People have whispered for years about the Baltimore widow who sleeps at her boyfriend's house. If the gossip seems almost quaint in this day and age, that's because it turns on an old-fashioned American value: representative democracy.
Rikki Spector represents Northwest Baltimore on the City Council, but she usually hangs her hat at her beau's Inner Harbor condo. What's been an open secret in Baltimore political circles got a public airing last week, at a City Council committee meeting, The Sun's Jill Rosen reports.
Ann Fiocco, president of Riverside Action Group, punctuated her testimony against HarborView's plan to build two more waterfront towers with this bit, aimed at committee member Spector: "Since she lives in HarborView, I respectfully ask that she recuse herself."
Councilwoman Agnes Welch did what any good committee chairwoman does when someone drops a bombshell at a public hearing. She started talking as if she hadn't heard. Spector just smiled at Fiocco, who sat down. But state Sen. George Della picked up where Fiocco left off.
"What my constituent said - you know why? Because she sees you down at HarborView all the time," Della said. "The perception is, the fix is in."
Asked about it this week, Spector said her official residence is 7404 Park Heights Ave., but "I spend a lot of time at HarborView."
A council member since 1977, Spector said city ethics officials have assured her she did not have to bow out of any HarborView decisions because the condo belongs to her fabulously named boyfriend of 13 years, Oscar Brilliant, not her. "I have no investment in HarborView," she said.
But what about the larger question: Shouldn't City Council members live in their districts? The city charter says they must, though the state's highest court has taken a liberal view of residency. In 1998, the court decided Clarence Blount could represent Baltimore in the state Senate even though he mostly lived in Pikesville. (His city apartment didn't even have a phone.) Official residence, the court ruled, is where the candidate says it is.
Which doesn't mean a political challenger couldn't call Spector a carpetbagger and question whether someone residing along the city's glittering waterfront can really represent the concerns of its less affluent northwest corner.
"Ultimately, the judges of all this are the voters," said McDaniel College poli-sci professor Herbert Smith.
Spector said her heart is in Northwest Baltimore, even when she is not.
"I work full time for my constituents. My job, for me, is full time and my personal life is my personal life," she said. "My fiance used to live in Annapolis. I'm sorry he didn't move into my district because then he could vote for me. If I ever break up with him, I'll find a boyfriend in the 5th District."
Smooth sailing at Dem fundraiser
Good thing for Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Martin O'Malley that John Coale didn't go down with his ship in the 1970s, when his sailboat sank in a storm off the coast of Spain, since he went on to become a big-time Democratic fundraiser.
And good thing, too, for Dems that Coale's luck with boats has improved, since he had some of the party's biggest names on his 1947 Trumpy yacht for a cruise around the Baltimore harbor the other day.
Pelosi, O'Malley and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer were all aboard Sunday, along with congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger and Chris Van Hollen.
"Thank goodness it stopped raining and the sun came out," said Ruppersberger, who co-hosted the event with Coale, his former University of Maryland frat brother. The event honored Pelosi and raised over $200,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which Van Hollen chairs.
About 25 people attended - not counting the three or four security guys on board. Two police boats and a Coast Guard craft followed the yacht, perhaps wary of Coale's Spanish sailing misadventure, which he described in an interview a few years back with Power & Motoryacht. In the same article, Coale explained the allure of his 80-foot wooden yacht.
"I love it when you can go two blocks away, look back, and go, 'Oh my God,' " Coale told the magazine. "You don't get that with other boats. You go two blocks away and say, 'Which one's mine?' "
Um, I think it's the one with the multiple security details.
Connect the dots ...
Not since Barbaro has a bum leg gotten so much attention in Baltimore. The Ed Norris Show on WHFS had a field day with The Sun's Page 1, above-the-fold photo of Gov. O'Malley on crutches. Sidekick Maynard did a dramatic reading of the governor's (slightly embellished) quotations with the "1812 Overture" playing in the background. "Not even you can power through it. Your leg is broken, man!" ... Caller "Daren" - the Norris show's "Jerry from Pikesville" - lamented that O'Malley's mug wasn't out front last week, after the FBI reported that while he was mayor last year, Baltimore ranked as America's second-deadliest big city. His name for The Gov: "The Teflon leprechaun." ... Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman whipped up one of his extreme cakes for a party last weekend at The Wire's Columbia soundstage. It was shaped like a bunch of rowhouses. There was even a vacant lot with - you're thinking, dead body, right? No, a community garden. The party was a fundraiser for Parks & People Foundation. "It was really a very pretty vacant rowhouse cake," said Jean DuBose, the foundation's assistant director.