As inauguration day nears, Sheila Dixon's biggest problem ought to be finding the right shoes to brandish at the ball.
Or fending off questions about a certain developer pal, the one who went all the way to the Bahamas to help the future mayor celebrate her 50th birthday, whose projects got city land, money and tax breaks with Dixon's arm-twisting, whose company hired the fishy subcontractor that employed Dixon's sister, whose offices were raided the other day by state prosecutors.
But no. Dixon's biggest problem is Frank Conaway. At least the Circuit Court clerk hopes so.
Conaway has a book and a piece of paper that he says are needed for Dixon's swearing-in, and he doesn't intend to hand them over.
"I won't give it to them," he said.
The book is the "testament book," or "test book," a large red volume that elected officials sign to make a written record of their taking the oath of office. The paper is known as a citation or commission, which states when the official was elected and specifies his or her term of office. The governor issues the citations but then forwards them to local court clerks, who typically present them at swearings-in.
"I'm in possession of all the citations. They need a citation to go forward with the oath of office," Conaway said. "The test book, all elected officials must sign that book after they are sworn in. ... The citations and book are in an undisclosed location that only can be gotten to by Homeland Security."
City Solicitor George Nilson said Dixon will take office with or without the test book and citation. Dixon could put her John Hancock on just about anything to satisfy the need for her signature, which he described as "part of the lore of swearing-in," not a legal requirement.
"You can basically write it on the back of a cocktail napkin," he said. "That would probably be legally sufficient."
Not that it will come to that. There is a second test book in City Hall, used when the mayor swears in officials. Dixon intends to use that one, Nilson said.
As for the citation, Nilson said that isn't necessary, either.
"You're mayor when you're elected; you're really mayor when you take the oath, and if there's some document suitable for framing, I suppose you track it down later if Frank won't bring it to the event," Nilson said.
Conaway challenged Dixon in the Democratic primary. But he's not sore that he lost. He's sore that Dixon wants Martin O'Malley to administer the oath of office instead of him.
Under state law, the clerk or one of his deputies swears in the mayor. But Dixon asked her "Partner in Progress" to do the honors instead. Nobody bothered to tell Conaway. When he got wind of the plan this month, Conaway said he'd "consider" deputizing O'Malley if the governor asked. No one has come begging from Annapolis, however.
Nilson and the state attorney general's office have since informed Conaway that the state constitution says the governor may administer the oath. But Conaway maintains that the governor can sub for him only in an emergency.
Conaway also says the mayor's office seems oddly intent on getting hold of the book and citation if they're not really needed. Dixon's office called looking for them both yesterday, the clerk said. He wasn't budging, despite the inaugural invitation that, around the same time, churned over his fax machine.
Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford acknowledged that "there are some details to work out with the clerk of the court's office."
"Mr. Conaway's a committed public servant, and we know he doesn't want to hold up the inauguration or cause any problems," Clifford said. "So we'll work with him and make sure it's done correctly, and make sure as well that the governor's part of it."
What's with the meat and the milk, anyway?
Governor O'Malley's menu for the Israeli prime minister elicits an oy vey! from a reader.
"As a Jewish Marylander, I would have thought they could have gone at least kosher style," he writes. "I mean chicken salad sandwiches with cheese platters? That's mixing milk and meat."
No comment from The Gov's office.
The reader also lamented that Government House chefs missed a chance to bridge Jewish and Irish cultures. "My thought would have been to pick something like corned beef."
Connect the dots
Professional skateboarder Bucky Lasek, who was raised in Armistead Gardens in East Baltimore, says the city gave him his start. "Got into skateboarding when my bike got stolen," he says in a tourism video at www.visitmybaltimore.com. "That's when I decided to kind of pick something I could actually keep a little closer." Bet tourists can't wait to Get In On that. ... Another local celebrity who posted a video on the tourism site: Cal Ripken, who talks up Baltimore while sitting in an empty Camden Yards. At one point, he holds up a small likeness of himself. "This bobble head isn't too bad," he says. "It has blue eyes, and I don't look like David Segui." ... Who was that gal in the striped jailbird costume and giant papier-mache Condi Rice head outside the peace talks in Annapolis? One Liz Houricane, 40, all the way from Scottsdale, Ariz. "It's street theater," she told The Sun's Nicole Fuller. "People pay attention. I can educate people more easily when I have on something funny."