Politics & Business

Ripley’s Believe It or Not…Like It or Not


Come one, come all to the Inner Harbor’s new center for “odd and amazing things!”…almost. Almost because the deal is still in the making to bring Baltimore a Ripley’s Believe It or Not to nestle among recent shiny additions like Bubba Gump Shrimp and H&M Clothing at the waterfront.

Call me a commercial cornball, but my fingers are actually crossed that Ripley’s will team up with General Growth Properties, the landlord of all Harbor attractions, and bring in a quirky/wacky new place to hang.

Aside from shopping and eating by the water, the only family-fun activity that comes to mind is touring the National Aquarium, which is cool, but one visit per year is plenty. Having a Ripley’s in the vicinity is a huge opportunity to keep people coming back. There will always be an endless supply of freaky things flowing in and out. Tim O’Brien, Ripley’s spokesman, told the Baltimore Business Journal they are hoping Ripley’s will pair well with the aquarium, allowing it to break into a market they have yet to conquer. Also to be added to their wishlist of 80 plus RBION locations worldwide are Chicago and Las Vegas, says O’Brien. The franchise is already successful in places like Hollywood, Mexico City, and of course New York.

Bring on the two-headed cows and the shrunken heads! Bring on the family-friendly funkiness; welcome the economic boost. What’s not to smile about here? General Growth Sr. Exec VP Alan Barocas recently said on WBAL-TV, “We’re taking a little bit of a different approach to our leasing effort. It is catering to families… We want to be able to adjust to every part of their lifestyle.” And Barocas is hoping Ripley’s will boost waterfront pavilion occupancy by 90 percent, and told WBAL that if the appearance of empty space in the pavilions makes you think there isn’t room for any more cool attractions, think again. The pavilion was originally designed to make room for future tenants.

Hopefully “i’s” will be dotted and “t’s” will soon be crossed so Ripley’s can join the sequin-clad street performers and sad, sunburned panhandlers among the harbor’s other “odd and amazing things.”

How would you feel about this addition? Believe in it, or not?

In-N-Out Sues Grab-N-Go


The famous In-N-Out Burger is coming to Baltimore, but not in the way we would hope.  

The West Coast-based burger joint filed an infringement lawsuit last week in Baltimore against Maryland restaurant Grab-N-Go.  Apparently, the Maryland restaurant’s similar logo, name, and menu could lead to consumer confusion.  Specifically, In-N-Out has a beef with Grab-N-Go’s color schemes and its “Wild Style Burger,” which features two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onions and “wild” sauce; In-N-Out has long featured the “Animal Style Burger,” which features all of the same and “special” sauce.  

Grab-N-Go can try to steal In-N-Out’s image, but it can never be as good as the original.  We say In-N-Out should set up shop in Baltimore and then there will be no need for copycats. As it stands, the popular burger joint does not have any restaurants in the eastern United States.

We’re Number 33!


Gawker, the New York-based online newsmagazine, has named Maryland the 33rd worst state in the U.S. Overall, the state is praised for it’s beauty, but Baltimore is singled out for derision.

“They like made a whole television series about what a scary and miserable place it is!” the website reads, adding, “Other than Baltimore, Maryland is basically just the Mid-Atlantic’s Connecticut — all suburby sprawl dotted with occasional crumbling cities.”

Last week, the website began it’s “Worst 50 States in America” series, naming eight new states each day.  Gawker staff members were asked to rate the states on a scale from 1-10. The averaged scores provides the rankings.

Baltimore Native Breaks Gender Barrier at Parris Island


Marine Brigadier General Loretta E. Reynolds, originally from Baltimore, just became the first woman to take command of Parris Island in South Carolina.

News of women occupying positions which were formerly the exclusive domain of men is thankfully becoming commonplace. But, according to an article on Reynolds’ promotion in the Washington Post, the military yet has much ground to cover in gender equality—it was only last year that the Navy announced it would allow women to serve on submarines; women cannot yet join the Navy SEALs; neither may they serve in ground-combat units, though both of these bans will likely be lifted in the near future.

But don’t get the wrong impression. The hundreds of thousands of female troops who have been deployed overseas in recent years have certainly been in harm’s way, and many have seen combat despite the nominal ban.

In her statements to the press, Reynolds has presented her gender as utterly irrelevant to her appointment as commander of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, saying plainly, “I was the right person for the job.”

Mommy, Where Do Campaign Funds Come From?


A recent article in The Examiner compared the sources and sizes of Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral candidates’ campaign funds.

In terms of cash on hand, incumbent Stephanie Rawlings-Blake finds herself in an almost luxuriously comfortable lead with $1.4 million. Compare that to the funds of Catherine Pugh or Otis Rolley, the mayor’s stiffest competition, who have each raised around $250,000 over the course of the entire campaign.

Rawlings-Blake’s money tends to come from unions and businesses; Rolley’s from individuals; Pugh’s from elected officials, loans, and one Scott Donahoo, a car dealer who donated $75,000 to the Pugh campaign.

Perhaps hoping that distancing himself from our disgraced former mayor was worth $1,000, Rolley returned the grand donated to his campaign by Sheila Dixon. Pugh took it.

What do you think? Do the sources of campaign funds give us important information about the candidates? Or is it just another distraction from the real issues?

Despite the misprint on the sample ballot sent out by the state board of elections, the Democratic primary (which nearly all news outlets are calling “election day”) is September 13.

Bowie Man Poses as Hank Paulson to Pay Off Mortgage


This man gets points for chutzpah!

In 2009, 35 year old Bryan Gardner sent CitiMortgage a $353,000 fake money order “drawn on the account of the Secretary of the Treasury Hank M. Paulson, Jr.” for the full amount owed on his Bowie home. And it cleared!

According to Business Insider, Gardner then sold the property for $254,900 and distributed the proceeds to others. 

“You’d be amazed at how many people try and pass off (fraudulent) stuff. But does it ever work? No, it rarely works,” said Paul Pelletier, a former top-ranking official in the Justice Department’s Fraud Section, expressing surprise at the success of the scheme.

The evil genius Gardner filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and surrendered his Ford Expedition and Waldorf home. 

He has been charged with one count of mail fraud.

Read more: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/man-pretends-be-hank-paulson-make-fake-353000-mortgage-payment-citi-succeeds?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+zerohedge%2Ffeed+%28zero+hedge+-+on+a+long+enough+timeline%2C+the+survival+rate+for+everyone+drops+to+zero%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#ixzz1VHlPt17X

Big Fish Q&A with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake


When Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake presided over Harborplace’s 30th anniversary ceremonies in July 2010, she unabashedly declared, “I remember being here when I was 10 when Harborplace opened. It was a fantastic day. I also used to work here as a puppet master at the Puppet Master.”

As a rule, politicians should probably avoid uttering the phrase “puppet master.” Even more important: best not to confess to operating as one in public. And yet, in this case at least, the admission was entirely harmless. While the job does not appear on Rawlings-Blake’s resume, as a young woman she worked as a puppeteer. Conjure in your mind Punch and Judy, Lamb Chop and Hush Puppy, and the Muppets; banish from your brain guileful, covert political manipulator.

The daughter of Howard “Pete” Rawlings (chair of the Maryland House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee) and Dr. Nina Rawlings (a pediatrician), Rawlings-Blake was born in Baltimore and raised in the city’s Ashburton neighborhood. After graduating from Western High School in 1988, she earned an undergraduate degree in political science from Oberlin College in 1992, followed by a law degree from the University of Maryland in 1995. At that point she embarked on dual careers in public service and legal services: elected to the Baltimore City Council from the 4th District in 1995, two years later signing on as an attorney with the local Legal Aid Bureau.

From 1998 to 2007, Rawlings-Blake worked as a staff attorney for the Baltimore Office of the Public Defender, while continuing to serve as a council member, moving to the reconfigured 6th District in 2004 after the city switched to single-member district representation. She ascended to City Council president in 2007 and mayor in 2010, in both cases succeeding Sheila Dixon.

Rawlings-Blake, 41, lives in the city’s Coldspring neighborhood with her husband, Kent, and their daughter, Sophia.

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.  

Make it happen.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

I defined my goals at a very early age. I have so much love for Baltimore that I grew up knowing that I would use my skills and talents to make our city better. My most important goal is to make Baltimore a better place for my family and all of our families. Our city should be a place where families can choose good schools for their kids; where our streets are safer and families feel more secure in their homes; where neighbors work together and businesses choose to invest and create jobs.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

Watch and listen to everything around you. Know your community and neighbors, and get involved in anything that can help you make the lives of others better. 

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

“Quit politics.” I heard that right after I was elected [to the City Council] in 1995 and started studying for the bar exam. An older lawyer told me that I could be one or the other, and people wouldn’t respect me as a lawyer while I was in office. I studied hard, passed the bar on my first try, and practiced for about 10 years on behalf of indigent clients in Baltimore.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

I’ll name two. 1) That the squirrels that my mom named Michael and Suzy weren’t the same two squirrels every day when we saw them. 2) Unfortunately, that your metabolism really does slow down after 30.

What is the best moment of the day?

When I wake up and see my family.

What is on your bedside table?

My BlackBerry.

What is your favorite local charity?

 The Maryland Food Bank. 


What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

Work hard, be honest, and protect your integrity.

Why are you successful?

I’ve been a successful public servant because I have a passion for helping others. The people I serve know that they can count on me to be honest.

Which book, film, TV show, or video game have you introduced to your daughter that has had a profound, positive effect on her? Describe that effect.

Sophia loves black history books, and a biography of [Olympic gold medal winner] Jesse Owens inspired her to begin to run track.

Orioles’ players have “at-bat” music, a song snippet–personally chosen by each team member to represent him–that plays over the Camden Yard sound system when they step into the batter’s box. What would be your at-bat song?

DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”

If re-elected mayor, which item will be foremost on your agenda–the specific initiative you immediately strive to accomplish?

My top priority for the next four years is addressing those issues that have the greatest impact on all of Baltimore’s families. We must redouble our efforts to create more jobs, make our streets safer, provide children with a quality education, and empower our neighborhoods. All of these issues hold equal value and must receive equal attention in order to move our city forward.

Baltimore Food the Latest Craze in L.A.


Three thousand miles from home, Chef David Lentz has created a little piece of Baltimore in Southern California. The Maryland native and Boys’ Latin alum is the owner of The Hungry Cat, one of L.A.’s top restaurants with locations in Hollywood, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica, the latter of which appeared on this season’s hit television show Million Dollar Decorators.  

From the second you enter the restaurant and read the menu, it’s clear that Baltimore has had an influence; a specialty cocktail called, “The Pimlico” heads off the drinks list, old black and white photos of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Ocean City flank the walls, and, most importantly, the menu is almost all seafood.

As is the case with most Marylanders, Lentz says, “I was exposed to seafood at a young age. I have fond memories of crab feasts, fishing, and generally just having fun in the water. I think my food reflects those experiences.”

Speaking of crab feasts, shortly after opening the original Hollywood location, Lentz introduced Los Angeles to the ultimate Maryland treat with an event he dubbed Crabfest. For $75, guests receive a prix fixe Maryland menu: crabs, crab soup, a crab cake, and assorted dessert. Lentz says that he “wanted to bring a slice of Maryland to Los Angeles. It has been wildly successful.” 

In fact, The Hungry Cat overall has been wildly successful, financially and critically. Case in point: Reservations are nearly impossible to come by (we, consequently, ate dinner at 5 o’clock–it was worth it). And Cat has received praise from Town & Country, Bon Appetit, Zagat’s, The Los Angeles Times, and many more. As far as buzz, well, it was just reportedthat Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin recently dined Maryland-style at the Santa Monica location.  If Lady Goop approves, you know it’s good.  

Lentz is part of an L.A. culinary power couple: his wife, Chef Suzanne Goin, runs the renowned restaurants Lucques and Tavern, where President Obama dined when he was in Los Angeles last spring.

Even though he’s doing just fine in sunny SoCal, Lentz says he loves Maryland and misses it.  

“I miss the people…I am a diehard Ravens fan and the Orioles are still my favorite baseball team! Maryland is a great place, blue collar with a big sense of pride… I love to go back and go to sporting events, fish with my cousins and hit the watering holes downtown. I am truly glad I grew up there, it taught me a lot.”

He might miss it, but we’re glad he’s giving Angelenos a taste of what we’re all about. 

Is It Just Me, or Is It Getting Expensive in Here?


When I moved to Baltimore in 2008, the city’s legendary cheap rent was a major draw. Live in an artistically thriving community within a mid-size city for 200 bucks a month (in an apartment with four of my friends)? Sign me up.

Three years later, faced with the prospect of moving out of my foreclosed Waverly apartment with my wife and infant child, Baltimore no longer seems quite so cheap. There are no affordable options in Mt. Vernon, Charles Village or Hampden. Even Waverly is giving us guff; the only reasonable apartments are deeper into the neighborhood, further away from Hopkins’ Homewood campus.

The problem is compounded when you’re a full-fledged family. When we were preparing for our child, my wife and I were considering many new expenses, but we never thought that having a kid would drive up our rent. Effectively it has. Communal living is less tenable with a baby, and we’ve found many landlords will refuse to even show us their one-bedroom apartments because we’re three people.

What gives? Is the JHU expansion putting pressure on the housing market? Are landlords with dollar signs in their eyes jumping the gun on the projected revitalization of their neighborhoods, and tenants, a notoriously disempowered population, are just taking it? Sure, there are still good deals to be found if you’re willing to live with six or seven other people in a dangerous part of town. But is that for everyone?

Gilman 9th Grader Makes a Splash For Cancer Research


Fourteen-year-old Jake Smith recently won his battle with pancreatic cancer, but he isn’t giving up there.  The Gilman ninth grader, who was treated at Johns Hopkins, has decided to genetically map his tumor and, in doing so, benefit similarly situated cancer patients and the genetic mapping work at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.  

But the price tag isn’t as nice as the cause: The cost for the research alone is $90,000. To foot the bill for the research, Smith is organizing a team for Swim Across America, a local open water swim held off Gibson Island on September 18 that benefits cancer research at Johns Hopkins. Swimmers are still needed for Jake’s team, though Jake has already raised $30,000 toward that $90,000 goal.  

Help Jake reach his goal by donating on the event page for Swim Across America.