Not just the paint that's flaky

The Baltimore Sun

Keiffer Mitchell thought he was done with City Hall when he lost last year's race for mayor. Then came the notice from the housing department, ordering him to fix the "defective" paint on his brick Bolton Hill townhouse - or face a criminal misdemeanor charge that carries $500-a-day fine.

"It seemed to be much ado about my paint," the former city councilman said with a laugh.

No question that the yellow paint has worn off in spots, but the red brick that peeks through looks more like patina than neglect, even on a handsome street where the large townhouses fetch $500,000.

"People actually said they liked it," said Mitchell, recalling a movie crew that inquired about shooting the exterior a few years ago.

The house already had that mottled look when Mitchell bought it 10 years ago, he said. The woman who sold it to him had it power-washed to removed any loose chips, and he thinks the paint that remains is intact.

Even so, Mitchell acknowledged, "You could argue that [the citation] is legitimate." He added that the housing inspector who issued the notice was "very, very nice, very understanding." And he said he's already talking to contractors to get the house repainted.

But given Baltimore's housing woes, Mitchell thinks it's a little strange that the city had time for his paint.

"I tell you, we got all these vacant houses in the city. When I was a councilperson, I was calling all the time on city-owned vacant lots, boarded up houses," Mitchell said. "Now I got the flaking paint? [In] the city with over 60,000 vacant properties?

"It's highly suspicious - now I'm a private citizen, I get a notice in the mail. ... Come on, it's been 10 years. Welcome to private life."

Hold the political conspiracy theories, said housing department spokeswoman Cheron Porter.

"Our inspectors do not go out and look for [particular] people to cite on violations," she said. She noted that the city has to keep on top of small violations on stable blocks so they don't become big problems on unstable ones.

"We take it all very seriously," she said, "from paint on the house to vacant and abandoned buildings."

Mr. Sher takes a working vacation

Paris Hilton is looking for a Best Friend Forever, again. And if Richard Sher isn't her BFF, the WJZ-TV reporter might qualify as her Best Friend For Now.

Sher ran into the socialite recently at a fancy-schmancy Hollywood party announcing an MTV reality show I Wanna Be Paris Hilton's BFF. (Contestants will shop, jet set and otherwise bond with the famously friend-shedding blonde.)

Sher and his wife, Annabelle, who works for the Maryland Office of Military and Federal Affairs, were in Los Angeles visiting their son, Brian, and his family. He's a talent agent out there and is a good friend of Stella Stolper, co-producer of the BFF show. So that's how the Shers scored invites to the party.

"MTV leased this mansion up in the Hollywood hills, overlooking the whole valley there," Richard Sher said. "It was really a glamorous place. ... Stella said to Brian, 'Would your dad like to do an interview with Paris?'"

"I don't have a camera," Sher protested.

"Use ours," she said.

And the next thing Sher knew, he was standing on a porch interviewing one of the world's most famous people. And - the real shocker - she didn't act like a spoiled socialite.

"She couldn't have been nicer, sweeter or more fun," Sher said. "I asked what she wants in a best friend and she said somebody she can trust and hang out with."

At one point in the interview, which airs at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. today on WJZ, Sher asked Hilton what she had wanted to be when she grew up.

Her answer was not "overexposed socialite." The gal who often accessorizes with a pooch said she just wanted to be a vet.

Isn't somebody supposed to pitch?

Opening Day gave Orioles fans the chance to see the park's new high-definition video scoreboard, part of a $5 million makeover of stadium graphics. But the old JumboTron had something over the new DiamondVision: the pitcher. The new scoreboard, which only listed the nine players in each team's batting lineup, didn't say who was on the mound.

Did Camden Yards get a National League board by mistake?

Orioles spokeswoman Monica Pence said the board will eventually include pitchers - perhaps as soon as tonight's game. It will also post the speed of the pitch, something else that was missing.

"That is not a permanent thing," she said. "It was just working out the kinks. With the new system, things weren't 100 percent yesterday. It takes a little while to get everything where it wants to be."

Don't worry. Orioles fans are used to waiting.

Owners, children and editors first

Waiting at a bank of elevators at the ballpark Monday: Peter Angelos, a few reporters and a bunch of fans, including a couple with a toddler in a stroller. The toddler's dad recognized the O's owner and offered a hello. Angelos returned it.

The first elevator to arrive was reserved for press. Angelos, generally not a big fan of the media, stepped on anyway. Then he motioned for the toddler's family to join him, saving them not just the wait, but from the scrum of the general elevator. Only then did the reporters get to step on board.

On the ride up, Angelos bent down to wave at the toddler. Clearly, he never suspected that the dad was an off-duty Sun editor, Howard Libit.

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