There are signs along a forlorn stretch of U.S. 40 on the west side that Mayor Sheila Dixon is trying to make Baltimore better, and I don't mean all the new trees, shrubs and stamped concrete planters in the median strips. I mean the 4-by-8-foot, city-sponsored placards with Dixon's name on them.
"A cleaner, greener, safer and healthier Baltimore," they read on top. On the bottom, the signs give kudos to "Mayor Sheila Dixon and the Citizens of Baltimore."
That's right: a great, big thank-you to the mayor seeking re-election and the taxpayers who paid for the signs promoting her.
When the median work began months ago, the city posted large placards at either end of the project, so passing motorists would be aware of the beautification project. They had Dixon's name on them, too, and used her "cleaner, greener" slogan. But those were standard city signs, done up with the municipal seal in gold and black, the kind Martin O'Malley and probably every modern mayor before him used to splash their names around town.
The original signs are still in place along Edmondson. But last weekend, up popped three more, two of them double-sided. The new ones are done up in cheery, multi-colored type. There's a cute, cartoon-y image of the faux-brick planters plus something that looks like a dancing orange pylon.
And then there's the "cleaner, greener" bit, expanded to suggest a platform beyond median beautification. "Healthier" I guess could refer to improved air quality, courtesy of those new plants. But "safer"? How will prettier medians make Baltimore safer, unless the ornamental grasses are meant to provide cover during shootings?
Aren't those signs just a tad promotional?
Transportation spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes said the city decided it needed more signs because the project runs a long ways. (Two miles by my odometer.)
"It's a long stretch," she said. "We just basically want people to know what we're doing."
She said she couldn't put a dollar figure on the signs, since they were made in-house in the city's sign shop. She was certain that they were "not very costly to us."
But costly, perhaps, to Keiffer Mitchell and the other mayoral wannabes.
Democratic household goes independent
Martin and Katie O'Malley have sold their home in Baltimore to a young Hopkins doctor and her Web-consultant husband who are neither Democrats nor Republicans.
"Politics didn't really play a part in it. It's just a really, really great house," said the unaffiliated Eric Carlisle. "We just fell in love with it."
They paid $320,000 for the four-bedroom Tudor on Walther Avenue. It was listed in April for $350,000. The couple, who have a dog and cat, are moving from a Canton rowhouse.
Even if they didn't give a hoot that the house belonged to the former mayor and current governor, Carlisle and his wife, Emily Streyer Carlisle, were impressed that both O'Malleys made it to last week's closing.
Their agent, Rich Perrera of Long and Foster, and even listing agent Sean O'Conor of O'Conor and Mooney, thought The Gov might give power of attorney to The Judge.
"It was a very nice surprise," said Eric Carlisle. "They were very pleasant."
The O'Malleys chatted about all the nice neighbors and the French drain they'd put in to keep the basement from flooding, he said.
And, unlike most people buying or selling property, he said, the O'Malleys, both lawyers, seemed to know what they were signing.
Say, can you say eBay?
Cal Ripken is said to be a savvy marketer of his own baseball memorabilia, but he's let one item slip through his fingers: the flag Bob Ehrlich had flown for him over the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 6, 1995.
That was the day the O's shortstop passed Lou Gehrig's record by playing his 2,131st game. Ehrlich, then a congressman, had Old Glory flutter in his constituent's honor that day and praised him on the floor of the House.
Ehrlich planned to present the flag to Ripken over lunch. But with lots of demands on Ripken's time back then, lunch never materialized.
Ever since, the flag has been in the custody of the guy charged with arranging the elusive lunch, Richard Cross, who was Ehrlich's press secretary when he was in Congress and his speechwriter when he was governor.
Cross kept it in a file cabinet for years. At some point, between the move from Washington to Annapolis and another job in between, Cross stashed it in a drawer in his mom's house. It sat there, forgotten, until 2004, when his mom died and he cleaned out her house.
Cross would like to get keepsake to Ripken, but he isn't quite sure how. "It's been a bit of unfinished business for me."
If the Iron Man was too busy to collect it in '95, the newly minted Hall of Famer probably doesn't have time these days. Then again, Cal the businessman surely knows the flag is worth more now.
Connect the dots
Called for jury duty yesterday: Baltimore City State's Attorney Pat Jessamy. I'm told she stood with everyone else when asked to give name, marital status, spouse's occupation, etc., but Circuit Judge Alfred Nance told her to sit down when he came to her, so she kept mum. She wasn't picked for a jury, but had to make a day of it in the jury room with the rest of the pool. ... Bumper sticker on a Ford Probe parked near Lexington Market yesterday morning featured a familiar winking visage with a comb stuck in a restyled 'do. Text: Natty Broh. ...