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Best of Times

Posted 9/23/2009

Those of us who work for Mayor Sheila Dixon appreciate City Paper's acknowledgment of the Mayor as Baltimore's Best Politician (Best of Baltimore, Sept. 16). Short on space, City Paper could list just a few accomplishments; there are many more-for example, the smoking ban, inclusionary housing, free downtown shuttle, one plus one trash and recycling pick up, record road resurfacing, and home visits for pregnant woman, to name a few.

But, in addition to these accomplishments, we want your readers to know the Sheila Dixon we know. She is, as you wrote, tough, smart, and fearless. But she is also compassionate, funny, fair-minded, and an inspiring leader, working 16 hour days, seven days a week. She has high expectations for her staff and her own actions make us want to exceed them. Above all, Mayor Dixon wants to be mayor, staying focused on the opportunities and challenges about which your readers care most.

Andrew B. Frank
First deputy mayor for Neighborhood and Economic Development
Baltimore

You know, last year I was able to keep my hands off the keyboard when I saw the fawning over Sheila Dixon in City Paper's Best of Baltimore issue, but this year I just can't take it.

I'm beginning to wonder if the reporter who gave the Best Politician, Getting the Job Done award and only mentioned her "problems" has been the recipient of several of those Best Buy gift cards.

If Sheila is getting the job done, then why, oh why, is it necessary to call her to task in the same issue over the needless arrests on election night, or that there are young children being shot on a regular basis in the city? If Sheila was really getting the job done, then the police force would be arresting those who matter, not the innocent, and I wouldn't be reading about gangs in the Inner Harbor, once-safe areas of the city now being unsafe, and cops who don't even fill out their incident reports correctly until Commissioner Bealefeld finds out about it because the story makes it into the papers. If this is Sheila getting the job done, then I'd really hate to see her not getting the job done. The Readers' Poll was a lot more on target when it deemed her Best Politician in Need of a Slap Upside the Head, but she really needs to be removed from office as of a long time ago-and to go to trial.

Yeah, yeah, the murder rate is down. The city is still unsafe, period.

Otherwise, swell issue. I can take disagreeing with some of the other category winners and just enjoy the writers' rationale, but Sheila's a disgrace.

Patricia Haley
Baltimore

An Die Musik, which you named Best Jazz Club in the Best of Baltimore issue, deserves loads of recognition as a venue for both jazz and classical music. But I have to disagree with the writer's assertion that it's "expensive as hell." It's a concert hall, not a club selling food and drinks. Ticket prices range from $10-20, often for nationally-known artists, who you're close to no matter where you sit.

Bob Jacobson
Pikesville

I am the owner of Baltimore's ONLY fetish/BDSM boutique, Chained Desires. I am writing in regard to last week's Best of Baltimore issue.

First and foremost, I would like to congratulate Sugar on being named Baltimore's Best Sex Store. Jacq has a very nice store and has worked extremely hard to make her customers' experiences there very shame-free and sex positive.

The reason for this letter is that Chained Desires was mentioned in the write-up for Sugar. I came away from reading that write-up very hurt and disappointed. We do have merchandise that caters to an adult clientele, but we consider ourselves a fetish boutique with a large and diverse customer base. Unlike single-focus stores, we must continue to meet the challenge of giving the same professional attention to all of our customers, no matter what their "lifestyle" is.

I started this store seven years ago based on the premise that people needed a safe, clean, and friendly environment where they could come, ask questions, learn about the products and how to safely use them, and shop for their lifestyle necessities. We believe we have achieved our goal of making everyone feel welcome and "shame-free" when in our establishment.

While there is some overlap in the merchandise that we offer compared to the merchandise offered at Sugar, that only represents a small facet of what Chained Desires is about. In fact, Chained Desires manufactures over 80 percent of the BDSM toys we sell. We specialize in quality, custom-made leather crafts from collars to floggers, harnesses to strap-ons. My staff is very professional, with years of experience and knowledge of the merchandise and with customer service.

City Paper has been attempting for several years to compare apples to oranges by categorizing, pigeon-holing, and ultimately comparing us to "sex" stores. The Best of Baltimore issue is anticipated by readers and advertisers alike. It is the issue that stays with the readership the longest, proudly displayed on coffee tables and in homes for weeks after its publication. It is also available to Baltimore newcomers and visitors on the internet. Given these facts, how one's business is represented in your pages can have a tangible effect on its reputation. Having been in business and serving this community for the past seven years, my good reputation is the foundation of my business.

I hope I have clarified and enlightened City Paper and its readership on the differences between Chained Desires and a sex shop.

Karen R. Fricker
Owner, Chained Desires
Mechanicsville

311 Works Best When You Work It

311 complaints were ignored in tearing down decrepit housing ("Path of Destruction," Mobtown Beat, Sept. 9) and in cleaning dirty alleys ("10 Dirtiest Alleys," What's the 311?, Mobtown Beat, Sept. 9). Not only do these unremedied problems hit the city in the budget and in quality of life, but areas neglected by city services become havens for crime. Note that most of the "dirty alleys" are in the Eastern police district, which had the most homicides last year. Both the mayor and the City Council president have emphasized the importance of giving residents the city services they need and pay for.

When making a 311 work request, record the reference number and the date the work is to be completed. If the work is not done, check out why. If more information is needed before action is taken, supply the 311 operator with the information and file another request. If the request was closed without a good reason or for a wrong reason, try contacting your City Council representative. Your council district is on your voter card. You also can find your council member, and his or her phone number, either online at baltimorecitycouncil.com or by calling 311. Members of the Baltimore City government are your employees-you hire and pay them, so hold them accountable.

If this doesn't work, reread the first sentence. It is essential to maintain good records.

Connie Lamka
Baltimore

More "Male/Female"

I hate to lengthen the exchange of irritable letters regarding the "Male/Female" sculpture, but I can't let Linda C. Franklin's letter ("Consider the Source," The Mail, Sept. 9) go unanswered. Since Franklin's letter was as much denunciation of Rosalind Nester Ellis as defense of the plop art in question, mine is a two-part letter, about Ellis and then about "Male/Female."

I know Rosalind personally, though we haven't spoken about this matter. She's no anti-art right-winger. She's public-spirited, and she's retired, so, yes, she keeps up with current affairs and writes many letters to editors. In our consumerist culture, we all know we're supposed to spend our golden years gambling on cruise ships, but Rosalind doesn't buy it. She believes that public affairs in a democracy are each person's rightful business, not to be left to specialists. She's a crank in the tradition of Tom Paine; we need more like her.

Now, in one letter cited by Franklin, Ellis does betray a certain nativism concerning the immigration issue, but it's clear that by our "English" heritage, Ellis doesn't mean anything racial. She cherishes the English liberal tradition, the cultural memory of the English-speaking peoples' long, painful struggle to create a viable, civil, self-governing society, and its particular flowering in America. Some important philosophers have believed there was something special about that heritage: Read, for example, Hannah Arendt's On Revolution, in which she examines the writings of early American and British political thinkers, trying to discern why the American Revolution didn't degenerate into a Great Terror such as followed 1789 in France. I believe that Ros is wrong to fear any future loss of English-language dominance as threatening our civil society, but I also believe that her concern is fundamentally liberal. In fact, her views are quite progressive, even radically so, on many issues.

Rosalind produces a regular newsletter on neighborhood cultural events; she also won the 2004 Balticon poetry contest. She may be a curmudgeon, but she's a cultured, eloquent, compassionate curmudgeon.

Now, about "Male/Female": I'm no conservative; for me, bliss is spending all day at a contemporary art museum. But I find "M/F" unimaginative, didactic, corny. The sculptor took the concept of androgyny-brim-full of striking visual and psychological potential%u2013and produced an object with all the aesthetic power of a Wal-Mart smiley-face.

Mark Williams
Baltimore

I've noticed that supporters of Jonathan Borofsky's insipid behemoth at Penn Station typically respond to its critics with varying degrees of pompous arrogance. Linda C. Franklin's contempt is over the top, accusing Rosalind Nester Ellis of racism and cultural intolerance because she doesn't like it, as if race or culture had any relevance to it. The stupid thing doesn't even know if it's male or female.

Franklin's harsh accusations betray her own intolerance of aesthetic diversity, as well as freedom of speech. Agree or disagree with Ellis, her letters show her to be a very thoughtful, articulate, and socially concerned citizen, a rarity in our twittery Facebook culture, where so many people simply don't give a damn about their communities.

Personally, I cringed at Gary Kachadourian's claim of being a Borofsky monster fan. His talent is considerable, however, he admits to having been a bureaucrat for too long. Tedium does have its insidious way of dulling the senses and minimizing expectations; I suspect this is one reason why public art, governed by committees of bureaucrats, has become the nuisance it is today.

Ferebe Streett
Baltimore

Correction: The number provided for the Donald Bentley Food Pantry, winner of Best Food Pantry in last week's Best of Baltimore issue, is a private number only tangentially connected to the charity. City Paper regrets the error.

Editor's note: It's time once again for us to solicit submissions for our annual Fiction and Poetry Contest. The deadline is Nov. 6. and there are cash prizes on the line. Please visit citypaper.com/go/fictionandpoetrycontestrules.

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