Dan Rodricks: A Baltimore landmark in shambles: Whither the Pepsi sign? | COMMENTARY

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A tattered Pepsi sign stands above the former Pepsi bottling plant along the Jones Falls Expressway. The sign has often been used as a landmark to note where accidents occur on this section of highway.

Nobody asked me, but if the Pepsi sign is going to continue to be a landmark on the Jones Falls Expressway, the Pepsi people should fix it. The sign is a tattered mess. While the billion-dollar business that once bottled Pepsi is long gone from below the curvaceous JFX corridor, Baltimoreans and traffic reporters still use the sign as a reference point. Obviously, the Pepsi sign does not enjoy the stature or architectural distinction of the Bromo Seltzer tower, but it’s an old landmark that deserves more respect. Maybe we should see if the Coca-Cola people are interested in advertising at the location.

Nobody asked me, but the results from the first year of speed cameras on the JFX prove their effectiveness at getting people to slow down. But habitual speeders are speeding elsewhere on the JFX, so why not install more cameras? Police presence on Interstate 83 is still almost zero from what I see, and only marginally better on the Baltimore Beltway and Interstate 70. One of the drivers charged in the Beltway accident that killed six road construction workers in March is alleged to have been driving at 111 mph — totally believable to anyone who travels on I-695 regularly. The state should install more cameras on the interstates.


Nobody asked me, but the Maryland Transit Administration needs to do a better job — that is, get and spend more money — advertising regular bus ridership. A key selling point should be the adoption of real-time tracking of buses. The gain in customers might be marginal, but more Marylanders need to know that they can use an app to tell when a bus will arrive and track its whereabouts.

Also, I was on an MTA bus recently that vibrated so much it was practically therapeutic. That’s another selling point.


Nobody asked me, but Republicans deserve credit for their discipline: They all utter the same rubbish in response to the federal indictment against Donald Trump: It’s a “dark day for America,” or the Biden administration has “weaponized” the Department of Justice against Trump, or the indictment is a “grave injustice.” These people put the blah in blah, blah, blah.

And there was Trump, whining again: “I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States.” Of course, what he meant was, “I never thought such a thing could happen to me.” Welcome to the federal docket, dude.

Nobody asked me, but if someone asks you to use “spineless” in a sentence, just attach it to the name Mike Pence. If you want to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate — or simply as a principled person — you don’t get to say “no one is above the law,” then assert, as Pence did the other night, that the law applies to everyone but Trump.

Nobody asked him, but Jonathan Haidt, the social psychologist and Atlantic writer, argues convincingly that smartphones should be banned from schools. In a well-researched essay posted Wednesday — the same day my column on kids and social media appeared in print editions of The Sun — Haidt argues that phones in schools hinder learning, stunt relationships and lessen students’ sense of belonging. It’s hard to argue with that, but many parents apparently disagree. In this awful age of mass shootings, would you want your kid to be without a phone? My suggestion: a phone shelf in each classroom; students would not have the devices at their desks but within easy reach. Haidt, however, rejects that practice, too. As soon as class ends, he says, students will grab the phones and become fixated on their screens, further harming school social life and perpetuating the loneliness that teens in surveys say they feel. “All children,” Haidt concludes, “deserve [phone-free] schools that will help them learn, cultivate deep friendships and develop into mentally healthy young adults.”

Nobody asked me, but it would be exciting — and a bettor’s pleasure — to see a base running competition included in Major League Baseball’s All-Star events: Fastest man around the bases, fastest to first base, fastest two-man relay. Jorge Mateo and a fully fit Cedric Mullins would give the Orioles a shot at the trophy.

Nobody asked me, but today would be a good day for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott to order the gates on Loch Raven Drive closed for 14 hours each weekend so walkers and bikers can enjoy the reservoir road traffic-free again, the way they did for 40 years before the pandemic.

Nobody asked me, but Democratic Rep. David Trone has already accomplished three things in his quest to win Ben Cardin’s seat in the U.S. Senate in 2024: Showed keen interest in getting his name in front of Baltimore primary voters, spent big on direct and broadcast advertising and, in so doing, reminded us that he’s one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Trone represents the 6th District, encompassing Western Maryland plus Frederick County and parts of Montgomery County, where he resides. He has spent millions of his own money to win three elections to the House. His wealth will help him broaden his name recognition statewide, making him a formidable candidate in the Democratic primary. Of declared and possible opponents, Rep. Jamie Raskin is the best known; he says he’ll decide on a Senate run by July 4. Raskin and Trone have some history: Despite Trone’s wealth, Raskin beat him in the 2016 House primary.