Dan Rodricks Commentary and conversation on life in Baltimore, Maryland and the USA

Nancy Pelosi in a white dress, and an 'unnerving question' about her Baltimore family portrait

Nobody asked me, but somebody must know how a large oil painting of the famous D’Alesandro family — including a Baltimore mayor, a future Baltimore mayor and a future Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — ended up in a Little Italy restaurant. “That’s a billion-dollar, unnerving question,” said Nick D’Alesandro, grandson of the late Mayor Thomas J. D’Alesandro Jr., son of former Mayor Thomas J. D’Alesandro III, and nephew of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi is seven years old in the painting. She’s front and center, surrounded by her parents and five brothers, and wearing what could have been her white dress for First Holy Communion at St. Leo The Great Roman Catholic Church. The painting is dated 1947, the year when “Old Tommy,” a four-term congressman, left Washington to become mayor of Baltimore, an office he held until 1959. The painting was known as “Election Night,” Nick D’Alesandro says, and it had a prominent place in the D’Alesandro home on Albemarle Street for many years, until his grandmother and family matriarch, Nancy D’Alesandro, died.

So how, 24 years later, did the painting end up in Germano’s Piattini? Well, it’s like this: Marco Minnie, a D’Alesandro nephew, owned the house for years and put the painting on the second floor while the first floor was used as a health center. A few years ago, during renovations, the painting was damaged. Germano Fabiani, a longtime Little Italy restaurateur and art lover, saw the painting and offered to have it restored. He hired artist Michael Kirby to make repairs. The restored painting ended up on loan from Minnie at Germano’s Piattini, the restaurant and cabaret that Fabiani runs with his wife, Cyd Wolf, across the street from the D’Alesandro home. Nancy Pelosi saw the family portrait last fall when she visited Germano’s with CNN reporter Dana Bash. She expressed surprise and relief at seeing it again but did not take it with her. The painting remains in the restaurant, next to a table for six, and tagged with a small sign. “Be careful with Nancy’s painting!” it says. “She will impeach you.” So far, Fabiani says, only one customer found that too much to bear and asked to be moved to another table.

Nobody asked me, but Mayor Jack Young’s suggestion that we stage boxing matches to settle street beefs among guys who would otherwise be using guns — yeah, that’s a pretty dumb idea. What Baltimoreans want right now is stable stewardship, concentration on reducing crime, and good government services. On big ideas, for now, please, try to show some restraint.

Nobody asked me, but the big news within the large news of a Hopkins-affiliated company raising $110 million toward development of a routine blood test for cancer was this: Unlike too many other companies founded on Hopkins technology, Thrive Earlier Detection Corp. will stay in Baltimore and do its research and development here.

Nobody asked me, but when Rod Rosenstein steps to the podium at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau in Ocean City on Wednesday, I doubt he will hear boos. But some — and possibly many — attending the Maryland State Bar Association’s annual meeting must have at least mixed feelings about the former deputy attorney general. In the last two years, Rosenstein has been ripped as a “useful patsy” for providing grounds for President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, hailed as a man of principle for naming Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russian investigation, then finally dismissed as a sellout for standing, unblinkingly, behind Attorney General William Barr as he gave a twisted summary of Mueller’s investigation that favored Trump. When Rosenstein’s name came up during a recent reunion of former federal prosecutors in Baltimore, the reaction was wholly negative. And those gathered had all once praised Rosenstein’s long tenure as U.S. Attorney here.

Nobody asked me, but on at least one issue — and there could be others — Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican in Congress, might actually be out of step with a good many of the Republicans he represents. I know that sounds outrageous, particularly because Harris represents the Big Red One, the congressional district that went for Donald Trump by a margin of 25 points in 2016. But, on Dreamers, Harris probably sounds more like the Tweeter-in-Chief than he does a good number of his own constituents. His response to last week’s vote in the House to give a narrow path to citizenship to Dreamers — something overwhelming majorities of Americans support — was Trumpian: “[House Resolution 6] does nothing for border security, and yet it allows a pathway to citizenship for criminals and dangerous gang members.” That’s right out of the fear-monger’s playbook, branding as evil a class of immigrants who, across the ideological landscape, garner significant sympathy: The young men and women who were brought into the country as children. Polls — even from FOX News! — have showed huge support for allowing Dreamers to stay and work toward citizenship. Andy Harris has a medical degree. He obviously has a smartphone and a Twitter account. What he needs is a mind of his own, and a heart.

Nobody asked me, but I think it would be entirely fitting if the next Maryland governor, maybe just six months after taking office in 2023, pulls the plug on big highway-widening projects, calls them a boondoggle, and announces a clever way to finance either more mass transit or an autonomous car system for Baltimore.

Nobody asked me, but if he’s not going to release state funds for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, then Gov. Larry Hogan should host a party for Maryland millionaires — we had 178,000 of them last year, according to Kiplinger — and pass the hat for the BSO. It should be a really big hat, too.



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