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Three dilapidated, vacant houses mar a block of occupied homes on Rayner Avenue in West Baltimore.
Three dilapidated, vacant houses mar a block of occupied homes on Rayner Avenue in West Baltimore. (Dan Rodricks / Baltimore Sun)

Nobody asked me, but, if I had a billion bucks, I would spend it on vacant houses in Baltimore, like the ones I saw on Rayner Avenue the other day: three eyesores in the midst of a block where most homeowners seem to be working hard at keeping their places looking good. I’d make a deal to buy hundreds of vacants from the city, organize a legal team to expedite the sales, make arrangements with Habitat for Humanity and contracting companies to renovate them all within five years and sell them at affordable rates. That’s what I’d do.

On the other hand, if I were Michael Bloomberg, with a net worth of $52 billion, and believed I had to get Donald J. Trump out of the White House and keep Elizabeth Warren from getting there, yeah, I guess I’d run for president.

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Nobody asked me, but his constant shilling for Trump, defending every aspect of this mind-numbing presidency, has flushed away whatever credibility Rep. Andy Harris had. Even in this prickly age of hyper-partisanship, an elected official of any party, particularly a representative with a safe seat, needs to be able to discern right from wrong, and say which end is up. Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, Harris told a Carroll County town hall he would need evidence that Trump “committed a serious crime” to support impeachment. But, at this point, after so much shameless shilling, it’s not clear that Harris and other congressional Republicans would even consider shooting someone in Times Square an impeachable offense.

Nobody asked me to do so, but I’m declaring Saturday, Nov. 16 Rage Against The Machine Day at supermarkets everywhere. On that day, shoppers are asked to boycott the self-checkout terminals and take their groceries to checkout lines served by our fellow human beings, forcing the stores to staff them properly. Semi-attended customer-activated terminals (or SACATs) are probably here to stay. But customers have some say in this society’s destiny. I say resist machines that replace humans — on Nov. 16 completely, and in the future when you have, say, 10 items or more. Let’s show some respect for the men and women who make their livings where we buy our groceries.

By the way, if you’re going to purchase canned clam chowder, in the creamy New England style, avoid the Progresso brand. It’s missing a key ingredient: Anything one might construe as flavor.

Nobody asked me, but it would be a great thing if the much-discussed, long-delayed Lenny Moore statue could become a reality in the coming year. Seeing Moore, the Baltimore Colts running back and NFL Hall of Famer, during halftime of the Ravens-Patriots game, reminded me of the cause and the need for funds to make it happen. I first floated the idea in this column eight years ago. Doc Cheatham, long-time civic activist, leads the group that has been pushing for a bronze tribute to Moore, who turns 86 later this month. “We’re in the preliminary stages of site selection,” Cheatham says, “and we’ll make a presentation to the Baltimore Public Art Commission next week.”

Nobody asked her, but Regina Bell of Baltimore offers a suggestion to parents who might be worried about accidentally leaving a child in a car: “Take your left shoe off when you get in your car and put it in the backseat next to your baby. When you fetch your shoe, hopefully you will see your child, too.”

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Somebody asked me — it was Sun reader Ed O’Malley — so I took his question and got him an answer. “How is it,” Ed asked, “that we drivers are expected to give bikers every courtesy of the road, but they don't bother to obey the traffic rules?” (Ed had given some room to a biker on Route 108 in Columbia, then watched the fellow pedal right through a red light.)

Here’s the answer — this will take a minute — from Liz Cornish, executive director of Bikemore:

“When cyclists don’t follow the rules it nearly always comes from a calculated risk. The cyclist looks both ways, sees that it is clear and goes through the stop. This is actually a safer choice. It puts the vulnerable road user ahead of traffic coming out of the stop and creates distance. It gives the slower person a head start.

“In many states (not Maryland) there's an actual law that allows cyclists to do this. It's called the Idaho Stop. A cyclist not following the rules rarely puts others in danger. A car, on the other hand, running a red light has much higher consequences. I would ask [Ed] if he would have written an email had he seen a car run a stop sign. Probably not. We are so socialized around cars we accept bad behavior from drivers. Folks are obsessed with this idea of the scofflaw cyclist. I don’t understand it.”

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Nobody asked me before they went ahead and did it, but instead of taking out $20 million in cyber liability insurance, with a $1 million deductible, the city of Baltimore should just develop a better system and hire a team of cyber security analysts and managers who know what they’re doing. Seems to me, getting insurance makes the city a bigger target for ransomware attacks like last spring’s. But, too late. The Board of Estimates already purchased policies. Next time, ask me first.

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