Just be careful what you step in

Keiffer Mitchell, trying to give the boot to the mayor who once famously brandished a shoe, has resorted to footwear theatrics of his own.

At a meeting with his campaign staff two weeks ago, Mitchell tossed his black dress shoes in the trash and - even more startling - unveiled his new look: dark business suit with work boots.


"These are what I'm going to be wearing now because we have some work to do and we have a lot of you-know-what to go through," Mitchell recalls telling his staff.

Nice metaphor, but what image is he projecting on the campaign trail? Future mayor? Or fashion victim?


Mitchell has been wearing the boots - Timberlands he's had since college - everywhere but church. But he hasn't made a point of explaining his fashion faux pas unless someone brings it up. Plenty have.

"People have been asking, 'You got a suit on and you got work boots?'"

Several campaign staffers have started wearing work boots, too. To further inspire the troops, somebody at campaign HQ pulled the dress shoes out of the trash and nailed them to the wall.

Signed with a flourish

College kids are about to head for campus, tuition checks are due, and that means Joan Marshall has the biggest case of writer's cramp in Maryland.

The executive director of the College Savings Plans of Maryland personally signs the checks for students drawing on their accounts.

About 4,450 of them are eligible to use their benefits this school year, but it's not as bad as all that. Some of those kids go to the same college - several hundred to College Park alone - so Marshall can lump their payments into one check.

Still, since May, she's signed 852 checks and she's only about 60 percent there.


Marshall figures she'll have to automate eventually, as the program grows. But until then, she actually enjoys putting her John Hancock on all those checks.

"It's always a nice personal touch to be signing them," she said, noting that she has occasionally caught errors. "I think my signature might be a little less legible than it used to be, but I don't think I have carpal tunnel syndrome yet."

CNN discovers that homicide is a bad thing

In between a story on Texas executions and a bit on correspondent Christiane Amanpour in an Islamic dress shop, CNN turned its attention the other night to Baltimore.

The Situation Room did a piece on Sheila Dixon's recent tete-a-tete with Ed Norris.

Wolf Blitzer: "The city has some real problems and a controversial way of dealing with it."


Carol Costello: "It's called pretty much desperation, Wolf. I mean, it isn't often a mayor who's running for office asks for help from a convicted felon, but that's what Mayor Sheila Dixon has done. That's how desperate she is to stop the killing."

Dixon and Norris appeared briefly - separately. Then Costello wrapped up by noting that four people had been killed since she'd come to town to report on the story last week.

Costello: "Two hundred now murdered in the city with roughly a population of 630,000."

Blitzer: "That's a terrible, terrible number indeed."

Costello: "It's only August."

Blitzer: "Let's hope they can fix that, that's awful."


Hometown boy makes good, does good

In November 2005, then-Mayor Martin O'Malley gave Warner Music Group exec Kevin Liles the key to the city and promised to rename a portion of Presstman Street, where Liles grew up, in his honor. On Sept. 1, Liles will return to Baltimore to see the new signs unveiled on Kevin Liles Drive.

What the heck took so long?

Liles blames his busy schedule, not the slow wheels of municipal government. City officials have been trying to get him to come back for the unveiling since six months after the announcement, he said.

"That was really me, my schedule," he said by phone from New York yesterday. "I haven't had real time to do as much as I wanted to do."

He has found time, however, to come up with an "adopt-your-block" program that he hopes to start in Baltimore and eventually take national. Details are still being worked out and won't be made public until Sept. 1, though Liles did mention something about rebuilding playgrounds and giving books to libraries. Whatever it is, Liles said his grandmother inspired it.


"I just remember growing up, my grandmother didn't just sweep in front of her house," he said. "She swept the whole block."

Connect the dots

NPR featured Baltimore in its Crime in the City series yesterday. Mystery writer Laura Lippman took reporter Noah Adams on a tour of the usual Charm City highlights: the giant ball of string, Faidley's crab cakes and a West Baltimore dead-body dumping ground. ... The Golden Years really can be filled with meaningful work. "The Charlestown Retirement Community's resident woodworking group in Catonsville, MD, is now building a 20-foot-high scale replica of the Washington Monument," a news release from the retirement community says. The replica is being built for a Charlestown fundraising gala.