Just park the car where Sister tells you to

The Baltimore Sun

Eight-foot nuns are on a mission of motor-vehicular mercy in Baltimore.

Larger-than-life Sisters of Mercy are helping patients and visitors find parking at downtown's Mercy Medical Center, which recently closed its Pleasant Street garage to make way for a $400 million hospital tower.

Twenty-eight corrugated plastic cutouts stand on streets around the hospital, each with a sign pointing to another garage on Saratoga Street.

All of the nuns - Sisters Helen Amos, Aine O'Connor, Elizabeth Anne, Theresa Carter, Sue Weetenkamp and Annella Martin - are dressed in navy blue suits rather than traditional habits. But their sensible shoes and cross lapel pins signal that they work for a higher authority than the Parking Authority.

The sisters, who work in pastoral care, administration and other hospital functions, had to get used to their giant alter egos, said Mercy spokesman Dan Collins. That was especially true for the Sister Theresa, whose cutout was nearly twice her height.

"Sister Theresa, the most diminutive of the sisters - she's about 4-foot-10 - she had commented that it's almost a little disturbing to see yourself as a giant," Collins said. "But she likes it."

Dark horses don't get any darker than this

Results are in for the Maryland GOP presidential straw poll, conducted over 11 days at the State Fair. And the winner is ... Ron Paul.

Ron Paul?

The Texas congressman has been in the low single digits in national polls. Yet he reeled in 263 votes to Rudy Giuliani's 220, Fred Thompson's 188, Mitt Romney's 89, John McCain's 54 and Mike Huckabee's 35, write-in Newt Gingrich's 17, Tom Tancredo's 16, Sam Brownback's 12 and Duncan Hunter's 3.

What's Paul's special appeal among the nearly 1,000 Marylanders - all voting age, but not necessarily registered Republicans - who cast ballots? The state GOP's press release offers a hint.

"The campaigns of all nine presidential candidates appearing on the ballot were invited to have a representative at the State Fair booth at all times," it says. "While most campaigns did not have a representative present, the Ron Paul campaign had full representation for all eleven days."

Giuliani's Mid-Atlantic chairman, Bob Ehrlich, was at the booth one day. But maybe the ex-Gov was too busy signing autographs to promote his candidate. Ehrlich himself garnered three votes as a write-in.

It's all Montgomery, and it's all green

The security situation in MoCo has apparently gone south. They're creating a Green Zone in Bethesda. Fortunately, The Sun's Andy Green reports, they had an Iraq vet on hand this week to help them get it set up.

"Joined by Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, today, Honest Tea officially opened their new eco-friendly office in downtown Bethesda and unveiled another green initiative," the press release began.

Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman, whose official title at the organic drinks maker is - and I'm not making this up - TeaEO, announced the creation of the Bethesda Green Zone. That means more recycling and bike racks in the business district, and maybe solar-powered trash compactors and clean energy someday, the company says.

Goldman, whose new headquarters boasts recycled rubber in the flooring and recycled brick in the columns, tells me even the area's restaurant grease will be turned into biofuel: "There might be a place for trans fats in the trolley."

Connect the dots

Move over, William O'Malley. Sheila Dixon's new campaign commercial stars her two children, Jasmine and Joshua. They talk up their mom on what you'd assume is their front porch. "Welcome to our world," the kids say. But Dixon's Hunting Ridge house doesn't have a porch. Dixon campaign manager Martha McKenna said they shot the ad at a supporter's house in another West Side neighborhood, Arlington. "It just had more of a front-porch feel." ... Michael Bronfein, a venture capitalist who founded the NeighborCare prescription drug supplier, and his wife, Jessica, will host a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton Sept. 27 at their Caves Valley Golf Club home. The cost of admission depends on whether you just want a drink or some food and face time with the aspiring president. It's $1,000 a head for cocktails, or $2,300 for "dinner and conversation." ... Frank Conaway knew he'd still appear on the ballot after bowing out of the Baltimore mayor's race. But the city Circuit Court clerk didn't expect to appear in The Sun, as he did yesterday, with a blurb about Wednesday's mayoral candidates' forum on WOLB-AM. The photo, from a previous event, showed Conaway, Mayor Dixon and Councilman Keiffer Mitchell. "I was flabbergasted," Conaway said. "Do they want me to get back in the race?" ... He's way behind in fundraising and the polls, but City Councilman Ken Harris says he still expects to prevail in the council president's race. "We're getting major, major love in the street," he told me.

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