Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Reformed Drunk's Faith-Based Visit Gridlocks Downtown Baltimore

Old Faithful: Bush visits Jericho center in East Baltimore

Today I had to take half the day off thanks to President Bush's visit to Jericho - a faith-based job placement/counseling center for reformed addicts and ex-offenders run by Episcopal Community Services of Maryland in East Baltimore - which caused road closures and snarled traffic in downtown Baltimore. The only mentions of Bush on the TV news or print press in the last 24-hours mentioned his State of the Union address, so I didn't anticipate my normal commute route of Cathedral Street being closed down. Nobody did, apparently. It wasn't until I escaped from an hour-long traffic jam and headed back home to log on to my computer that I saw my first media mention of the visit, posted at 12:13 p.m. EST.

Funny, I bought the Sunday Sun and saw no mention. I watched the news last night and saw no mention of the visit and traveler's advisories. I did find a January 27 mention of Bush's planned visit on WBAL's online site, but there was no mention of street closings, delays or whatever (I guess advance notice would have been a "security risk" so we just had to suffer - some would say we've been suffering for the last 7 years!). But lo and behold, the Sun online had a real-time post just after Noon today for commuters lucky enough to be traveling with laptop PCs propped on their front seat:
Traffic is backed up around the city because of a visit by President Bush to a job assistance and counseling center for recently released prisoners in East Baltimore.

Interstate 395 is closed in both directions downtown, and police activity is reported on Broadway, Fayette Street, President Street, Lombard Street, Pratt Street, Light Street and Russell Street.

The area around the University of Baltimore has backups on Guilford Avenue, Mount Royal Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, St. Paul Street and Maryland Avenue

To be fair, any Presidential visit is bound to cause these kind of security measures, but I agree with the folks who angrily complained on the Baltimore Sun Forum about the total lack of advance warning in our local media. Maybe that's because our local media is beyond lame - sure, if you want to see the Polar Bear Plunge or anything to do with the Ravens, we got you covered. And if there's even a 1 percent change of snow flurries, you can expect 24/7 coverage on radio, TV and in the Sun. But something like commuting to work - bah, who needs that? We expect delays anyway with all our Operation Orange Cone renovations, so grin and bear it, right?

According to the Sun's LATE-breaking report Bush arrived by helicopter at Fort McHenry around 10:30 and his motorcade made its way to the Jericho facility on Mura Street around 11 a.m., where Dubya talked about how faith led him to kick the bottle and get on with leading us to the state we find ourselves in today. (There's a joke in there somewhere, but I think it's on us.) He left around 2 p.m. According to a later Sun report, "...many streets were barricaded and traffic halted as the presidential motorcade zipped through the city." That's a slight understatement.

Ah, the good old days...

Timing is everything, I guess, as I was stuck on the barricaded Cathedral Street at exactly 11:30. A few months ago Rudy Guiliani was a valid Presidential contender, today he's a has-been in Florida, handing out baseballs to the press so they'll be kind to him as he beats his retreat from the spotlight. Or, "Riding high in April, shot down in May" as Sinatra sang in "That's Life."

Anyway, here are some of the forum posts on the Baltimore Sun's www.topix.com site about today's lovely commute:

Jennifer Lehman of Baltimore:
"Because of President Bush my car got towed, I got a parking ticket and I was two hours late for work. This won't help his approval rating!!"

Tom of Towson (no relation, except as a kindred soul!):
"It would have been really helpful to have warned people in the city about this visit YESTERDAY so we could have avoided the traffic mess. It took me half an hour attempting to go from Guilford to Charles st. Thats about 5 blocks. I finally gave up. Nice job Sunpapers...not."

Elmn of Baltimore:
"Why can't the Chimperor just stay in DC? Only 357 days left! Woohoo!"

John Read of Owings Mills:
"As usual, security for the cowardly Bush causes huge problems for everyone so that Bush can get a photo-op."

"Why was MLK Blvd. on the west side of downtown closed for hours? I understand temporarily closing it but the length of time was stupid and unnecessary."


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