Spin city, development-style

The Baltimore Sun

So mayoral ex-boyfriend Ron Lipscomb gets a piece of the huge Uplands housing development even though, as The Sun's John Fritze reports, a city review panel recommended another team. And that's surprising?

I was more surprised to see Michael Cryor is in on the deal.

Cryor is chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. It's not the moonlighting that gets me. In a true-blue state like Maryland, maybe selling the Democratic dream isn't full-time work. Little wonder if Cryor also has time to run a company, the Cryor Group, which has a 1.5 percent interest in the $200 million Uplands project.

I just want to know: What's a PR guy doing in housing development?

(Full disclosure: I live in a Southwest Baltimore neighborhood that's right next door to the long-stalled Uplands development and I would love, love, love to see the boarded-up buildings torn down and some new ones go up. But I don't blame Cryor for the delays.)

Cryor was co-chairman of O'Malley's Believe campaign when he was mayor. He also was a $150-an-hour consultant to O'Malley's City Hall press office, making up to $145,000, The Sun reported at the time. He was (pick one) credited/blamed for O'Malley's memorable Democratic Convention speech four years ago.

How do you go from that to putting up houses?

Cryor said it's not at all unusual for a big development to employ PR help, "to make sure both sides" - developer and community - "reach an amicable solution."

Cryor said he helped put together a presentation to sell Southwest Baltimoreans on his group's Uplands plan. He's done the same work for Forest City Science and Technology Group, the master developer for the East Baltimore science and technology park.

"I've sort of been involved with Ron [Lipscomb] and the other members of the team on the east side of town. I developed a rapport with them. ... I'm certain we began competing for the project before I became chair. They didn't seek me out as the chair. I was already in the loop."

So how does Mr. PR spin the current Uplands buzz, which is less about urban renewal than old flames?

"Anyone who prides themselves on doing good work and maintaining a reputation prefers not to have anything that appears untoward written or suggested," he said. "I think in time the project will speak for itself."

What's in a name?

This City Hall scandal has it all: mayoral sex, designer brands, public contracts. Everything, that is, but a catchy name. Until now.

Several readers responded to my plea for something better than Minkgate, none more prolifically than Robert O'Connell of Baltimore. He sent a dozen suggestions, e-mailed separately within 17 hours last week while I was away on vacation. One wouldn't fly in a family newspaper. Here are the rest:

Sent Sun 6/29/2008 9:26 PM: "Sex and the City Council."

Sent Sun 6/29/2008 9:49 PM: "Armanigeddon. I swear I'm tryin here."

Sent Sun 6/29/2008 10:10 PM: "Sandal Scandal. ugh."

Sent Sun 6/29/2008 11:11 PM: "Votes on a Sandal. Ptttttttttthhtttttt."

Sent Sun 6/29/2008 11:13 PM: "The Adore-a Con." (Doracon, get it?)

Sent Sun 6/29/2008 11:22 PM: "Sheila n Ron's Bling Fling. I give up."

Sent Sun 6/29/2008 11:28 PM: "TIF for Tat. Not good. And nobody would get it."

Sent Mon 6/30/2008 10:18 AM: "I GOT IT: The Fur Thing! No? Damn."

Sent Mon 6/30/2008 1:27 PM: "Ron n Sheila's (gulp) Low-Browse Affair."

Sent Mon 6/30/2008 1:37 PM: "Payless Payola. I'll stop soon I swear."

Sent Mon 6/30/2008 1:46 PM: "Ron Buys and Fur Flies. I'm here all week, try the veal."

Connect the dots ...

In writing recently about Baltimore magazine's "40 Under 40" list of area up-and-comers, I suggested Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford might move up next year from No. 39 because he's getting a lot of exposure lately. I missed the magazine's little asterisked note: "The 40 Under 40 are not ranked in any particular order." So pressure's off, Sterling. ... State politics is getting really ugly, judging by the bumper sticker that The Sun's Doug Donovan spotted the other day on a blue Ford pickup on the JFX: "Waterboard O'Malley." ... Named to the Democratic National Committee's Platform Drafting Committee: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. ... Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich and the "Maryland Finance Leadership Team" - Michael David Epstein, Dick Hug, Shelly Kamins, J.W. Marriott , Jr. and Elaine Pevenstein - host a reception at Baltimore's Center Club July 22 for John McCain. Tickets are $1,000 a head, $2,300 if you want your picture taken with the GOP presidential hopeful. ... Reader Rosemary Pierre on the Dixon scandal: "Much ado about Choos."

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