Biography

Dan Rodricks has been an award-winning columnist for The Baltimore Sunsince 1979, and speaks of his adopted hometown as both its champion ...

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Dan Rodricks

Dan Rodricks

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Where were Chris Davis and Ray Rice for teachable moments?

Where were Chris Davis and Ray Rice for teachable moments?

September 13, 2014

After reading Chris Davis' apologetic statement on his suspension from the Orioles for taking a drug he wasn't allowed to take under the rules of Major League Baseball, I had to look up the word "mistake." A "mistake" is what Davis said he made. His manager, an Orioles broadcaster and a teammate used the word as well.

  • 'Goodell mishandled this situation from start to finish'

    September 10, 2014

    This should have been a totally tall week for Baltimore — tall ships and Blue Angels for War of 1812 commemorations; the Orioles, ever closer to a division title, back home to play the Yankees; Derek Jeter bidding farewell to Camden Yards; the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium to face their biggest rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday night on national television.

  • Why didn't Ravens, NFL get Ray Rice video first?

    September 8, 2014

    How is it that TMZ, the celebrity gossip website, got its hands on the Ray Rice assault video before the National Football League did? Does TMZ pay more? Maybe so. But maybe the answer is even simpler than that, lying within the nature of each entity: The NFL wanted this disturbing story of domestic violence by one of its most popular players to go away, and TMZ did not.

  • Supertrain is cool, but improve what we have right now

    September 7, 2014

    So, first question: If you could travel to the nation's capital from Baltimore in 15 minutes by super-fast train, would you? Sure you would. You'd give it a try at least once, if only to brag that you had achieved land speed of 300 mph. It would be a bucket list kind of thing.

  • VanDyke traveled in Libya with slain journalists

    September 4, 2014

    Matthew VanDyke, the self-styled "Arab Spring Freedom Fighter" from Baltimore, was a friend of the two American journalists who were beheaded by Islamic State militants.

  • Nobody asked me, but 'stun' judge needs to really retire

    September 1, 2014

    Nobody asked me, but… A judge who orders an electric shock to silence a criminal defendant who refuses to shut up during a court proceeding has relinquished his eligibility for retirement duty on the bench.

  • What Labor Day needs is an official meal

    August 30, 2014

    Like Thanksgiving, Labor Day is a national holiday. Unlike Thanksgiving, it does not have an official meal. One-hundred-and-twenty years on, it's time we had one. I'm nominating the peppers-and-eggs sandwich as the official meal of Labor Day, and I'll tell you why in a moment.

  • 'Heroin capital' claim based on an old, bad number

    August 28, 2014

    What a difference four decades, a bad number, the war on drugs and reality television made: In 1975, National Geographic magazine devoted 27 glossy pages to the hidden charms of Baltimore. In 2014, the National Geographic Channel devotes an hour to the city's degeneracy and proclaims Baltimore "the Heroin Capital of America."

  • As technology advances, guns become deadlier, 'smarter'

    August 26, 2014

    Through stunning advances in technology, guns are becoming more accurate and deadlier. They are also becoming safer. Crazy as it might seem, gun-rights activists are excited about the former, but opposed to the latter.

  • From Virginia, another idea for reversing crab decline

    August 23, 2014

    The latest idea for pulling Chesapeake blue crabs back from the brink of disaster — a fascinating and frustrating subject about which everyone seems to have an opinion — comes from the watermen who harvest and sell crabs in the Virginia end of the bay.

  • More harm than good from crab ban, experts say

    August 21, 2014

    Angus Phillips, an inveterate Annapolis-area crabber, joined my call for a moratorium on the harvest of blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay. "The time has come," he wrote in The Washington Post last month, "to stop pussyfooting around and shut down crabbing for a few years, to give the delectable crustaceans a chance to recover the way geese, yellow perch and rockfish did."

  • Baltimore's future 'Monday Night Football shot'

    August 15, 2014

    First, let me acknowledge the following: The Baltimore harbor is still too polluted, too many Baltimoreans still throw too much trash in the street; we need better results from the city's public schools and more involved parents of school-age kids; we need to lower property taxes; we need to better support city businesses; we need to foster healthy morale and principled duty among teachers, firefighters and police officers, and they need to be adequately paid.

  • Groping for answers in the darkness of suicide

    August 14, 2014

    This is Robin Williams Week in America; we are mourning the death by suicide of an extravagantly talented man who made us laugh and think. Here are some thoughts, starting with the words of an old friend whose father killed himself: "Suicide inflicts far more pain than it relieves."

  • Nobody asked me (about casinos or Ray Rice), but . . .

    August 9, 2014

    Nobody asked me, but … the fans who gave Ray Rice a standing ovation before Thursday's preseason game apparently have not read the Ravens' fan behavior policy — specifically, the part that says: "Fans help shape the Ravens' image." They also missed this: "Have fun, root hard, show respect for the fans around you, but don't be a jerk!"

  • Orioles to salute fans who held season tickets for 60 years

    August 7, 2014

    If there's any joy in Baltimore this week, it comes from baseball and the Orioles. With this frustrating city having slipped into another cycle of summer shootings — one of them ending the life of a 3-year-old girl — I guess we turn to baseball for communal relief from all that's awful, all that makes us angry and weary.

  • For immigrants, legal advice, English class and hope

    August 2, 2014

    Jermin Laviera, an energetic woman with a bright and generous smile, works on the first floor of the Esperanza Center in Southeast Baltimore, which gives her a street-level perspective on the immigrant crisis emanating hundreds of miles away in Central America. Just about every day, undocumented immigrants — parents with children, children without parents — walk through Esperanza's front door on South Broadway.

  • Cool July, hot Orioles, and nothing's better

    July 31, 2014

    My good walk began after an early supper: a short Jersey Boy from Isabella's in Little Italy. The Jersey Boy is an incredible little sandwich (grilled Italian sausage with rapini, and peppery cheese on six inches of baguette) heated in the brick oven in the small corner carryout at High and Stiles, where the neighborhood bocce teams gather for their evening games.

  • 'Family counts, and it counts for a great deal'

    July 26, 2014

    One of the most sobering facts from Hopkins sociologist Karl Alexander's long, deep look at the lives of nearly 800 Baltimore children born in the 1970s was this: Only 4 percent of boys and girls from low-income families ended up with a college degree by the time they were 28; kids from a middle-class or affluent background did 10 times better, with 45 percent getting a diploma.

  • Featherstone freed after 35 years for Trimakas killing

    July 22, 2014

    James Featherstone, accused at 16 in the killing of Alan Trimakas, a Johns Hopkins medical student, won his freedom Tuesday afternoon — his life sentence suspended at 35 years because of a court ruling that found a serious flaw in the handling of his murder trial in 1979.

  • World's refugee crisis comes to U.S. and Maryland

    July 22, 2014

    Humanity faces its biggest refugee crisis since World War II, and Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican congressman from Maryland's 1st District, pledges to do everything in his power to keep a tiny fraction of Central American children out of a shelter in Carroll County.

  • Teenage killer, now 51, gets another day in court

    July 19, 2014

    Levi Watkins, the pioneering cardiac surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, remembers the date — January 15 — because it was the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., and because what happened that night still makes him ache.

  • O'Malley needs to tend to unfinished business

    July 17, 2014

    That's real nice about Martin O'Malley raising close to $800,000 from various supporters who apparently think he could go from Maryland governor to president of the United States some day, maybe even in 2016 if Hillary Clinton decides to become a Re/Max agent.

  • Is popular vote best way to pick a sheriff?

    July 8, 2014

    I realize it's impolite to stand up in the 21st century and declare something that was established in Colonial Maryland — say, the election of sheriffs in every county and Baltimore City — to be archaic, inefficient and unnecessary. But with all due respect to the old snuff-sniffers in powdered wigs who mandated it, I can no longer remain seated.

  • In the light of judicial scrutiny, a dark memory

    July 5, 2014

    The tree still lives at the corner of Wolfe and Monument streets, in the midst of the sprawling Johns Hopkins Hospital complex of East Baltimore. The tree lives in memory of Alan Trimakas, a medical student who never got to be the doctor he wanted to be and that the world surely needed.

  • Keeping the march against Baltimore homicides going

    July 3, 2014

    We are coming up on the first anniversary of Baltimore's 300 Men March, when far more than that number of men — perhaps double that number — walked the length of North Avenue and back on a Friday night to protest last summer's spike in killings.

  • After years of driving and parking, getting back on the bus

    July 1, 2014

    For the first time in many years, I've been taking the bus on a regular basis again, and I have a few things to say about it. But first, a moment of awe: The drivers who work for the Maryland Transit Administration, at least those I've seen in action, do one thing, as a matter of routine, that I find awesome: They bring a 40-foot bus to rest within half an inch of the curb without touching it. I haven't seen the tires rub yet, and I'm always watching for it.

  • For the Maryland 80 percent, still time to get off the bench

    June 27, 2014

    Among the 80 percent of registered Republicans and Democrats who stayed away from Maryland's primary was Sally Staehle of Baltimore. She wrote me a letter to explain why she took a pass on voting this time around.

  • Defying Maryland's age of 'constitutional senility,' a judge returns

    June 26, 2014

    People of a certain age will appreciate this: Charles G. "Chuck" Bernstein, who loved being a Baltimore circuit judge so much that he made a federal case out of his mandatory retirement at 70, appears to have been elected a judge again. If the tally from Tuesday's primary holds up, Bernstein will return to the bench at the age of 75.

  • Excuses aside, Maryland voter turnout an embarrassment

    June 25, 2014

    In Ukraine last month, some people braved the threat of violence to get to the polls to vote for a new president. According to news reports, heavily armed men in ski masks tried to scare off voters by smashing ballot boxes and blocking entry to polling stations in the eastern part of the country; election officials were threatened, some kidnapped.

  • Republicans getting down to business

    June 21, 2014

    I was a little startled by something I saw Monday morning on Interstate 70, about halfway between Hagerstown and Frederick. As I approached the Appalachian Trail footbridge that passes over the highway, I looked up and saw what appeared to be a cardboard cutout of Neil Parrott, the conservative Western Maryland politician who made a name for himself with a campaign against same-sex marriage.

  • Seeking open hearts and spare rooms

    June 19, 2014

    Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, headquartered in Baltimore and celebrating its 75th anniversary with a gala tonight, has at least part of the solution to the problem of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border with Mexico — and it's not sending them back where they came from.

  • A Hopkins sociologist busts an American belief

    June 17, 2014

    Thirty-five years ago, when the number of homeless people in Baltimore was noticeably on the rise, several reasons were given: mental illness and deinstitutionalization, the city's relatively high unemployment rate, drug addiction, family dysfunction and evictions, the lack of affordable housing and the problem of ex-offenders being released from prison without a welcoming destination.

  • Nobody asked me but ... on Dance, Waters, homeless camp

    June 14, 2014

    Nobody asked me, but ... it's hard to believe that Dallas Dance, the Baltimore County school superintendent, could take a consulting job with a company that does business with the school system he runs and not see that as a problem. He says he "didn't recognize" a conflict of interest at the time. Here's what I'd write on his report card: "Dallas needs to work on making better choices. I suggest a summer camp for the ethically challenged."

  • If we only loved water as much as the waterfront

    June 12, 2014

    Two years ago, during bicentennial commemorations for the War of 1812, I was struck by how important the waterfront is to Baltimore. That might seem like an odd thing for a Baltimorean to say, but unless you own waterfront property, work near it or regularly take visitors to see it, you take it for granted.

  • In Maryland attorney general's race, look past name

    June 10, 2014

    When you think about it, name recognition in business and politics is really a double-edged sword. If the name is golden, or even brass-plated, it can open doors and take you places. But a widely recognized name can also cause people to question you harder — or in a different way — than they might a newcomer. They might even hold your name against you.

  • Maryland's Obamacare glitches don't stick To Brown

    June 7, 2014

    Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown remains the heavy favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary because the only thing that could have hurt him — his role as O'Malley administration "point man" for Obamacare in Maryland — won't hurt him. And it won't hurt him for a simple reason: the math.

  • Who's the most influential Baltimorean of all time?

    June 5, 2014

    My former Baltimore Sun colleague Antero Pietila asks a big question on his Facebook page: "Who was the most influential Baltimorean of all time, and why?" It's a delicious ponderable, and the discussion it provoked has been going on for a week.

  • Bike thefts curb optimism about Baltimore

    June 3, 2014

    It was one of those rare June days in Baltimore — warm and sunny, not yet hot and humid — so you could take a good, long walk through the city without shvitzing or getting terribly distressed.

  • Really looking forward to the next TV debate

    May 31, 2014

    In answer to reporters' questions about why he skipped last Tuesday's gubernatorial debate on WBFF-TV — or if he was bothered that the television station had presented him as an empty podium — Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown grinned and said the following:

  • Soul-refreshing stories with a Maya Angelou touch

    May 29, 2014

    I bring Maya Angelou along today because news of her death made millions of us think of her voice — we can all hear that voice — but mostly because I think she belongs here. I have a couple of small stories to share, and while they stand alone as heart-lifters and soul-refreshers, some Maya music might give them a little more resonance.

  • Getting a greener generation to buy into the aquarium

    May 27, 2014

    Here are some words that appeared in this column in November 1990: "The National Aquarium and its promoters are out to lunch. They don't have a clue. Their facility is better called the National Anachronism. The new Marine Mammal Pavilion, featuring captured dolphins in a huge tank of water, does not belong to the times in which we are living. It belongs to the times from which we just emerged. It belongs to the age of P.T. Barnum."

  • How a Republican could win governor's race

    May 10, 2014

    With one debate down and six weeks to go until Maryland's primary election, the political narrative in the governor's race sounds something like this: Neither Attorney General Doug Gansler nor Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is dazzling Democratic voters; Heather Mizeur, the party's other candidate, seems to have real grass-roots support, but still must convince moderates she can win a statewide election against a Republican.

  • It's time to stop tinkering and just ban crabbing for one year

    May 3, 2014

    A couple of years ago, the governor of Maryland stood on a dock on South River, a bushel of steamed crabs at his feet, telling everyone it was OK to eat Chesapeake blue crabs again — sort of like the mayor in "Jaws" telling everyone it was OK to go back in the water.

  • 10 weeks out, 2 questions for Maryland Democrats

    April 12, 2014

    Now, the real fun starts. It's a mad, mad dash to the June 24 gubernatorial primary as the many undecided, unimpressed Democrats try to answer a what's-worse question that goes like this:

  • Despite progress, Obamacare enrollment still hellish for some

    March 15, 2014

    I haven't visited Health Insurance Hell for a while, so I thought I'd stop and see how things are going. It's not so bad: At least 4.2 million new enrollees through federal and state Obamacare websites, with at least 1 million more expected through March 31, the deadline for getting insurance and avoiding a tax penalty.

  • As Lent approaches, watching for 'the Francis effect'

    March 4, 2014

    Given all the excitement his papacy has generated, the approach of the first full Lenten season under Pope Francis resonates particularly with Catholics — even fallen-off Catholics — who prefer to see faith as social activism and not as Sunday pageant. Since he became pope last March, Francis has repeatedly called for a church of service and justice, and not one that is insular and obsessed with doctrine.

  • Mike Miller, marijuana and the right side of history

    January 9, 2014

    Turns out, I am glad that Thomas V. Mike Miller gives no hint of retiring from his position as president-forever of the Maryland Senate. I know that sounds odd coming from me, but that's how I feel today.

  • An Afghanistan veteran 'walks off the war' on the Appalachian Trail

    October 12, 2013

    In 1948, three years after the end of World War II, an Army veteran from Pennsylvania named Earl Shaffer hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. No one had ever done that before.

  • Who was in charge at the city detention center?

    April 24, 2013

    I have lots of questions about the Black Guerrilla Family case, starting with this: Was the warden of the Baltimore City Detention Center asked to approve maternity leave for any of the female correctional officers allegedly impregnated by inmate Tavon "Bulldog" White?

  • Rodricks: Incident shows our vulnerability to disaster

    August 22, 2012

    "We love our children with all our hearts," Gordon Livingston, psychiatrist, philosopher, author and twice-bereaved parent says from his home in Howard County. "We imagine that they will bury us. Then fate intervenes and we must bury them. Nowhere is the fragility of life or the randomness of death more apparent than in the deaths of children."

  • Rodricks: Marveling at Phelps' heroic journey

    August 1, 2012

    Baltimoreans who witnessed his odyssey unfold will remember the first 12 years of the 21st century as the Michael Phelps era. If you mark the life of this community by our shared experiences and our heroic figures — the sources of civic pride that keep us from despairing and sinking into the Patapsco — there's no getting around Phelps.

  • Fishing with Flanny

    August 26, 2011

    "There is no guarantee that when a middle-aged man enters the dark forest where the black dog is waiting, he will come out healed. It is possible to be broken there beyond hope of repair." -- Howell Raines, from "Fly Fishing Through The Midlife Crisis"

  • Schaefer: Politics as performance art

    April 18, 2011

    I stepped into his City Hall office to ask William Donald Schaefer, the mayor of Baltimore, a question. He was watering his African violets and did not appear to be soothed by that labor of love. In fact, he was upset about the reason for my visit — an audit had turned up lots of billing errors at what was then called City Hospital, now Bayview — and he avoided eye contact with me.

  • Honor is not for cowards

    March 1, 2011

    Before he went out last Wednesday to arrest 15 of the officers charged in the Majestic towing scandal, the police commissioner of Baltimore attended a morning retirement ceremony. It was for a cop who had had a long and honorable career and who, a few years ago, risked it all to expose some bad police work within the ranks. The farewell for Mike Andrew, who retired as a lieutenant colonel after nearly 38 years of service to the people of this city, took place in the commissioner's board room first thing in the morning.

  • Vision lacking in Ehrlich’s comeback bid

    April 22, 2010

    Bob Ehrlich, running for governor for a third time, wants to repeal the 1-cent sales tax increase that Martin O'Malley wrought, and he wants to finish some "unfinished business." This is what he said on my radio program Wednesday. Wondering if he had something significant or inspiring to offer — a little more so than a penny tax reprieve (not that there's anything wrong with that!) — I pressed him on the "unfinished business" part.

  • 'Saving us more than saving them'

    April 6, 2010

    Thirty-five years have come and gone since Dan Schuster, just out of high school in Reisterstown, discovered something about the concrete business — he could do it better himself.

  • The marrying judge explains himself

    March 30, 2010

    G. Darrell Russell Jr., the Baltimore County District Court judge who married the defendant in an assault case to the woman he was accused of beating, has been condemned by advocates for abused women, ordered to desk duty by his superiors and suggested for retirement by this columnist. He's also remained silent about the three-week-old controversy, on the advice of District Court leadership.

  • No app can replace city's need for vibrant libraries

    March 16, 2010

    Interesting, these times we live in -- the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore reports a 20 percent increase in visitors through its doors, while Steve Jobs and Apple prepare to roll out the iPad, the computer tablet that allows you to download a book in seconds while you're anywhere within WiFi or 3G range, including your bathroom.

  • Criticism of archdiocese strikes nerve with readers

    March 9, 2010

    There has been so much response to my Sunday column on the Archdiocese of Baltimore's decision to close 13 schools, including Cardinal Gibbons School, I thought I would share some of the more interesting and thoughtful comments with all my other readers today.

  • Tragedy in Madeira stirs memories of paradise

    February 23, 2010

    News reports of the horrific flooding on the Portuguese island of Madeira refer to it as a popular tourist destination, and it is -- if you happen to be British or German. It is not so well known here, even among Americans affluent enough to take vacations abroad. In fact, before the scary videos of the mudslides hit television over the weekend, I would bet most Americans had never heard of Madeira, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

  • Media's evolution alters how we experience 'weather events'

    February 16, 2010

    Over the past two weeks -- and at different times over the last 30 years, whenever we had big snowstorms in Maryland -- I've tried to figure out what it is about them that's different than the ones I experienced growing up in another part of the country, where snow was more common but still a "weather event" that raised blood pressures and affected the behavior of the human beings around me.

  • Big Snow means Big Slow — a good thing

    February 9, 2010

    Maybe you've shoveled too much snow by now, or tried to walk or drive down too many clogged side streets by now -- or worried too much about three feet of snow on your flat roof by now -- to appreciate the pace-reducing power of a big storm. But I still see it, and I still like it.

  • A generational change the city needs

    February 4, 2010

    Starting today, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has an opportunity to recharge the city and become the leader of a new generation of public-spirited citizens who have the most to say about what kind of place Baltimore becomes in the next decade.

  • The crimes, forgivable. But that pension?

    January 10, 2010

    Sheila Dixon made history - the first woman elected mayor of Baltimore, and apparently the nation's first female big-city mayor to resign over criminal charges. Her trial took place in the courthouse where, in 1973, a vice president of the United States (and former Maryland governor and Baltimore County executive) named Spiro T. Agnew pleaded no contest to tax evasion in connection with thousands of dollars in kickbacks and bribes gladly taken during all but one of his 11 years in elected office.

  • For city, Rawlings-Blake a fine reflection of her father

    January 8, 2010

    In Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, Baltimoreans get a young, bright and serious new mayor who could bring some urgently needed stability to city government even as she faces one of the toughest fiscal challenges in municipal history. She's the No-Drama Queen, and that should suit everyone around here just fine. Faced with a projected budget shortfall of $127 million or more in the coming fiscal year, the last thing Baltimoreans need from City Hall is more drama.

  • An apology from Dixon? Forget about it and be glad it's over

    January 7, 2010

    And there you are, my fellow citizens - resignation by the mayor of Baltimore, and without a formal apology. But you can't always get what you want. Sheila Dixon was not about to say she was sorry for anything. If you were thinking that might happen, you need to see a doctor; your expectations are too high and you probably need to go on a reduced-Pollyanna diet.

  • Shot takes away what so much else couldn't

    December 27, 2009

    In one of the first phone calls he made from Afghanistan, Army Pvt. Clifford Jamar Williams took a moment to savor how much he had accomplished - much more than many of his peers back home in Baltimore could claim.

  • Questionable claims leave a-rabbers idle

    December 22, 2009

    This is the time of year when Donald Savoy Jr., one of Baltimore's last a-rabs, might have had two or three of his horse-drawn wagons parked on inner-city corners, loaded with tangerines and oranges and late-season greens. But Mr. Savoy and other men who sold produce from his wagons are idle in this Christmas week 2009. A heavy-handed move by the city last month – after breaking promises to help the a-rabs maintain their livelihoods -- led to the confiscation of Mr. Savoy's seven horses and eight belonging to his nephew and niece, James and Shawnta Chase.

  • What's appropriate sentence for Dixon?

    December 17, 2009

    The other day, while waiting for the bread dough to rise in my kitchen, I filled out a Maryland Sentencing Guidelines Worksheet for the mayor of Baltimore, and this is what it looks like: probation to six months, with the possibility of the judge hitting Sheila Dixon harder or softer - and I'll tell you why it could go either way in a moment.

  • Gifts for needy kids: Local group quietly shows how it should be done

    December 15, 2009

    The annual solicitation letter from Santa Claus Anonymous arrived in the mail the other day, with its trademark depiction of a classic Santa with his hat pulled over his eyes. The iconic drawing, of course, suggests a fundamental tenet of the 75-year-old organization – poor children who receive holiday gifts never need know they came from charity. Nor do donors need know the names of the children who benefit from their contributions; they merely trust that Santa Claus Anonymous delivers as promised. Giving and trusting in the city of Baltimore – imagine that.

  • Bloodsworth, prosecutor move on to new things

    December 7, 2009

    Kirk Bloodsworth, the first American death row inmate to be exonerated by DNA evidence, has lived to see something he never could have imagined -- an award named after him, and its first recipient a Democratic senator from Vermont.

  • Baltimore deserves better, needs better

    December 6, 2009

    So, here in the grand city of Baltimore, Mayor Sheila Dixon, who embezzled gift cards intended for poor children, gets to stay in office for who-knows-how-long - as if nothing has happened - while a city cop who took part in that goofy mock raid/marriage proposal at the behest of a politician gets charged with misconduct and could lose his job.

  • Dixon verdict: The cynics were wrong

    December 2, 2009

    All the cynics were wrong this time: A jury of her peers - nine women and three men, the majority of them black - found the city's first African-American female mayor guilty of a crime. We didn't have the jury nullification many had predicted - that is, acquittal in the face of strong, conclusive evidence, something that many lawyers, cops and judges have seen for years in the old courthouses on Calvert Street.

  • No one is above the law

    December 1, 2009

    The jury of her peers took seven days to find the mayor of Baltimore guilty of a charge that prosecutors proved in a few hours of impeccable testimony during her trial -- that she talked a major commercial real estate developer into buying gift cards for needy children, then used them for herself. That part of the state case seemed the most solid, almost like an old-fashioned shakedown by a politician of a mover-and-shaker, except the payoff was gift cards and not cash. Had the jury found Mayor Dixon not guilty of that charge, I would have been shocked.

  • Dixon trial just one of city's problems, but an important one

    November 23, 2009

    Of course, there are bigger issues, and bigger offenses against society, than the alleged theft of gift cards by the mayor of Baltimore. Monday morning, you could walk across North Calvert Street, from Courthouse East to the Mitchell Courthouse, and find an auctioneer in a suit on the broad sidewalk there and, promptly at the top of the hour, he started a sale of houses upon which a bank has foreclosed in the lingering aftermath of the subprime mess and the massive financial meltdown that pushed us into recession.

  • As Dixon trial nears end, a demand for 'equal justice'

    November 19, 2009

    I am sticking with my instinct: Lindbergh Carpenter Jr. could turn out to be the most effective witness for the prosecution in State v. Dixon. It wasn't so much the testimony he presented, because certainly that of the Baltimore developer Patrick Turner was the most damaging. But Lindbergh Carpenter gave the state an opportunity to remind the attentive jury in Circuit Court East of a principle engraved in the Supreme Court building in Washington and resonant in the memory of every American who paid attention in civics class: Equal Justice Under The Law.

  • Mayor's defense hopes silence is golden

    November 19, 2009

    When he instructs the jurors in the Dixon theft case, Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney will tell them not to infer anything from the defendant's silence during trial - and they certainly should not interpret it as a sign of guilt. The judge will do this, of course, because, by the time her underwhelming defense came to a rest Wednesday morning, Mayor Sheila Dixon had not uttered a single word.

  • The defense rests, and Dixon is silent

    November 18, 2009

    When he instructs the jurors in the Dixon case, Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney will likely tell them not to construe or infer anything from the defendant's silence. Mayor Sheila Dixon did not testify in her own defense against charges that she's a thief. This might have been the plan all along; having a defendant testify in any criminal case always comes with risks, and in this case they were probably big risks. But, still, the mayor of Baltimore doesn't speak? They say she took gift cards intended for needy children in her city, and she doesn't have an argument?

  • The Dixon case turns into an episode of CSI-Target

    November 17, 2009

    The last time I visited the Baltimore courtroom where Mayor Sheila Dixon is on trial, it was for a homicide case, and a medical examiner was among the many witnesses. This time, the alleged crime is theft and, instead of a medical examiner, the state calls to the witness chair the "asset protection manager" for a major retail chain.

  • Is taking some gift cards a big deal? Ask Lindbergh Carpenter — he lost his job for it

    November 17, 2009

    In the buildup to the trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon on theft charges, we did not hear much about Lindbergh Carpenter Jr. He was not billed as the leading man or even a star witness. He is not, as far as anyone knows, a former boyfriend of the mayor. He's not a current boyfriend, either. He's not a real estate developer. He's neither mover nor shaker.

  • Defense message: Dixon cares

    November 13, 2009

    The lawyers defending Mayor Sheila Dixon in her trial on theft charges will attempt to convince the jury -- the one in the courtroom and the much bigger one out here in the rain -- that that the only pattern of behavior in the case was a pattern of caring for the poor, of generosity and charity. You wait and see. It's coming up.

  • Mayor Schaefer kept it clean during dirty times

    November 10, 2009

    The irony is 7-foot-2 and made of bronze: A statue of William Donald Schaefer goes up along the Inner Harbor promenade just a week or so before the current mayor of Baltimore goes on trial, accused of stealing gift cards intended for the needy. What a town!

  • Why do they keep killing each other? Baltimore's most enduring question

    October 13, 2009

    I saw what looked like a drug transaction on a fairly busy corner of downtown Baltimore the other day. Six 20-something guys -- one white, the others black -- pulled together for a few minutes on Franklin Street and, while two of them took lookout positions, the others exchanged some items that appeared to be cash and small envelopes.

  • Au revoir to more than a father-in-law

    October 11, 2009

    Over the years, I've asked a lot of men about their fathers-in-law: whether they get along with them, whether they play a significant role in their lives. These conversations took place over a beer, or on a fishing trip, maybe at an Orioles game. I usually had to bring the subject up; in most cases, the guys I've known wouldn't do it themselves, or there just wasn't much to say. They had married the man's daughter, and that was about it.

  • How can state leaders still cling to death penalty?

    February 22, 2009

    The death penalty in the hands of politicians: Few things seem as twisted and as troubling as the matter of state-sponsored executions authorized by men and women with large nameplates pinned to their lapels. While in the ideal they might be devoted to public service and to representative democracy, what most of them seek, first and foremost, is name recognition and re-election. And in a nation as violent as ours, re-election has required being tough on crime, and being tough on crime has required support of capital punishment.

  • A new low for corporate greed

    February 1, 2009

    Super Bowl Sunday fun: Try saying these words out loud, in the incredulous voice of former NFL coach Jim Mora in that Coors beer commercial:

  • Handmade signs signal persistent hope

    November 5, 2008

    Thirty-two years of elections in Maryland and I've never seen so many handmade signs. Someone told me weeks ago that you couldn't get your hands on an official, campaign-issued Obama sign anywhere; they ran out of them in Baltimore, which might explain all the hand-painted signs I saw yesterday. They were on the eastside and the westside. I saw one on North Avenue, one on Druid Hill Avenue, one on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

  • Slots aren't the answer to what ails the tracks

    October 28, 2008

    Here's what the people who run Laurel Park are willing to do to get you and me, betting customers, through the gates between now and the end of the year: half-price beers every time a randomly selected jockey wins a race on a Friday; a "special surprise" if one of us grabs the lucky rubber ducky out of the Laurel Lucky Duck Pond between 11 a.m. and noon Nov. 8; free apple or pumpkin pie to the first 5,500 fans on Thanksgiving Day; "Live Pasta Station" every Thursday in the Terrace Dining Room; free ice scraper to the first 4,000 fans Dec. 13.

  • Here's one way to call the slots tossup

    October 7, 2008

    The last poll I saw on slots showed about 54 percent of Marylanders still supporting a state constitutional amendment allowing the gambling machines. That support was not as large as it appeared to be eight or nine months ago, which fits a theory I have: The closer we get to Election Day, the more people will think about this, and the more they think about it, the more of a tossup the outcome. It all comes down to which of the following attitudes prevail.

  • The little boy who no longer lives here

    August 26, 2008

    I won't be reading this column today; it was hard enough just to write it. This is the father-notes-little-boy-growing-up column that I fought off a dozen times. Nick's high school graduation was in June. I attended, of course, and found myself too melancholy - and too much in denial - to write about it in public. Saturday was take-the-first-child-to-college day. I resisted, with full self-consciousness, taking up this space and your time with my little bit of miserable joy - what my Portuguese ancestors called saudade, the mixture of feelings one experiences at the landmark events of life. But it didn't work, so you'll just have to bear with me.

  • City's awash in arena visions

    August 3, 2008

    I need to ask the people who've been writing letters to the editor expressing nostalgic affection for the 1st Mariner Arena - and horror at the prospect of that outdated box being torn down and replaced - the following question: When was the last time you were there? When the Beatles played, or was it Herman's Hermits?

  • Integrity an early McKay hallmark

    June 8, 2008

    Back at the dawn of Baltimore television, when the Sunpapers owned the first station here, a 25-year-old Evening Sun reporter named Jim McManus agreed to work in front of the camera for $65 a week. It was 1947. The station, WMAR-TV, had to fill hours upon hours with original programming. So its crews did remote telecasts, running from the races at Pimlico to supermarket openings to professional wrestling matches at the old Baltimore Coliseum.

  • In face of violence, looking within

    February 7, 2008

    Parents and teenagers are walking around this week awed by the violence that destroyed the Browning family in Cockeysville - one of those events that are so shocking we all look at each other and wait for someone to make some sense of it. But there is no sense to it, and the explanation might never come.

  • Cultivating their future

    May 11, 2006

    They renamed the old, scary Maryland Penitentiary a few years ago and changed its purpose. It's now called the Metropolitan Transition Center, a place where inmates go when they are in the last couple of years of prison time. Given its purpose and potential, it's probably one of the most important institutions in Baltimore - a crossroads where men who once caused so much trouble in their home communities either beat the devil or re-up.

  • Trying to embrace St. Francis' message

    April 30, 2006

    Even though ex-offender threw away a second chance, don't throw in the towel on all

  • Get out by phone call or get out by bullet

    April 24, 2006

    Icompare the names in reports of killings in Baltimore with the names of men who called The Sun during the last 10 months to ask for help in finding jobs that might get them out of dealing drugs or other potentially deadly crimes. So far, I know only of one man who came in from the street for help, returned to his old lifestyle and ended up dead because of it.

  • The lesson for Easter: Life can be renewed

    April 16, 2006

    There are young men out there - teenage boys from Baltimore to Columbia, from Aberdeen to Annapolis - who will be making decisions this spring. Some will have to decide where to go to college in the fall, or which lacrosse team to play with this summer, or which girl to ask to a prom. Some will have to decide whether to continue to be a stickup boy or a young thug who sells heroin.

  • City officer strives to help break the cycle

    April 10, 2006

    Alittle more attention must be paid: Keith Harrison, The Sun's Police Officer of the Year for excellence in community service, has been deeply engaged in the effort to get drug dealers and drug addicts out of that miserable game. We kind of missed the story the other day when we reported on Harrison's selection from among dozens of nominees across Maryland. He's done more than "set up an office where citizens can talk privately to officers about their lives." Like street-corner missionaries, Harrison and his colleagues from the Baltimore Police Department's Get Out of the Game unit have been encouraging hard-core drug offenders to change their lives. Their work isn't about arrests; it's about breaking the dreariest of cycles in this drug-infested city.

  • Dealing, gangs, jail, release -- now what?

    March 26, 2006

    I can't use Chico's full name because he thinks he'll be killed for talking to a newspaper columnist. It's a small big town, Baltimore. Everybody knows everybody, or everybody knows somebody who knows somebody, and particularly in the miserable drug life - guys selling dope, or guys sticking up guys selling dope - it's all this kill-or-be-killed stuff among homie familiaritas in sales territories that have become even more compact under O'Malley-era police pressure.

  • After lure of the street, a return to honest life

    March 20, 2006

    On the morning of Sept. 5, 2000, Baltimore police conducted what drug dealers call "a house raid" on 43rd Street in a North Baltimore neighborhood that had been beleaguered by gang activity for several months. Police arrested four people and listed these confiscated items for a Sun reporter: 160 vials of cocaine; 19 ounces of pure heroin; 6 ounces of pure cocaine; $8,000 in cash; and a .22-caliber Intertec machine pistol with a silencer. Police placed the value of the heroin at $285,000, the cocaine at $20,000.

  • Jim's story highlights enigmatic lure of drugs

    March 5, 2006

    Sometimes I'll sit there - in a courtroom maybe, or at a desk with a phone to my ear - or I'll stand on a Baltimore sidewalk and do what they pay me to do, which is listen to people give their arguments, tell their stories and explain themselves, and it'll hit me: I couldn't be a psychiatrist.

  • Shining a light for a man in dark despair

    March 3, 2006

    This is for Jim, who called here the other day. I won't use the last name you left on The Sun's voice-mail system because I haven't been able to speak with you. It doesn't matter. You know who you are. There's only one person who called 410-332-6166 this week to say he was going to take his own life.

  • Out of the 'wickedness' and into the kitchen

    February 26, 2006

    Iam regularly pleased by the number of Sun readers who ask about Harry Calloway Jr. I get it all the time. People ask how he's doing, what he's doing, whether he's staying out of trouble - and this continues several months after Calloway first emerged as a kind of poster child for second chances among drug dealers, drug addicts and all the miserable others who drained the life out of long stretches of Baltimore over long periods of time.

  • Obstacles on the road to a man's redemption

    February 12, 2006

    Take LaFawn Weaver, for instance. Here's a young man who admits to making bad choices and getting arrested a couple of times -- back when he was a teenager, primarily -- and blowing a good job because he liked to smoke reefer. OK. So it's time to move on. He says he's made a personal declaration to try again and do it right. But so far, Weaver hasn't been able to find the legitimate job that gets him off the street for good and into America's taxpaying, mainstream work force.

  • Feds are in the game, and they're serious

    February 5, 2006

    Guys with guns in the city of Baltimore: I got a Super Bowl Sunday gift for you. Some people pay $100 an hour to get this good stuff. You're getting it for free -- a little advice that could change your life. Here goes:

  • Ex-offenders need help finding way back to life

    January 22, 2006

    Take a guy like Eric Brooks, for instance. He's 30 years old and he's been in trouble for - here's a shocker - dealing drugs in Baltimore. Last year, Brooks received a taxpayer-financed trip to a Maryland prison for seven months. He went to the Metropolitan Transition Center, which is the old Maryland Penitentiary, that Frankenstein castle commuters see from the Jones Falls Expressway. Based on what state officials have told me, it cost us about $14,000 to keep Eric Brooks there.

  • Lend a hand or an ear to start year on right foot

    January 1, 2006

    Here's a suggestion for 2006: Be a mentor, be a mensch. Make a difference in the life of one man or one woman trying to stay off the drug corners and out of prison -- just by showing some interest. You could sign up for this service at an event Jan. 16 (see below), or you could phone in your support. Milton Bates did, and things have worked out pretty well so far.

  • Homicide clock ticks louder as year ends

    December 30, 2005

    Aclock ticks in Baltimore, and I don't mean the one in Oriole Park. It's the homicide clock. It's not something you can look up and see, but something you feel and hear - part of Baltimore's biorhythm - and every year at this time, the ticks get louder, the pulse grows stronger, and anyone who still cares about this stupid waste of life gets a headache.

  • Cause for ex-offenders crosses party lines

    December 22, 2005

    Mary Ann Saar, Maryland's public safety secretary, said it again last week at a breakfast honoring both ex-offenders who find their way into the mainstream working world and the companies that have the guts to hire them: "This is not a liberal issue. This is not a conservative issue. This is not a Republican issue. It is not a Democratic issue. This is a common-sense issue that will serve all of us."

  • Our city's firms must reach out to 51st state

    December 18, 2005

    America's 51st state - the state of Incarceration - has a citizenship of about 2.1 million now, making it just about as populated as Nevada or Utah. Incarceration USA had just 500,000 residents in 1980; the war on drugs, more than any other factor, contributed to its striking growth - and continues to fuel its remarkable retention rate. In 2000, nearly 605,000 inmates were released back into the other 50 states. In 2003, that number reached 656,320, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Despite this, Incarceration still boasts more people than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

  • Despite help, some still slip through the cracks

    December 11, 2005

    Just so you know, before I take you into the thorny stuff: I've heard from dozens of people - city and suburban families of longtime drug addicts - who say things are better now. Their sons, husbands, brothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends, sisters are clean, staying out of trouble and away from their old junkie friends, working and taking care of their children. There are a lot of stories like that.

  • Want to save Baltimore? Start with one person

    December 5, 2005

    One man, one woman at a time - let's try it that way. Let's say you own a small business, or let's say you're in middle management of a medium-to-large-to-extra-large company. Maybe you're even the CEO, or the COO or the CFO. Maybe you have an MBA, belong to the GBC, work in HRD, drive a BMW, or something GMC.

  • Access to drugs in jail was a death sentence

    December 4, 2005

    There's no question that Michael Rabuck should have been institutionalized. People and their property in the city and Baltimore County were safer with him off the street. But this drug-addicted man ended up in a maximum-security prison, the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup, where other inmates were eager to give him heroin - and willing to kill him if he did not get his family to pay for it.

  • Gratitude for second chances

    November 24, 2005

    Thanks to those who try to make life better for all of us by making life better for themselves. There are still too many homicides in Baltimore - though, at 242, not as many as the 259 last year at this time - and too many men and women addicted to heroin and cocaine. But there are people among us trying to get to a better place in their lives, away from the addictions that create the drug market that begets so much of the violence, and out of unemployment, crime and prison. We should praise and thank them for their efforts, against tough odds, because therein lies the progress of a city, a state and a nation - one man, one woman at a time.

  • Knocked down, but ready to try again

    November 17, 2005

    And so it begins again for Harry Calloway. Once more, he restarts his life. On Monday, Calloway started classes at Sojourner-Douglass College for the second time this year, and on Nov. 30 he'll be back at the Moveable Feast culinary class.

  • Savor the warmth of youth, family, summer

    October 13, 2005

    I need to get this out. My cousins, Vinnie and Eddie Voci, will close on the sale of Uncle Gene's cottage on Cape Cod tomorrow, and I'm pretty bummed out about the whole thing -- accepting it, but still bummed -- and I hope you won't mind the use of this space for a kind of elegy. I admit to being a baby boomer tossed into the mosh pit of middle age. Some guys drown in the melancholy. I get to write my way out of it, at least for a day or so.

  • Hope and despair for those who wait

    September 26, 2005

    I call them "ladies in waiting," the mothers and grandmothers, sisters, wives and fiancees who, with hope and prayer and superhuman patience, keep the faith that one day their men will straighten up, emerge from the drug life or prison and come safe home. I hear from them frequently.

  • Ex-dealer is no longer the man he used to be

    September 25, 2005

    A young, beautiful, dark-skinned woman, her hair in cornrows and her arms wrapped around her pregnancy, sits at the end of a park bench, silent and depressed, and for good reason: She's married to a 25-year-old drug dealer who suffered brain damage in a beating last spring, and he faces prison this fall. You can understand why she might want to avoid the conversation at the other end of the bench - the one between the father of her unborn child and the newspaper guy. The woman turns her back slightly and stares at the dry grass at her feet.

  • Calling all those who said they needed help

    September 22, 2005

    You know who you are. Kenneth, Leon, William, Joseph and Walter. You know why I'm calling your names out in print today. And Arthur, Tina, Gordon, Andre, Tory and Shawn - where are you?

  • After falling so far, coming back can be a long, hard climb

    September 18, 2005

    HERE'S WHAT happens in the big city: A 42-year-old man, who wasted half his life in jails and prisons because of heroin, announces that he's clean and wants out. No longer will he do dope or deal dope. He wants to leave the ranks of the thousands of men and women who for years helped suck the life out of vast stretches of Baltimore. "I just want to get back to working, and being productive," the man says. He sounds earnest.

  • High cost of drug sentences in Maryland

    September 15, 2005

    I ASKED Donta Ellerbe, a 28-year-old Baltimorean who spent too much of his young life selling heroin in his hometown, what he would like to do for a living, now that he's sworn off the hustle, and this is what he said: "I'm a good people person. I think I would be good at customer service."

  • Ehrlich can put money behind good intentions, expand drug treatment

    September 11, 2005

    BALTIMORE DRUG dealers and former dealers, drug addicts and recovering addicts didn't vote for Bob Ehrlich in 2002. Check me if I'm wrong, brothers and sisters, but many of you either have felony convictions, which means you weren't allowed to vote, or you were incarcerated at the time of the gubernatorial election. Others were just "distracted," committing crimes to feed your addictions, and therefore not engaged in that grand thing we call democracy. And even if you were, you were not inclined to vote for a Republican.

  • An excavation company offers a second chance, and six ex-dealers take an important first step

    September 1, 2005

    LIVING DRUG-FREE, feeling part of the working world and the progress of your city, making $10 an hour for a new company owned by people who believe in second chances, knowing your relatives are glad to see you and that your neighbors might even respect you - all that beats hustling heroin for $50 a day. Any way you measure it, the lives of Thomas Willis, Ricky Smith, Sean Wright, Craig Wright, William Taylor and Melvin Richardson are better at the start of September than they were at the start of August - and so, by a small increment, is the quality of life in Baltimore.

  • An FAQ for readers of previous columns

    August 28, 2005

    AT A MEETING of recovering drug addicts in West Baltimore the other night, there were more answers than questions, which is a good thing in group therapy - it means there's honesty in the room. Everyone seemed to feel free to recount their struggles and express their feelings, and no man put his brother on the spot with questions - until they got to me.

  • Taking family's pain public takes courage, and a lot of love

    August 25, 2005

    DEAR NICOLE Sesker: Your stepdaddy must love you a lot. He's the police commissioner of Baltimore, and yesterday Baltimore and the world learned what you, the commissioner and some of his officers have known for a long time --- that you're a heroin addict.

  • A troubled soul, another tragic ending in the 'other Baltimore'

    August 21, 2005

    RALPH E. "Casey" Kloetzli died in an alley behind an abandoned house on a short side street I had neither heard of nor visited in my 27 years in Baltimore. Until two weeks ago, he had lived a tormented life in the "other Baltimore," the subculture of addiction and distress that so many of us know only from a distance.

  • Weary dope dealer aims to go straight into a new line of work

    August 18, 2005

    LISTENING to a man named Troy talk about his life as a drug dealer -- with 20 clients who buy marijuana from him on a regular basis, Troy didn't want his full name printed because of the legal ramifications -- I think to myself: This guy could have been somebody.

  • O'Mayor could have a little more passion about city hotel plan

    August 15, 2005

    BEFORE THE Baltimore City Council votes on Mayor Martin O'Malley's proposal for the public financing of a $305 million convention center hotel, it would be nice to hear from Mayor Martin O'Malley. Exsqueeze me? Have you noticed that O'Mayor has been relatively low-key on this high-profile project?

  • Updates give hope for life off the street

    August 14, 2005

    TWO MONTHS and two days have passed since the first profiles of men and women caught up in Baltimore's drug life -- and eager to get out of it -- appeared in this space. The contact count is up around 150 now, and today's column is an update on where the many hours of conversations with present and former dealers and addicts (or their mothers and grandmothers) have led.

  • Weary mothers, grandmothers also are victims of drug trade

    August 11, 2005

    DRUG DEALERS: Your mothers have been calling; your grandmothers too. I speak with them almost daily. The conversations are always pleasant, but the subject is always sad, and the subject is always you - the sons and grandsons who hustle drugs on the streets of Baltimore.

  • City hotel can provide a start for jobs plan

    August 7, 2005

    DEAR BALTIMORE City Council: Several of you are questioning the proposal to have the city finance the construction of a $305 million hotel to give the downtown convention business a boost. You're in rare form. We're not used to the City Council doing this sort of thing - challenging the mayor, demanding a better deal for taxpayers. I'm impressed.

  • Prison won't heal Baltimore's blight, but helping out its victims would

    July 31, 2005

    BALTIMORE'S drug cancer has eaten away at people, families and whole neighborhoods for more than three decades. It has affected the entire region in some way and, considering the thousands of citizens involved in this problem, seems intractable, a lost cause.

  • Drug dealers offered an exit to get out of game

    July 24, 2005

    LEONARD HAMM, the Baltimore police commissioner, could be standing on a street corner watching his officers make a drug arrest, or he might be attending a community event, walking into a barber shop, or just sitting on the front steps of his house. It could happen any time, and often does. Someone recognizes Hamm, walks up to him and says: "Commissioner, I got to get out of the game."

  • Effort's goal is to make solid citizens of criminals

    July 17, 2005

    TOMI HIERS, who serves in the Ehrlich administration with a half-mile title - executive assistant to the deputy secretary for operations, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services - believes the Republican governor of Maryland means to do what no Democrat in recent memory was able to do: turn criminals into productive citizens, give a guy a second chance. The administration wants to stop wasting taxpayer money - $24,000 per year per inmate - on a revolving door. "We are trying to change the culture of corrections," Hiers says.

  • A longtime addict wants out; he needs helping hand

    July 7, 2005

    HERE'S DARRYL Logan. Here's a 45-year-old lifelong Baltimorean, a graduate of one of its venerable independent schools - and a longtime drug addict. He seems like a bright guy. He's certainly a congenial conversationalist. And he's one of our estimated 40,000 heroin users.

  • Here's a choice: Burn out or really start cooking

    July 3, 2005

    DEAR BALTIMORE drug dealers: Tired of your loser life? Tired of being used to spread the poison in your hometown? Tired of living with your mother because, despite what people think, you can't afford a place of your own? Tired of the prospect of going to jail again, or ending up with a bullet in your head?

  • Passing on hard-learned lessons on Father's Day

    June 19, 2005

    THIS IS Berson Tyner's first Father's Day as a free man in 10 years. For most of the past decade -- and for several of the years before that -- he was a prisoner in the Maryland correctional system. If he saw his three sons on Father's Day, it was probably in a guarded visiting room, in Hagerstown or Jessup.

  • Former drug abuser finds a chance to regain happiness lost to addiction

    June 16, 2005

    UPON HEARING her story, a consoling preacher might have been tempted to give Towanda Reaves that old, hopeful proverb about doors -- when one closes, another one opens. We found out yesterday that the door Reaves thought had been closed to her forever is still open a crack. It's hard to see from about five years away, but there's definitely a small opening.

  • Program envisions a chain of mentors pulling kids from street life

    June 13, 2005

    STEVEN "Take Back The City" Mitchell is certainly dedicated to the cause, and he's always trying to get other men - black, white, Asian, Republican or Democrat, city or suburban - to join him in taking on one of the most persistent and daunting challenges in our midst. He's all about saving Baltimore kids from drugs, thugs and violence.

  • Why they sell poison, and why many can't stop

    June 12, 2005

    FOUR MEN - one in his 40s and tired of going to jail, one who just barely escaped the bullets that killed his best friend, one under pressure from police and family to change careers, another who left the streets six years ago to work toward a middle-class life - all agree: Many who sell drugs in Baltimore will never stop, unless arrested or killed, but many more would prefer another way to make a living. If there were more decent jobs and more employers willing to give a felon a second chance, there might be fewer dealers competing for corners and this city might be a less deadly place.

  • Act of forgiveness sets example for the world

    April 3, 2005

    BY THE TIME he came to Camden Yards in Baltimore on that sun-splashed autumn Sunday in 1995, Pope John Paul II had for more than a decade been encased in glass when he traveled among crowds. The "popemobile" circled the baseball field and turned along the warning track, and for a few memorable seconds, as a reporter free to roam in the grass of left field, I had my audience with the Vicar of Christ. He looked right at me - I swear, right into my eyes - and gave the papal blessing from behind bulletproof glass.

  • Exploiting the tragedy of Terri Schiavo

    March 24, 2005

    MAYBE YOU know the feeling - that you're about to see or hear something that's really someone else's private business, and it makes you embarrassed and uncomfortable. You're a sucker for human drama in all forms, but you'd rather not be caught gawking.

  • A grieving mother brings this war home

    November 18, 2004

    I TOLD MARTINA Burger, who was very accommodating and who gave me more of her time than I ever expected, that I would not debate the war in Iraq with the grieving mother of a Marine who was killed there.

  • Once again, young guns shatter hope

    May 9, 2004

    SOMETIMES, SOME days, you wish you could just reach right in and rewire the brains of fools - like the fat one who apparently drove up to Randallstown High School Friday afternoon and decided to open fire on a crowd of kids after a charity basketball game. What do you suppose was the gunman's story this time? Had he been dissed by someone in the crowd? Did someone owe him money? Or was he just upset about the Krispy Kreme plant closing?

  • Ehrlich, O'Malley sparring over schools may be Round 1

    March 11, 2004

    WAS THAT a risky thanks-but-no-thanks Martin O'Mayor sent to Bobby Governor the other night, or the first shot in the 2006 gubernatorial campaign? Is this precious? Do we live in interesting times? Is this shaping up to be a battle of political frat boys, or what?

  • Given failed war on drugs, Lewis charges no surprise

    March 4, 2004

    ALITTLE news for the many Jamal Lewis fans -- of whom I am one -- who think the Baltimore Ravens' great running back is a victim of an overzealous federal prosecutor reaching too far to make a case out of the word "Yeah," uttered during a cellular telephone call four years ago: We're still at war.

  • Ehrlich realizes we all have a stake in the city's schools

    February 26, 2004

    MORE HIGH-FIVES to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Arbutus for his leadership in Baltimore's school crisis. Last week, the governor pledged a $42 million loan to help the school system pay its bills, and this week, with the deficit numbers looking even worse, Ehrlich came closer to advocating a complete state takeover of the system, declaring himself its new guardian with these words: "I have 90,000 children in Baltimore City schools."

  • Ehrlich's gamble on the city shows glimmer of greatness

    February 19, 2004

    ROBERT L. Ehrlich Jr. of Arbutus is just the man to cure Maryland of its "pre-existing antagonism." No doctor can do it. O'Malley can't do it. Nor Sarbanes. Nor Mikulski. Nor Mfume. Not even Ripken. But the state's first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew could lead the way on regional big-think, and the sooner he realizes it the better. He has a choice - to be a statesman who unites modern Maryland across jurisdictional, economic, class and racial lines, or go down in history as "Bobby Slots."

  • City should have put brakes on Fast Eddie a long time ago

    December 11, 2003

    THOSE WHO find themselves lost in the sordid details of the indictment of Fast Eddie Norris, and terribly lacking in knowledge of fashion, should please note: Il Bisonte is a line of leather goods from Italy, and Faconnable is a clothing line with a store in Manhattan.

  • No one can tell grieving family of city Marine how to feel

    March 24, 2003

    THE BALTIMORE family of Staff Sgt. Kendall D. Waters-Bey, killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in southern Iraq, took some heat over the weekend - from talk radio, what else? - for suggesting that the 29-year-old Marine died in an unjust and pointless war, not in a noble cause to make the Middle East safer or to free an oppressed people.

  • Referendum on slots wouldn't be a gamble

    February 28, 2003

    ILIKE the idea of referendum. It's a bright, blunt instrument of democracy -- people voting not on men but on ideas and laws, specific issues of significant public importance. If from time to time we present large questions on the ballot that ultimately affect the quality of life in a place -- say, the state of Maryland -- what's the harm? In fact, a great good might be served; government might better reflect the wishes of the little people.

  • Take a break from shoveling and check your quiz score

    February 19, 2003

    IN CASE YOU missed it - and chances of that are pretty good - I promised to produce answers today to the Winter Day Quiz, presented in this space Monday as a public service to snowbound readers of The Sun.

  • 30 questions for all stuck at home on a winter's day

    February 17, 2003

    IWOULD LIKE to start off today's column by thanking all the intrepid men and women involved in the production and delivery of today's newspaper. If you can read this -- and I don't mean online through Baltimoresun.com -- hug your carrier. I would further like to thank the three guys who stopped in the middle of my street yesterday at noon to give my snow-stuck motor vehicle a push into a position out of the way of traffic and the city snowplow that will -- in my dreams -- make it down my street some day this month. Good snows make good neighbors.

  • Slots number becoming game of high-low

    January 27, 2003

    FIRST WE heard that the racing industry wanted 18,000 slot machines in Maryland. Then the number fell to 13,500, and by the end of last week Bobby Governor reportedly was pulling back even more to find some palatable number. Pete "Cut Me In" Rawlings, the city delegate and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was talking 10,000. By the time you read this, they might be agreeing to ask for 11 slots and a mahjong table at the Royal Farm store in Hampden.

  • In sniper shootings, prison, not death, is best outcome

    October 30, 2002

    PERHAPS ALL the federal and local prosecutors who want to take the sniper case should have a televised drawing on Saturday night - something on the order of Mega Millions or Powerball - to see who gets to kill the guys. Until yesterday, when the feds stepped in, there seemed to be a considerable argument brewing over which county in which state should get to do the rest of us the big favor of prosecuting the sniper suspects and giving them a long dirt nap. So, settle it with a drawing.

  • Fight to take back streets can't be forgotten

    October 25, 2002

    IDRIFT UP to Preston and Eden again, the firebombed, Formstone Dawson house, and I think it should be turned into a shrine -- a memorial to a martyred family who in the first years of the new century died in the civil crusade for a better Baltimore. We could put up a memorial to Angel Dawson, her husband and kids, and I would go for an engraving about the price of liberty being eternal vigilance, something otherwise reserved for the headstones of soldiers.

  • Normal people, living amid abnormal danger

    October 23, 2002

    CHARLES MOOSE, the police chief in Montgomery County, thinks it was unwise for the governor of Maryland to call the sniper a coward, apparently because such public name-calling is counterproductive in the delicate "dialogue" the police are trying to establish with this killer. "The governor's training is not in the law enforcement field," Moose said. "I am convinced the governor will never do that again."

  • Tragedy on E. Preston St. can't shake faith in future

    October 18, 2002

    BY YESTERDAY morning, word had spread through the neighborhood about the Bible, and a few people came by to see it where it lay - open and still readable, flat atop the pile of ashes and embers from the rowhouse fire that killed Angel Dawson and her five children.

  • A primer on 'real Democrats' in era of blurred party lines

    October 2, 2002

    LET ME TELL you something," Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg, the former lieutenant governor, said in Glen Burnie Monday, the day he and about 20 other former Democratic officeholders endorsed a Republican for governor. "Real Democrats care about the state of Maryland."

  • One last vision of a Unitas-to-Berry pass

    September 18, 2002

    RAYMOND BERRY was at the lectern, giving his fond eulogy for Johnny Unitas, when I looked up at the nearly 90-foot ceiling of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and had the strange, fleeting and irreverent vision of a football spiraling perfectly through the somber atmosphere, under the contemporary-Gothic buttresses, all the way from the back of the great place and through the main nave to the sanctuary.

  • Unitas' reach extended past Md. borders

    September 16, 2002

    PLEASE PARDON this personal memory of Johnny Unitas, even though it does not stem from the few special times I was actually in his company here in Baltimore. While natives can attest to seeing him throw footballs at Memorial Stadium -- or buy shirts at Hamburger's -- my experience was limited to what I saw, until about 1969, on black-and-white television.

  • On sad anniversary, a lesson for the kids

    September 11, 2002

    IWOULD LIKE to say something to the kids today, so you grown-ups will have to excuse me. All memories of the year past have me thinking of the future, and the future is where children live. So this is for them.

  • Hyannis Port high society won't help Townsend's cause

    August 16, 2002

    KATHLEEN K. Townsend is a Kennedy and there's nothing she can do about that. But she could have skipped that $2,000-a-head Hyannis Port party last month - the $4,000-a-plate one two summers ago, with chocolate mousse boats and white-chocolate sails bearing KKT's initials, was bad enough - and maybe she could chill on the out-of-state fund raising and the cocktail parties at Uncle Teddy's house. If I were advising this woman - and who isn't these days? - I'd tell her to lay off the lobster-and-Chablis fetes because those events come with a pretty high gag factor among the Great Unwashed.

  • The anger of the faithful a dire wound for the church

    May 20, 2002

    IGO BY WHAT I hear from my 88-year-old mother, Rose, the most ardent Catholic I know. She's disgusted with the whole thing. I don't get any of the Roman Catholic warrior stuff from her on this one. Rose is more angry than sad, and so, based on this -- the most accurate measure available to me -- I believe the church is in bigger trouble than it realizes.

  • Death penalty support looks tough but does no good

    May 13, 2002

    SUPPORTING the death penalty -- saying so in public -- is a way for an otherwise liberal and progressive-thinking man or woman to flash tough-on-crime bona fides. Personally, they might think capital punishment to be barbaric; they might believe in their hearts that no society that puts criminals to death can consider itself civilized. But they flash support for the ultimate penalty anyway. This has been the trend among Democrats as they've played catch-up-to-Republicans since the Reagan Revolution.

  • Church is blind to damage caused by vow of celibacy

    April 5, 2002

    AND NOW, having read the sordid details from the police report, we regard the pathetic pastor of St. Clement I Catholic Church, caught in a lie of fear and desperation, his license to practice suspended, his whereabouts for a week known but to his attorney and, one assumes, God. All because he did that which his vows forbid him to do, and allegedly lied to a Baltimore County police officer to cover it up. Another one bites the dust, and while the development was decidedly regrettable, one assumes there were sighs of relief among Father Steven Girard's superiors that a little boy wasn't involved.

  • Newfound friendship between local, N.Y. firefighters cut short

    September 26, 2001

    BACK ON Jan. 28, Super Bowl Sunday, the phone rang at a Baltimore County fire station, and LeRoy Edmunds picked up. This is Vinny Princiotta, the caller said. New York City Fire Department, Engine 16/Ladder 7. "We wanna make a bet on the game."

  • Americans enter a test of will with new clarity

    September 17, 2001

    "INEVER was much for putting out a flag," I heard a woman say in the weekend sunshine, "until now." She went into the basement of her home and fetched two small ones - starchy cloth flags on sticks - and stuck them in the potted plants in front of her house.

  • A plea for peace to the one God of Muslims, Christians and Jews

    September 14, 2001

    JUST BEFORE sunset last night in the old basilica in Baltimore, with the nation still shattered by ungodly acts of terrorism, an imam sat next to a cardinal who sat next to a rabbi, and they prayed for peace and healing in the face of terror and hate. They did the difficult thing that people expect of them - they tried to use words to restore hope in a week that tested a believer's faith in a merciful God.

  • Events shake belief in a better future

    September 12, 2001

    We organize the tools in our garage and line up the shoes in our closets. We trim the hedge and water the lawn. We shop in malls. We jog. We walk the dog. We sip dark-roast coffee. We drive reliable cars with full tanks of gas. We go to work. We come home. We watch Monday Night Football. We read a novel. We sleep soundly. We have a pretty good life -- orderly, even routine, comfortable, plentiful. We keep going. We believe in the future.

  • Firefighters deserve high-fives and another fete

    July 23, 2001

    NOW THAT was a cool coincidence: "Firefighter Appreciation Day 2001" at Oriole Park fell in the midst of the diehard, underground inferno that put the city's Fire Department to an extraordinary test. Too bad many of the firefighters who deserved the tribute could not attend, though they were near Camden Yards. There will have to be another honor for those who worked so hard to end the danger posed by derailed tankers of hazmats stuck in a downtown tunnel fire that burned as hot as 1,500 degrees and turned railroad steel red.

  • Stream of consciousness

    June 17, 2001

    I can hear him now: "All that for that?" I can pretty much see him, too, in his khaki trousers and white T-shirt, over in the small clearing by the honeysuckle thicket on the little river I love. My father is watching me fish in the way I have chosen to fish in the years since his death: With a fly rod and tiny lures fashioned of feathers to look like the bugs that finicky trout eat. I can hear him now, as I stand knee-deep in the river and extend a small, delicate net for a trout that's all green, yellow and white with brown spots, about 10 inches of God's glory. I hold the trout in my hand for a moment so that my father might appreciate it. But he only laughs: "All that for that?" And when I ease the little fish back into the river, he laughs harder and disappears into the woods.

  • Destructive and creative sides of man in tug of war

    February 16, 2001

    ADIGITAL photograph of the one they call "Crazy Frank" appeared on my computer screen at home Wednesday afternoon as I clicked through The Sun's Web site -- swollen face, large ears, deep-space eyes, arms pulled behind him for the handcuffs. My son, who is 10, looked over my shoulder.

  • Bargain-basement justice not much of a deal for city

    February 14, 2001

    YESTERDAY, IN what used to be the basement of a department store, a prosecutor named Patricia Deros called 106 minor criminal cases - drug possession, trespassing, theft, perverted practices, rolling dice for money - in Early Disposition Court, the one the wise-guy mayor of Baltimore promoted last year, in stick-figure terms, as a remedy to the city's clogged judicial system.

  • As prodigy matures, his light still burns bright

    February 12, 2001

    LOCAL MEMBERS of the Piano Technicians Guild, who 13 years ago logged 700 hours rebuilding that old Stieff baby grand for the shockingly talented baby pianist Jermaine Gardner - he was only 4 at the time - will be pleased to know that both are thriving. The piano fills a third of the front room of the Gardner house, off The Alameda in Northeast Baltimore, and the other night Jermaine sat behind it to play Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 18, the allegro. He performed it wonderfully. I felt lucky to have been there.

  • City that needs hope has a way of killing it

    February 9, 2001

    PAY ATTENTION long enough - say, two weeks - and you notice that a lot of people around here tend to look at almost everything in terms of the health of the city of Baltimore. Martin O'Malley gets elected mayor, and that's good for the city. The Ravens win the Super Bowl, and that's great for the city. A gunman kills the owner of a popular and thriving Mount Vernon cafe, and that's not only an unspeakable tragedy for a family and the man's friends, it's bad for Baltimore.

  • Uncommon valor yields all-too-common response

    February 7, 2001

    THURSDAY afternoon, Rob Bruns, who operates a brake shop in Waverly, had a flash about a doughnut -- the kind with vanilla icing he likes so much. He can usually find one, even by late afternoon, in one of the glass cases at the 7-Eleven two blocks away. It was 4:30. Bruns decided to indulge his craving.

  • Archive: Old broom factory sweeps into present

    April 26, 1999

    NINETY-TWO years ago, August Rosenberger built a four-story brick factory at the corner of Baylis and Boston in the Canton section of Southeast Baltimore. His workers made Little Lady and Little Nugget brooms, and Rosenberger shipped them all over the country under the Atlantic-Southwestern Broom Co. banner. The broom boom at Baylis and Boston ended in 1989.

  • Wounded family gets healing hand

    October 9, 1995

    On a day when he extolled the power of faith and family, Pope John Paul II held the hands of a man and woman who had their faith and family shattered.