Uh, not so fast, 'Mayor' Dixon

The Baltimore Sun

So is Sheila Dixon really mayor of Baltimore or what?

Pretty much everybody but Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway has accepted that fact. But his minority view seems to be mucking up the city's ability to issue bonds.

Dixon asked Gov. Martin O'Malley to swear her in as mayor back in December. Put out because the clerk usually administers the oath of office, Conaway said he wouldn't provide a book and citation normally used in the ceremony. City officials came up with a book of their own, said they didn't need the citation and went on with the show.

Conaway, who'd challenged Dixon in the Democratic primary, seemed to have lost again. Until this week, when the city's Bureau of Treasury Management asked Conaway to sign some papers that sound an awful lot like that certificate City Hall said it didn't need.

The certificate, known as a citation or commission, states when an official is elected and specifies his or her term of office. The "Certificate of Incumbency" sent to Conaway this week asks him to attest that Dixon was elected mayor on Nov. 6, 2007, for a term beginning Dec. 4, 2007 and ending Dec. 6, 2011. He was also asked to confirm that Dixon was "duly qualified before [Conaway] on December 4, 2007."

And while Conaway's at it, the treasury bureau asked, would he mind sticking the court's "gold-embossed seal" on the whole thing?

He minds.

"The only way I'm going to attest to anything like that is if she comes in and I swear her in," Conaway said. "I can't attest to something I didn't do."

Conaway's stance is holding up a $4.5 million bond issue for the Quarantine Road landfill -- apparently the first since her alleged swearing-in. Before the mayor can enter into a bond deal, she needs to be able to prove she's the mayor.

"If he's going to be silly and refuse to sign them, I'm sure our bond lawyers can figure out" a way around the problem, said City Solicitor George Nilson.

City spokesman Sterling Clifford was sure of something else: "We're confident that she is rightfully and lawfully the mayor."

A Baltimore Bush, at least for a while

The Republicans really do have a plan to save the housing market. Jenna Bush and fiance Henry Hager have propped it up in South Baltimore by shelling out $440,000 for a rowhouse -- with an adjustable-rate mortgage, no less.

The next generation of Bushes locked in a heck of a rate: 5.5 percent. Too bad it's only good for five years. After that, the interest rate on their $352,000 loan can shoot up to 10.5 percent.

Um, hellooo? Any Bushes out there heard there's a downside to the adjustable-rate thing? That you can't refinance or sell very easily if, five years from now, $440,000 looks like a ridiculous price for a 1,984-square-foot South Baltimore rowhouse?

The Bush-Hager mortgage details were filed with public land records. I bounced them off Chris Kissell of bankrate.com. Happily for the nearlyweds but sadly for my purposes, Kissell said the ARM wasn't necessarily a silly way to go. That sort of loan still makes sense, he said, for buyers who expect to move or refinance within five years. Provided, of course, that housing prices don't tank or interest rates don't climb.

"She's probably not planning to stay there very long," he said. "That's my guess -- she's gambling she won't be there very long. And in that sense, it can pay off sometimes."

Far be it for a Bush to get bogged down anywhere.

Comcast is expecting a Mass audience

Quit your bellyaching about the cable company. Comcast is giving us Pope on demand! When Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass in Washington next week and in New York City on April 20, the cable bill will finally seem worth it.

"The masses will be available free of charge to Comcast Digital Cable customers, allowing them to view each mass in its entirety at their convenience, day or night, with the ability to pause, fast forward and rewind."

What, no super slo-mo?

Connect the dots

Bumper sticker on the back of the Mercedes belonging to Bruce Bereano, who spent the final hours of the legislative session working on behalf of alcohol, tobacco and gambling interests: "Don't Tell My Mother I'm a Lobbyist. She thinks I play piano in a brothel." ... From noon to 7 p.m. today, Sofi's Crepes will feature celebrity crepe makers at its newest location, in the Woman's Industrial Exchange Building in Baltimore. Mayor Dixon is working the 3 p.m. shift. ... The chalk board menu at Iggies pizza in Baltimore bears bad news for the meat-free set lapping up that salty something in the roasted potato-rosemary pizza. "Vegetarians: Pancetta is meat! No refund/exchange."

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