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Call it 'ish' and let it go at that

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore magazine has just come out with a list of 20 "Top Singles." Among them: Del. Jill P. Carter, who is billed as a 40-year-old lawyer and legislator whose worst habit is "avoiding the inevitable."

I'd say the habit's working for her. Carter has managed to avoid the passage of time - at least in the magazine.

Carter's date of birth, according to the Baltimore City voter registration form she filed in 1982, is June 18, 1963. That makes her 44.

Asked why the magazine was under the impression that she'd just hit the big 4-0, Carter said: "Well, it's what I said. I really don't like to discuss age. The reason is - it's not some vain reason." She went on to explain that she looks younger than her years, and that helps her in court and in the State House because people underestimate her.

Then, growing angry enough to start spewing expletives, Carter changed her story. She said she'd put "zero" down for her age on the magazine's questionnaire. Then a fact-checker called and she said, "40-ish."

Senior editor Max Weiss said there was no fact-checker involved.

"She [Carter] filled out a form. It says clearly '40' on her form." The editor added: "Whatever age she is, she looks fantastic."

Carter has been touchy about age before. She gave Sun City Hall reporter John Fritze "an earful" when he asked her age in the course of covering her run for mayor last year, Fritze wrote at the time on the paper's campaign blog. Carter said then that a candidate's age - something routinely noted in campaign stories - was irrelevant and could subject people to unfair assumptions about age.

(This might be a good time to come clean: I'm 42. Assume away!)

Maybe Carter has a point. Maybe age shouldn't matter when Baltimoreans look for a mayor - or a mate.

Carter seems to have her own romantic priorities in order. Asked in the magazine about her "type," Carter said she's looking for someone "authentic."

Today's special: Condescension

It's a fine line, it seems, between celebrating cultural diversity and reducing a slain civil rights hero to soul food.

The Naval Academy marked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday last week with a meal of fried chicken, greens and cornbread. Clips of King's speeches were piped into the dining hall.

The gesture fell as flat as the tortillas served to midshipmen in September, when there were fajitas for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Nobody found the fajitas offensive, but the GoMids.com message board was on fire about the King meal, The Sun's Josh Mitchell reported. What's the difference?

(For the record, King's favorite dinner was fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread, as Park Ranger Marty Smith tells anyone who tours his boyhood home in Atlanta.)

Waldo E. Johnson Jr., director of the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, said the meal is contrary to the colorblindness preached by King.

"King was about not necessarily creating any kind of ethno culture," said Johnson, noting that King began his career fighting segregation, but later took on the Vietnam War and other causes. "It was a broader thing that linked all people regardless of race."

"To distill it down to a soul food meal ... begins to kind of narrow [King's legacy] in an unfortunate way."

You can beg yourself, or you can delegate it

Good news for mayors and county execs across Maryland: You don't have to show up at the State House today to beg for school construction dough. You can leave that to your school boards and superintendents.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, veteran of four beg-a-thons before Bob Ehrlich and William Donald Schaefer, has freed county leaders of the sometimes-demeaning duty.

But Comptroller Peter Franchot, a relative newcomer to the marathon affair, has sent out "come on down!" letters to execs anyway.

"I strongly believe that the process of allocating funds to our public schools should be as open and participatory as possible," it says.

Franchot's office said at least 17 county commissioners, council members and the like will take him up on the offer.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese declined to comment on Franchot's invitation. But if county officials choose to come, the governor won't hold it against them, Abbruzzese said. "It's an open meeting, and everyone is welcome to attend."

Connect the dots

With the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington last week, Sheila Dixon and the mayors of Sugar Land, Texas, and Louisville, Ky., were on The Diane Rehm Show, talking unfunded mandates and the like. Dixon must have thought "politics" was a bad word on NPR. At one point, she referred to her 20 years "in poli - public service." ... Baltimore County Exec Jim Smith helped serve lunch to River Hill High School football players Monday to settle the bet he had with Howard Exec Ken Ulman on the state's 2A high school football championship game. "Hey! We can use his help in public school cafeterias right here in Baltimore County," writes James R. Smith (no relation) of Rodgers Forge, who complains about overcrowding at Rodgers Forge Elementary. "To meet the needs of the grossly overcrowded school, the first students start eating at 11:15 (kind of early, don't you think?) and the last students aren't fed until 1:37. Any extra help Mr. Smith can give ... will be greatly appreciated."

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