Dan Rodricks

Tearing down the JFX, raising Pelosi, elevating cookies, discounting a crab cake and other stuff nobody asked about | COMMENTARY

Nobody asked me — and maybe they’ve heard me say this before — but, if I could make a wish list for some of the billions President Joe Biden wants to spend on the nation’s infrastructure, I’d order two big projects for Baltimore: Raze the elevated Jones Falls Expressway from somewhere around Penn Station all the way to Fayette Street and build a tree-lined, grand boulevard in its place, and turn the infamous Highway To Nowhere on the west side into a mile-long city park, the Westside Greenway.

Hey, some things bear repeating, especially when there’s an actual possibility that they could happen.


Meanwhile, it would be grand if Baltimore used some of the American Rescue Plan millions already approved by Congress to shave water bills and cancel a rate increase scheduled for this summer. The city would give customers a break while keeping up with federally mandated improvements to the aging water and sewer systems.

Nobody asked me, but after seeing Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott take heat for increasing, not decreasing, the police budget — mostly because of the costs of health insurance and pensions — I say to my fellow reform-minded citizens: You made your point, now give the guy a break. I won’t say Scott gets a “pandemic pass,” but it’s something close to that. Because the health crisis has gone on so long, it’s easy to lose perspective on its impact on government services and how hard it is to get something new started. Despite the chaos and problems he inherited, Scott seems to have his eye on the ball and his heart in the right place. But Taxpayers’ Night made it clear he doesn’t have much time to start making promised changes.


Nobody asked me, but somebody at Wawa or Sheetz should find a discreet way of discouraging customers from parking their cars or trucks next to pumps during the morning rush while they waddle off to visit the lavatory, pour a cup of coffee, ogle the array of ready-made breakfast sandwiches, all before getting in line for the cashier — and before pumping gas. This loathsome practice needs to stop before someone gets hurt. Perhaps the establishment could post a simple sign reminding drivers to be considerate of others, particularly during high-demand hours. Or maybe an ear-shattering blast from a remote-controlled air horn would do the trick.

Nobody asked me, but I recommend reading Susan Page’s new biography, “Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power.” I headed right for Chapter 3, about the Baltimore childhood and family life of the future Speaker of the House. It offers more insight than I ever enjoyed about the D’Alesandro family — how a personal slight got Pelosi’s father, “Old Tommy” D’Alesandro, to run for Congress and unseat an incumbent (and fellow Italian American) named Vincent Palmisano; what Pelosi’s mother wanted her to be when she grew up (not a politician), and how a family ethic of caring about others, especially during hard times, informed a style of personal politics that impresses even her detractors.

And the Page book offers me the opportunity to say again that Nancy Pelosi deserves a statue near Little Italy, where the one of Christopher Columbus used to be. The first woman to serve as Speaker of the House was raised on Albemarle Street, a graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame, daughter of a Maryland congressman and Baltimore mayor, sister of another mayor, and the woman who stood up to Donald Trump. Historic figure, statue worthy.

Nobody asked me, but I have two recommendations for an elevated cookie experience: The superb Limoncello Inspired Meringue Cookie, available for a limited time at Giant supermarkets, and the Carrot Cake Oreo. The latter recommendation constitutes a broken vow to never — as in jamais! — partake of the ghastly Oreo mutations that have come on the market. But the Carrot Cake Oreo is worth the coin and calories you might have set aside for artificially-flavored, store-bought sweets. (The charming young woman who reviewed the Carrot Cake Oreo on the “Maverick Baking” YouTube channel took one bite and exclaimed, “Jesus, take the wheel!”)

On another foodie note, I see that High’s convenience stores now offer an “authentic” Maryland jumbo lump crab cake for $8.99. I like High’s as much as the next guy, and it’s a Baltimore-based company. But do Marylanders want (or trust) a cheap crab cake? Seems like this would be a better sell in Iowa than anywhere near Baltimore. But if you tried it, please send me your brief review.

Nobody asked me, but if Marylanders want to show how much they love Pimlico and thoroughbred racing — and not just the Preakness — now’s the time to do so. The spring meet commenced on Thursday, and races are Thursdays and weekends through May. On-site viewing will be limited to 10,000 spectators for the Preakness (May 15).

Nobody asked me, but one of our current Orioles has one of the best baseball names in all of baseball — Chance Sisco, catcher. It might be the best of all names in the majors. It’s certainly up there with Mookie Betts and Jazz Chisholm. Of course, Chance Sisco could also have been the name of a Hollywood cowboy, if’n we still had Hollywood cowboys.