Dixon gets another slap

The Baltimore Sun

After being invited yesterday to join more than 70 mayors for a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House today, indicted Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon was abruptly un-invited hours later, according to her spokesman.

"We were really hoping that the mayor was going to make this meeting at the White House," said spokesman Scott Peterson. "But it does not look like it is going to happen."

Peterson could not say why the mayor was un-invited to the meeting, coordinated by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"We are moving on," he said. "We are moving forward."

A staff member at the U.S. Conference of Mayors contacted the mayor's office yesterday afternoon with word that Dixon could not attend, Peterson said. Two spokesmen for the mayors group did not reply to multiple phone calls and e-mails.

The reversal appears to be Obama's second visible snub of the city's beleaguered mayor and raises questions about her effectiveness in lobbying for federal attention to Baltimore.

Dixon was indicted in January on 12 criminal counts, including stealing gift cards intended for needy people, failing to report lavish gifts from developers on her ethics forms and misuse of office. She has said she is innocent and that her legal troubles will not affect her position in city government.

Before being charged, Dixon appeared to be developing a solid relationship with Obama. She was an early endorser, and one of a handful of mayors who flew to Chicago during the transition to meet with top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

But on Jan. 17, a week after Dixon was indicted, Obama did not mention the mayor's name when he spoke in the shadow of City Hall as part of a pre-inaugural train ride to Washington. Dixon said in an interview earlier this week that she felt "bothered" by the omission.

White House spokeswoman Moira K. Muntz declined to comment on why the mayor was not attending or whether the indictment has caused Obama to distance himself from Dixon.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors sent out a news release yesterday morning, listing dozens of mayors who would meet with Obama today, including Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Richard M. Daley of Chicago and John S. Brenner of York, Pa.

Dixon's name did not appear on that list or an updated version distributed later.

Baltimore officials said Dixon was uncertain whether the event was confirmed until yesterday morning. Spokesmen for mayors in other cities, however, said they received confirmation by Tuesday.

Dixon staffers said that once they learned the meeting was a go, they scrambled to book her on a flight from Miami, where she was speaking at a homelessness conference.

"She is going. We realized the importance of this meeting. ... We drastically changed our travel plans," Peterson said early yesterday.

But later in the day, Peterson dismissed the significance of the gathering, calling it "appearance politics." He said Dixon continues to support the Obama administration: "We value the relationship we have with both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the White House."

The apparent snub, Peterson said, "is a distraction from what everyone should be working on and that is to get Baltimore to work."

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