Longtime Baltimore Sun political reporter and columnist Laura Vozzella (left), who is leaving the paper to take a job at The Washington Post, had her last column today—and it's a doozy.
In her farewell, Vozzella "thanks" many of the people she has covered over the years, poking fun at their missteps. She thanks former mayor Sheila Dixon "for your passion for furs, Jimmy Choos and a married man doing business with the city," and current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for "her Cleopatra wig phase," among other things. Governor Martin O'Malley, former Governor Robert Ehrlich, and dozens of other local officials and personalities also get some backhand appreciation.
At least one recipient of Vozzella's "gratitude" has already fired back—and Baltimore magazine is peripherally involved! How exciting!
In the column, Vozzella thanks State Del. Jill Carter "for lying about your age in Baltimore magazine’s 'Top Singles' issue, cussing me out and not paying your water bill for two years."
Carter responded, tweeting "Bye-bye troll! @LVozzella http://bsun.md/ra1U1V U 1st insinuated I was elected 'looks' Ur selective jabs got pettier& meaner. #goodriddance". I think a word is missing there, but you get the point.
But Carter wasn't done, tweeting again a few minutes later: "@LVozzella #goodriddance PS This isn't curse out: 'U've never written a word about my work,leg,or pol challenges&u now call re:effn age bs'"
On her last day, Vozzella is entitled to air whatever beefs/grievances she has with anyone—if not now, when? And in her new job, she's going to be based in Richmond, covering Virginia, so it's unlikely any of her flame-throwing will come back to haunt her there.
But I do want to pick a nit with the one "thanks" on Vozzella's list in which I have some direct insight. She thanks "Former Schaefer aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs, for arranging a funeral procession that made stops all over Baltimore but blew past the sidewalk tribute assembled by his best friend, Gene Raynor."
I happened to be covering the Schaefer procession's Little Italy stop along with Vozzella (my short piece about the event is here). There were two groups of people gathered on opposite sides of Eastern Avenue in Little Italy that day: A larger group stood in front of Gia's (formerly Izzy's - a Schaefer favorite), which had been designated in advance as the location of the Little Italy stop. A smaller group gathered across the street, a half-block away, in front of Dalesio's, another Schaefer haunt.
Before the procession arrived, I was with the larger group, and I noticed Vozzella with the smaller group, interviewing lots of people. When the procession did come, it stopped at Gia's as planned, where, as I reported, "longtime Schaefer aide Lainy Lebow-Sachs steps out of a limo and greets the assembled, including former Baltimore Mayor Tommy D'Alesandro III and Father Sal Furnari of St. Leo The Great Church, where Schaefer often attended annual spaghetti dinner fundraisers."
It was a lovely, very emotional moment between Lebow-Sachs and the many well-wishers who she clearly knew well and who had come to offer their condolences. I was very surprised to read the Sun's coverage of the Little Italy stop the next day (halfway down the page, under the "Little Italy" subhead), in which Vozzella largely ignored the very warm reception the procession received and focused on the perceived slight of the people outside Dalesio's:
The crowd at Dalesio's said the Gia group was a "fraud" because Schaefer didn't have a long history with that restaurant but rather with its predecessor.
"It was nice of them to wave as they drove by what was unquestionably his favorite restaurant," said Gene Raynor, a former city elections board director and longtime friend of Schaefer who owns the Dalesio's building.
To be honest, I thought it was really unfortunate that Vozzella had taken a really wonderful event that paid tribute to a true Baltimore hero and chose to focus on a petty neighborhood dispute. As a journalist, I couldn't help but wonder if she had done so because she had spent so much time with the "snubbed" group (maybe because she expected the procession to stop there?) and had so many interviews there that she choose to use those rather than going back and interviewing folks in the other group. I don't know. I do know that there was no sense of tension or conflict in the crowd I was with, only sad but warm reflections on the onetime mayor and governor. That was what the day was about and it's a shame that Vozzella made it about something else.
I never had the chance to express my feelings about the incident (that felt good!) I'm doing so now because I think that, on her way out of town, Vozzella is unnecessarily slamming Lebow-Sachs again—and with dubious facts. For one thing, according to her own reporting, the sidewalk tribute was not assembled by Gene Raynor (who owns Dalesio's building), but by Dalesio's owner Paul Oliver. And Lebow-Sachs stopped at Gia's because it was the plan, not to snub anyone.
Laura Vozzella has done great work at the Sun (she won Best Columnist in our 2008 Best of Baltimore issue!) but if she chooses to point out everyone else's foibles, it's feels only fair to point out hers as well. We wish her all the best!
[photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun]