- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine isn’t exactly muttering, “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks,” like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”

But he is not ruling out the possibility either.

Asked during his monthly radio show on the Virginia News Network whether he has had paranormal experiences like previous Executive Mansion occupants, Mr. Kaine flatly answered: “Yes.”

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, said Thursday that at the same “inconvenient time” every week, the telephone rings in his family’s private quarters — and when he picks up the phone, nobody is there.

He said he is researching whether “something odd happened” on the same day and hour sometime in the mansion’s history.

Unlike some previous residents and staff, Mr. Kaine said that his family has not seen the friendly ghost of a young woman who is said to haunt the mansion.

However, he said first lady Anne Holton witnessed other strange occurrences in the mansion as the daughter of Gov. Linwood Holton, a Republican, in the early 1970s — a portrait mysteriously taken from the wall and deposited in another room, for example.

There also was a storm-related power outage that left all of Richmond in the dark except a lone light that mysteriously remained on in the mansion.

• Oh, brother

Maryland Gov.-elect Martin O’Malley’s brother will be Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith’s chief of staff.

Mr. Smith announced last week that Peter O’Malley will replace Ann Beegle effective Jan. 2.

Peter O’Malley also will take on a role overseeing government efficiency, Mr. Smith’s statement said. Peter O’Malley served as a special assistant in Martin O’Malley’s Baltimore mayoral administration.

“He has a keen knowledge of local government, and his expertise will be invaluable as we continue our positive momentum in the second term,” Mr. Smith said.

Last month, Mr. Smith endorsed Martin O’Malley in the battleground county, where the Baltimore Democrat was able to cut into Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s support.

• Happy birthday

Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty shared his birthday with D.C. residents to thank them for his election victory.

Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, held his 36th birthday party Wednesday night at St. Coletta of Greater Washington, at 1901 Independence Ave. SE.

• Stay strong

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who lost his re-election bid as Republicans lost seats in the legislature, is urging state Republican lawmakers to hold their ground against Democrats.

Mr. Ehrlich told members of the Republican caucus in the House of Delegates last week that they must fight to keep the party alive in Maryland until new statewide leaders come forward.

“No one else is there,” he told the Baltimore Sun after a closed-door meeting. “The backup is not coming.”

Republican state senators met to pick new leadership.

On Tuesday, they still had not decided between Sen. Andrew P. Harris, of Baltimore County, and Sen. David R. Brinkley.

Mr. Harris is known for being an outspoken advocate for Republican causes. Mr. Brinkley represents Carroll and Frederick counties and is viewed as more low-key.

House Republicans also are choosing new leaders.

Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell of Southern Maryland is being challenged by Delegate A. Wade Kach of Baltimore County, who has promised a more cooperative caucus in hopes of having influence in the shaping of policy.

Democrats in the new legislature will outnumber Republicans 104-37 in the House and 33-14 in the Senate.

• Ethics chief

When Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon becomes mayor next month, she will be in the awkward position of overseeing the ethics board that has been reviewing her conduct on the council.

The review was announced in February to examine whether Mrs. Dixon acted properly during a City Council committee hearing and at three Board of Estimates meetings on issues involving a company that had employed her sister.

As mayor, Mrs. Dixon will be able to appoint members of the ethics board.

Dixon aide Ruffin Brown says Mrs. Dixon has given no indication she will change the board and wants the review to proceed.

• Slowing down

The growth rate here in one of the nation’s fastest-developing regions is just too fast for some people.

Officials in three suburban counties are taking strong measures to restrict development and sprawl.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors in Virginia voted last week to put a one-year freeze on new housing to protest the area’s congested roads.

Loudoun County supervisors approved a move to restrict new housing in the rural western Virginia area.

The Montgomery County Council is considering halting big new developments while they take a look at their land-use policies, which some have called too pro-business.

All of this is making developers nervous.

A few years ago, this area was boasting of its economic growth, but now lawmakers are responding to public anti-growth sentiment by leaning toward preservation of open space instead.

• The A team

Baltimore’s incoming mayor last week named key appointments in her administration, tapping the city’s director of planning to be her chief of staff and a state delegate to be deputy mayor.

Sheila Dixon, 52, is the Baltimore City Council president who will become mayor once the current mayor — Gov.-elect Martin O’Malley, a Democrat — takes office in Annapolis next month.

Mrs. Dixon, a Democrat, chose Otis Rolley III to be her chief of staff. Mr. Rolley most recently served as the director of planning for the city.

Mrs. Dixon said that Mr. Rolley will provide direction for the office of the mayor and CitiStat, a computerized system established by Mr. O’Malley to make city agencies more accountable.

“The foundation that was laid by the O’Malley administration is a strong one,” Mr. Rolley said. “It’s a solid one, and now we have a house to build.”

Mrs. Dixon also picked Delegate Salima Siler Marriott to be her deputy mayor for community and human development.

Mrs. Marriott, a Baltimore Democrat, is ending her 16-year career as a state lawmaker in January. She will focus on public health, family development and social services.

Mrs. Dixon selected Andrew Frank to be deputy mayor for neighborhood and economic development. Mr. Frank is currently executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp. Mrs. Dixon said Mr. Frank will coordinate city agencies that are responsible for retaining and attracting businesses.

Mr. Frank said he wants to work on making the city a more pleasant place to live, with better parks and cleaner streets, to boost economic development.

“It is really about making our city more livable, so that we retain the work force that is here and attract businesses that really want to be in a city where they can retain and attract workers,” Mr. Frank said.

Mrs. Dixon, who has served on the City Council for 19 years, will be Baltimore’s first female mayor. She will serve out the rest of Mr. O’Malley’s term, which ends next December. She has expressed plans to run for a full term.

• Boarder wars

An avowed socialist from West Baltimore, known for his frequent political campaigns, has been victimized for the second time in 18 months by someone living at his boarding house.

A. Robert Kaufman said he was struck in the head with a brick and robbed Wednesday night by a man who had been renting a room from him. It happened as Mr. Kaufman was returning home from dialysis treatment. His kidney failed as a result of injuries in a similar attack last year by another boarder, who is now serving a 12-year sentence.

Mr. Kaufman thinks the latest assailant is named Stephen. He is still at large. Mr. Kaufman needed 14 stitches above his right eye.

Mr. Kaufman has run for office about a dozen times, most recently for the U.S. Senate. He has never won an election.

• Independent I

The end of party independence could be near for the District’s political independents.

Former Republican mayoral candidate Dennis Moore and his wife, Miriam Moore, are spearheading a bid to create an official Independent political party in the District — a core caucus that would mean residents who dub themselves “independent” or “no party” when making their political picks could instead use a capital I.

“We got a consensus from a lot of people saying they are very discontented and downright disgusted with the state of affairs and governance in the District of Columbia,” said Mr. Moore, whose wife also ran as an independent candidate for the Ward 5 seat on the D.C. Council this year. “People are basically saying they are fed up.”

The Moores have formed a political action committee and have a Web site, www.DCIndependents.org, to promote their cause. Their application for certification is scheduled to come before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics tomorrow.

If approved, the District of Columbia Independent Party would be awarded minor-party status, joining the District’s 36 other board-approved election-day lightweights such as the Independent Husband Liberation party, the Cocktail Party and the Love Party.

A minor party’s name does not appear on voter registration forms, said Bill O’Field, a spokesman for the elections board.

A party has to run a candidate in a general election and receive at least 7,500 votes in order to achieve major party status.

That would place Independents officially on par with players such as the Democratic and Republican parties and the D.C. Statehood Green party.

Registration statistics show that 16.8 percent of D.C. voters were registered as “no party,” or lower-case “independents,” before the November general elections. Another 0.4 percent belonged to other parties.

Mr. Moore said his prospective party has long-term goals but would not speculate on when it might back a political candidate.

“Our goal is to create full citizen control of District government,” he said. “It’s really just that simple.”

• Gary Emerling contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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