has been answered. And then it's over," he said. "And if you've made a mistake, the facts are stubborn. You cannot delete a stubborn fact. But you can create a fact sandwich. You can put all the facts out and surround the bad facts in the context of an explanation, or an admission of error."

That's the strategy Ferraro used to calm the frenzy that erupted over her husband's finances in 1984, when she was Walter Mondale's running mate, Davis said. And that's the strategy he says he followed after the Lewinsky scandal broke, when he took up for the president on two or three television shows every night for a year.

Not that it always works, Davis allowed, recalling his wife's reaction to his Lewinsky-related, um, service.

"I would come home every night after being on Larry King and I'd say, 'How'd I do?'" he recalled. "And she'd say, 'You don't really believe that crap.'"

He doesn't golf, and he thinks he's white?

Jojo Girard, morning show host on WWMX-FM, takes issue with this comment publisher Doni Glover made in my column last week: "A white guy doesn't have to prove he's white."

"He's clearly never grown up white in the city and then moved to the suburbs," writes Girard, a Detroit native. "After to coming to Clarksville from Michigan 12 years ago, I still don't fit in. I don't know anything about golf. ... Lacrosse was an ancient game played by Indians. ... I drive a nondescript Chevy, never liked classic rock or country music, and stock options to me are something the grocer would worry about. Laura, I never feel I'm white enough."

Those Democrats, always ready to help others

Always happy to help Lt. Gov. Michael Steele trumpet fundraisers that George Bush and his pals put on for him, the Maryland Democratic Party went the extra mile last week. They not only announced that George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush were scheduled to help Steele raise cash in Chevy Chase Friday night. They provided the Senate hopeful with talking points.

"What does Steele think of Barbara Bush's Katrina comments?" read the headline on a party press release, which quoted the former first lady's infamously upbeat - "This is working very well for them" - take on hurricane evacuees. "Friday's fundraiser is a great time to share opinion."

Connect the dots

There goes the Western Maryland vote. Stu Simms told WYPR's Marc Steiner last week that he got back into politics because, "This was Doug Duncan. This is somebody who I've watched for about 12 years really work hard in Montgomery County, which is by no means some cow pasture in Western Maryland, but a jurisdiction that has its own set of complexities." ... Baltimore City Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway, who tells anyone who asks that he's "outstanding but improving," is even more upbeat than usual. He says his daughter, Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, is mulling a run for Ralph Hughes' state Senate seat. ... The art of politics will be on display today at the Arbutus Arts Festival. Hometown boy Bob Ehrlich and the two guys who'd like to oust him from the governor's mansion - Martin O'Malley and Doug Duncan - are all expected.

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