A More Meaningful Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day and brunch go together like peanut butter and jelly. Why brunch? Maybe the timing: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. suits all ages, from fussy newborns to older people in the family. Mother’s Day brunch is so popular in the U.S. that 58 percent of those polled in 2012 said they would celebrate Mom with a restaurant brunch.
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Room With A View

Photo Provided Even as a seasoned thrill-seeker, Jared Weiner, 18, says no amusement park ride compares to the exhilaration of the Rappel for Kidney Health.

Photo Provided
Even as a seasoned thrill-seeker, Jared Weiner, 18, says no amusement park ride compares to the exhilaration of the Rappel for Kidney Health.

At 9 months old, Jared Weiner was diagnosed with autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease, a rare genetic deformation that enlarges the kidneys and can negatively impact the liver and spleen. At 10, he made it through a lifesaving kidney transplant. He’s endured pneumonia and kidney stones. He’s had biopsies, routine blood draws and ultrasounds. Every morning and every night he’s downing 10 to 12 pills aimed at keeping him alive.

When you catalog everything that Weiner, 18, has endured, stepping off the edge of a 28-story building doesn’t seem nearly as daunting; you can understand why he’s so fearless.

On Saturday, June 8, Weiner will participate in the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland’s fourth annual Rappel for Kidney Health. Last year, Weiner, a graduate of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, was the only rappel participant to be an actual kidney transplant patient. Gearing up for his second descent, he’s even more excited.

“I would think every normal, sane person would be like, ‘Are you kidding me? Who do you think you are?” Weiner said. “But I’ve been through so much … doing something crazy like this, and raising lots of money to give back to a cause and an organization that’s really close to me, is great.”

After practicing on a 10-foot training wall, the rappel participants — each of whom is required to raise at least $1,000 to benefit the National Kidney Foundation — will assemble on the roof of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel. Then, fully harnessed with their backs to the open air, they will step off the ledge one by one and begin their decline.

As participants make their descent, they can stop, turn away from the building and admire the view of downtown Baltimore from hundreds of feet above ground. For Weiner, who has battled long odds for survival, it’s a spectacle he takes in with an immense amount of appreciation.

“When he was diagnosed, it was not a good percentage. It was not something you wanted to look at and read online. He’s like a living miracle,” said Rosie Weiner, Jared’s mother and kidney transplant donor. “Look at him now, there’s no stopping him. Any time [doctors] say one thing, he’ll just blow whatever the statistics are away.”

In addition to raising money to support the NKF, Weiner, who is headed to Towson University this fall, will donate his time and perspective at Camp All-Stars, a Johns Hopkins Hospital program that provides an overnight camp for children, teens and young adults with kidney disease. In years past, Weiner has been there as a camper. This year, he’s looking forward to returning in a leadership role as a counselor, eagerly waiting to share experiences and lessons learned.

There, he’ll preach the importance of remaining disciplined with one’s medication and strictly following doctors’ instructions and guidelines. Those two adherences, he said, have played a huge role in getting him to where he is today.

“It’s great to go give back to the younger kids as well as people my age or older,” Weiner said. “I want to talk about all the things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and where we need to be.”

Joining Weiner in the rappel this year will be his pediatric nurse at Hopkins, Barbara Case (she rappelled with him a year ago) as well as his 14-year-old brother, Matthew.

Weiner, never afraid of heights, has been on his fair share of roller coasters at various amusement parks. The rappel, though, he said, stands alone.

“It’s just one of those things where, in the moment, you can enjoy the view while you’re up there,” Weiner said. “There’s really nothing like it.” To make a donation in support of Jared Weiner, visit jewishtimes.com.

Young & Hungry

Ari Brownstein, 28, owner of  Fazzini’s Italian Kitchen, mans the front counter. Brownstein was only 25 when he bought the  Cockeysville restaurant.

Ari Brownstein, 28, owner of Fazzini’s Italian Kitchen, mans the front counter. Brownstein was only 25 when he bought the Cockeysville restaurant.

Fazzini’s Italian Kitchen in Cockeysville opens at 11:30 a.m.

Ari Brownstein is there at 9.

Entering through the back door, he hauls in a recently dropped-off produce order. The phone rings. It’s an employee in need of a shift change.

“Don’t worry about it,” Brownstein says. “I can work for you Wednesday night.”

In walks a delivery man carrying the restaurant’s freshly cleaned front-door rugs. Brownstein watches int-ently as he lays them out in the doorway. He looks up, and there’s someone from the laundry service. He quickly signs for the day’s linens. At this point, one of Brownstein’s counter employees has arrived. He brings over a bin of lettuce from the salad station.

“Should I use this?” he asks.

After a prompt glimpse at the lettuce, Brownstein shakes his head, “No, you can throw it away. Thank you.”

It’s now 9:08. Brownstein takes a breath.

Only 28 years old, Brownstein was prepared for the grind of the restaurant business when he bought Fazzini’s in January 2010. He had worked in various roles at nearly 20 restaurants, including his father’s Towson Deli.

Brownstein, a Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate, was willing to endure the 13- and 14-hour days; he understood the importance of permanently appending his cell phone to his hip during scarce days off; and he abided by his girlfriend’s mandate that once he gets home from work, he must shower and change before parking himself on any furniture. All that was second nature.

It’s the elements of operating a restaurant that he didn’t know about that have provided the biggest challenges: weeding out employees in order to put together an optimal staff; creating an environment and an appeal aimed at building a customer base; and grasping that social-media marketing isn’t just posting the night’s specials on Facebook.

Brownstein isn’t alone.

In last few years, there have been a handful of entrepreneurs in Baltimore in their 20s who, amid a challenging economy, have dived headfirst into the sometimes murky waters of the restaurant business. It’s a daunting task, and they have a lot to learn. But youth — usually — is on their side.

ADD A Cup Of Chutzpah
Ask anyone in the business and they’ll tell you owning an eatery is the ultimate juggling act. Often, it can feel like you’re the entire circus rolled into one person. You’re a ringleader, an acrobat, a lion tamer. And, the last thing you want to do is lose control and end up looking like a clown.

Elan Kotz, co-owner of The Food Market in Hampden, says the restaurant is his baby.

Elan Kotz, co-owner of The Food Market in Hampden, says the restaurant is his baby. (David Stuck)

Recently, on a jam-packed Saturday night at The Food Market in Hampden, Elan Kotz was a plumber.

Kotz, the restaurant’s 27-year-old co-owner, was told by kitchen staff that the drain under an ice machine had completely backed up. A short time later, he was with other members of the staff, manning an industrial-sized plumbing snake in an attempt to unclog the drain.

“It’s inevitable. There are so many moving parts in a restaurant. No day is routine,” said Kotz, who opened The Food Market with co-owner and executive chef Chad Gauss in June 2012.  “I was told at a very young age, and I’ve always believed, stress only comes from not having a solution to a problem. If a problem comes up and you feel stress from it, solve it and get rid of the stress. Then you can put it behind you and move on to the next one.”

When he’s not doubling as a Roto-Rooter guy, Kotz — a northern Virginia native who graduated from Towson University — usually arrives at 10 a.m. on weekdays (seven hours before the restaurant opens) and entrenches himself in his office to begin work on payroll and invoices among other things. He’ll then examine the restaurant, carefully inspecting for cleanliness and making sure nothing is broken or chipped. Every detail counts. By evening, he’s stationed on the dining-room floor as a manager, relishing the opportunity to personally interact with his customers.

“It’s satisfying, but it’s grueling. Our business is both mental and physical,” Kotz said. “You work all day in the office and hit hurdles there. Then you hit the floor, and it’s physical — you’re on your feet the rest of the night.

“It’s time consuming. There are a lot of hours that go into it. I told myself that for my first few years, this is my life, this is my focus. It’s our baby, so I truly enjoy being here. When I’m not here, sometimes I wish I was.”

Dougie’s owner Tzvi Landau (right) works with employees on a recent dinner shift. Landau, who has a young child, says despite the vigors of the restaurant industry, he strives to achieve a work-life balance.

Dougie’s owner Tzvi Landau (right) works with employees on a recent dinner shift. Landau, who has a young child, says despite the vigors of the restaurant industry, he strives to achieve a work-life balance. (David Stuck)

One could say that Dougie’s BBQ in Pikesville is Tzvi Landau’s baby, too. Only the 21-year-old owner also has an actual 3-month-old baby girl at home. So, while he spends around 12 hours a day at the restaurant five days a week, there are boundaries that he adheres to in order to make sure he spends an ample amount of time with both his wife and child.

On his rare time off, Landau said his cell phone buzzes 10 to 12 times a day when different issues arise at the restaurant. Landau opened Dougie’s in January 2012 after spending more than a decade working in different roles in his late father’s Dougie’s franchise in Brooklyn, N.Y. The business boomed quickly. Recently, he and his wife instituted a mandatory date night once every two weeks.
“[My employees] know not to call me then,” he said. “It’s important for the marriage. I’m not married
to my business. I’m married to my wife.”

Landau’s family situation may be the rarity.

Keith Scott, president and CEO of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, said that in most cases, starting ventures such as a restaurant are ideal for younger entrepreneurs because they are more likely to be less risk averse — they may not have children, a mortgage or car payments that limit them financially. Brownstein, for example, lived off his savings for two months to invest in capital improvements at Fazzini’s.

“I really think that when one is starting a business and doesn’t have those expense restrictions, they have more flexibility and freedom because if it does succeed, great. If it fails, they can move on to the next thing,” Scott said. “I give a lot of credence and credit to people who are younger and who are saying, ‘I want to try my own thing, I want to develop my own business,’ and that they have the chutzpah to make that happen.”

Mix In Good Management
While Landau has managed to strike a balance between his work life and home life, he turns much of his attention to Dougie’s staff. Managing employees is often one of the most complicated elements of running a restaurant for any owner — much less one in his 20s.

Several of Landau’s kitchen staff are transplants from the New York Dougie’s who relocated to Baltimore with Landau. That group, most of whom are older than he, rarely causes any issues when it comes to respecting Landau’s authority.

Some of the younger employees, particularly the wait and counter staff, are another story.

Because of the similarity in age and Landau’s overall attitude as a friendly, accommodating owner, he said he’s learned when to be patient, but also when to put his foot down and threaten to take shifts away — as a last resort — if instructions aren’t followed.

“You just tell them, ‘This is what you have to do, and if you don’t like it, you can go home.’ They’ll always end up doing [what you ask],” Landau said. “The older staff listens better than the younger staff. They have more life experience. It’s not all about fun and games; they need a job that pays compared to a younger kid who lives at home with his mom.”

Scott believes the owner’s ability (or inability) to get his or her staff on board is crucial in the success (or failure) of a restaurant.

“If you’re the owner, you’ve got to show you’re the authority figure right away,” he said. “Otherwise [employees] are going to feel they can run over you, and these people can make or break that dining experience because they can do things that cause people to not want to eat there. If their negativity is going to be seen by the customers who visit the restaurant, that vibe can become cancerous throughout the store.”

Scott’s warning was a reality early in the game for Brownstein.

Taking over an existing business, he absorbed a handful of employees who were dead set in their routines. Some responded with hostility when Brownstein laid out revamped procedures in different areas of the restaurant, particularly ones that focused on heightened standards of cleanliness and service.

“I think that because I was young, some of my radical ideas or changes were thought of as arrogant, but they were just lessons that I’ve learned from all the other places I’ve worked,” Brownstein said. “You have to give orders that people sometimes don’t want to follow because they are not fun tasks, like taking everything off a shelf and wiping it down and doing that for all the shelves. It’s the owners who have no backbone … who are not going to do well.”

It’s clear Brownstein was never lacking on fortitude. For various reasons, Brownstein said he sifted through 40 employees in a little more than three years at Fazzini’s before solidifying the group of about 15 he now employs.

Brownstein admits that at times in the beginning he may have been too firm in an effort to establish his authority. Now, when instructing an employee, he is mindful to also include an explanation of why he needs something done. When a task is carried out incorrectly, he chooses his words carefully, making sure to sprinkle in praise before ultimately pointing out that more thorough work needs to be done. And, while it may sound cliché, he’s realized the true value of saying “please” and “thank you” on either end of a command.

“Ultimately, it’s just treating people with respect,” Brownstein said. “Once you do that, they sort of have no choice but to give it back to you.”

With a growing confidence in his staff, he added that it has become easier to take a night off here and there, and, at the same time, have the peace of mind that in his absence someone is there to steer the ship.

“Everybody is capable of doing the job right without me,” Brownstein said. “Are there little tiny things that may happen better when I’m here? Absolutely. But, is the overwhelming majority of things that need to be done taken care of when I’m not here? Yes. And that’s taken a long time to get to.”

Stir In Social Media
Once the internal operations are running smoothly, one has to look beyond the establishment’s four walls. For 20-somethings, that often means the Net — marketing through social media.

Kotz got some pretty strong verification that using social media the right way can have an enormously positive impact on business.

Last March, Kotz, who worked in online advertising before opening up the The Food Market, posted an image on the restaurant’s Facebook page offering 50 percent off customers’ bills the first Monday in March, as well as 50 percent off every Friday brunch that month if the post garnered more than 500 likes. In less than half a day the post surged past 700 likes.

Overseeing the restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, Kotz believes online users are more likely to respond to pictures than words. So, he’ll often post photos of new dishes, as well as news items pertaining to the restaurant. He’s also seen customers taking pictures in the restaurant, posting them to Instagram or checking in at the restaurant on Facebook.

“You want to keep top-of-mind awareness. People spend a lot of time on Facebook. … The average amount of time people spend on Facebook is incredible,” Kotz said. “It’s just trying to get people interacting. … It’s really awesome because we’ve been open 10 months, and we have 2,500 followers on Facebook. It’s free, and I think it’s one of the best forms of advertising.”

While Kotz said you don’t have to be young to embrace the concept of social media, he said it certainly doesn’t hurt. It also helped his ability to design a sleek website that is updated with new menu items every week.

“I think anyone who wants to learn how to do something can do it, but being that I spent so much time using the Internet and using computers in [grade] school, in college and in my first career, I think that made it easier for me to understand,” he said.

When Brownstein started Fazzini’s Facebook page, he assumed maintaining a social media presence meant simply posting weekly specials online. He soon learned he was quite wrong, and he took the necessary steps to improve his social media footprint.

“When I got into this, I didn’t know nearly how much marketing and advertising I would have to go through,” he said. “I thought that as long as I ran a good restaurant, had good food, good service, a clean atmosphere and a friendly staff that people would just come, but that’s not the case. We’ve had to be creative with advertising. That was the biggest surprise.”

Rather than try to undertake that process on his own, Brownstein contacted Main Street Hub, a national company that manages local businesses’ social media, to do it for him.

Landau said he posts on the Dougie’s Facebook page only a few times a month. Sometimes it’s to
inform readers of free delivery when it’s raining or snowing. He also will highlight new menu items. But he’s also seen, and acknowledged, the impact Facebook can have.

For the restaurant’s one-year anni-versary last January, he made one Facebook post publicizing an upcoming celebratory buffet. More than 700 people showed up that night.

Landau is a big proponent of online ordering, a service offered by few kosher restaurants in Pikesville. It helps reduce the likelihood of the classic, yet painstaking scenario of a customer calling in to place a carryout order and then, after making the call, shouting throughout the house to see what everyone wants to eat.

“We do get a lot of online orders,” Landau said. “If you can type it in yourself and look and click and play around with it on your own time, it makes life easier.”

Fazzini’s offers online ordering as well.

The Food Market, which has less of a carryout element than the other two, does not offer online ordering. It does, however, utilize OpenTable, an online service that allows customers to make a reservation from their computer or smartphone without having to talk to a hostess.

And all three owners say they are open to examining new technologies and platforms. Being 20-something, they’re a little more flexible and eager … and they are all hungry for more.

Landau, Brownstein and Kotz said they each want to continue to grow their business — and are ready to make the sacrifices necessary to do so; they embrace the grind.

“Before, I was a 20-year-old kid. Now I’m a restaurant owner,” Landau said. “It just changes your whole life. Life isn’t about jokes and games. It’s about a future, it’s about tomorrow. You don’t live in the moment anymore.”

HUBBUB

Some restaurant owners don’t know the first thing about presiding over their business’ online/social media footprint. Others simply don’t have the time to do it. Either way, Main Street Hub hails itself as the “do-it-for-you” company that can swoop in and take that responsibility off your hands.

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Main Street Hub manages the social media pages and monitors online review sites for roughly 2,000 businesses — a good portion of which are restaurants — nationwide.

“The phrase ‘do-it-for-you’ is really important,” said David Kreitzer, Main Street Hub’s senior director of marketing. “We found that specifically for a local business owner … social media is usually one of those things that does not fall into their core skillset. They don’t have the time or the resources. We will manage their online reputation in Yelp and Google and create posts on Facebook and Twitter, constantly engaging customers.”

Each Main Street Hub client is assigned a personal account manager who receives an automated alert when the business’ name is mentioned in an online review. The manager will then craft a personalized response to the online poster, working hand-in-hand with the business owner.

“We believe firmly that [online reviews] deserve a response,” Kreitzer said. “If someone walked up to you in your restaurant and gave you praise or criticism, you would say something back, you wouldn’t just walk away. Owners were burying their heads in the sand when it came to review sites.”
In terms of Facebook posts, Main Street Hub promotes the analogy that social media sites should be likened to a cocktail party in the sense that when you want to properly engage someone, you don’t spend all night talking about yourself.

“The way social media works the best is when people engage with content, friends see that engagement, and that’s how word of mouth is spread,” Kreitzer said. “If you write a post that no one likes or comments on, only [your own] friends see it.”

Kreitzer was cautious to generalize, but he did say that younger business owners are more likely to “get” the inherent value of social media. However, he said that it’s the savvy owners, the ones who have made it for a long time, who are able to adjust with the times.

“People are amazed at the difference between the way they were doing it and doing it right,” Kreitzer said. “The differences [in posts] can feel subtle — the way you word something, the frequency, the time of day — but they all contribute to keeping the conversation alive.”

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David Snyder is a JT staff reporter dsnyder@jewishtimes.com

Faux Pho Wins $25,000

With $25,000 in prizes for the first-place winner, the Manischewitz Cookoff has now become one of the biggest annual cooking contests. I was at the latest Manischewitz Cookoff and got to taste every recipe from the five finalists. The winning recipe, a takeoff on Thai “Pho” (pronounced “Fuh”) soup, was delicious. It was simple, creative … and kosher!

The innovative home cook is Josie Shapiro, 35, a mother of two from San Francisco.
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Tasty Shabbat

Pikesville resident Susan Cohen enjoys entertaining. She loves setting a pretty table, hanging out with family and friends and of course, eating.

On the other hand, when she’s the one doing the entertaining, she wants to prepare easy dishes that “I can place in the oven and call it a day,” she says.
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The Big Squeeze

For eight years, chef Chris Golder traveled the oceans, preparing meals on some of the world’s most luxurious yachts.

Now the Maryland native has dropped anchor at Tark’s Grill at Green Spring Station in Lutherville, where happy customers enjoy the restaurant’s signature steaks, braised ribs and chicken potpie.
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Day School Teacher Charged With Abuse

A physical education teacher at the Day School at Baltimore Hebrew has been suspended following charges of child abuse.

Foye C. Minton, 33, was arrested on Jan. 10 at around noon at the day school. He has been charged with child abuse following an investigation by the Baltimore County Police Department’s Crimes against Children Unit, according to Elise Armacost, director of media and communications for the Baltimore County Public Safety unit. The female victim, now 20, contacted police in the fall of 2012. She told investigators that the alleged abuse started when she was a minor at the Shoshana S. Cardin School and Minton was its dean of students and director of athletics. He previously worked at the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland.

Minton is claiming the relationship was consensual. A statement issued by Minton’s attorney, Adam P. Frank, said, “Any sexual involvement with the alleged victim … occurred when she was over the age of 18 and with her parents having full knowledge of the relationship throughout. … Mr. Minton would ask that you withhold any judgment until all the facts are presented at trial.”

David Prashker, current head of Cardin School, told the JT he was informed of the charges at the end of last week.

“We will cooperate fully,” he said. “This needs to go through the courts and the police and allow the justice system to do what it is in place to do. … I don’t want to make any other comments in the interim.”

“If I suspected anything inappropriate, he would not have remained an employee,” said Barbie Prince, who was head of school at the time of the allegations.

Baltimore Hebrew sent a letter to parents last week informing them of the situation and that the school is “not aware of any incidents or complaints in connection to this teacher while teaching at the Day School.”

The letter, signed by Head of School Gerri Chizeck and President Dr. Louis Shpritz, said the school is committed to “ensuring the safety and integrity of our community.”

In a phone interview, Chizeck told the JT that the school is cooperating with the investigation and that Baltimore Hebrew has “little information; we are not privy to that.”

In the letter, Chizeck and Shpritz requested all parents’ conversations about the matter be kept to a minimum and also asked that parents refer any and all inquiries to Chizeck.

A second letter, sent Jan. 15, stressed that “even during tumultuous times calm needs to be maintained. I hope you will understand that the school takes all of its responsibilities very seriously and will continue to communicate with you if there is additional information that can be shared.”

The abuse continued for about four years, according to reports. The victim told police that Minton repeatedly attempted to contact her after she ended the relationship. Maryland law prohibits adults in a position of trust, authority or guardianship — such as teachers, coaches and  pastors — from having a sexual relationship with a minor, regardless of whether the child consents.

On the Twitter account with Minton’s name and photo, there are many sexual references, including one written as recently as Jan. 4, at midnight: “I love to text girls at 11:12 to make their wish come true!!.” On Dec. 31 at 2:22 p.m. he tweeted, “Motto for 2013: ‘I’ve got passion in my pants and I ain’t afraid to show it.’”

The victim has yet to make a public statement. Nancy Aiken of CHANA: Counseling Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women, explained that once a victim in these kinds of cases makes a statement it is not over for them, “it is just more disruption and more pain.”

She cautioned the community to be patient and to let the case play its course through the proper authorities but encourages anyone with any concerns to call the school, the police or the CHANA office for support and guidance.

Minton is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $250,000 bond. Police believe there may be other victims. Anyone with additional information should call police at 410-307-2020 to contact a detective.

Stop The Free Fall

phil_jacobs_smallI can’t get Newtown, Conn., out of my thoughts. It’s only been a little more than two weeks since Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and started killing children.

The other day, I read another tragic story about the killing of a young girl. She wasn’t a soldier on the front lines in Afghanistan or in the war on terror, protecting our liberties. She wasn’t a police officer in a dangerous, gang-infested neighborhood. Aalyiah Boyer was killed standing in the front yard of her Elkton home watching New Year’s Eve fireworks. She was only 10.

I believe in a person’s right to bear arms and in the Second Amendment.

When a person takes a gun, walks outside and uses the excuse of July 4th or New Year’s Eve to discharge that weapon — pointed straight up in the air — how can they not know that the bullets won’t fall in the wrong place and hurt or kill someone?

When will enough be enough? When will the humanity lobby be more important than fearful elected officials looking over their collective shoulders at the gun lobby? Do you really need to own the type of weapon Navy Seals used to kill Osama Bin Laden? What are you going to do, riddle a deer’s body with military firepower? Maybe we should also be able to own a tank or a heavy artillery piece. How about surface-to-air missiles?

There aren’t going to be nightly vigils held in Elkton for Aaliyah. CNN isn’t sending Anderson Cooper there. Nor is there continuing network coverage every time a child is shot by an errant bullet in America. Citizens die by gunfire watching a Batman movie, listening to their congresswoman speak outside a suburban grocery store and responding to a fire. Since a killer took the lives of innocents in an elementary school classroom, who isn’t vulnerable?

Shouldn’t we be able to walk safely on our streets, go to the movies or to school without this? There’s something broken here, something immoral, something wrong.

If the United States truly is the greatest country in the world, then why are there mass shootings?

Why is it that the FBI recorded a record 2.78 million background checks for gun purchases in December? That’s a 49 percent increase from December 2011.  Some gun stores ran out of inventory.

Many times I’ve heard and read arguments from gun owners — after a mass shooting — about the protection of their rights and that gun control will take away those rights.

Shouldn’t Aalyiah Boyer have the right to walk outside to celebrate New Year’s Eve?

All sides in this gun mess are screaming so loudly at one another, nobody’s listening.

About three years ago, a friend took me shooting at an indoor range for the first time. Before I even touched the gun, he spent the good part of an hour educating me on gun safety. I respected that I had a gun in my hand when he taught how to pick it up from the table and how to set it back down.

FBI criminal background checks aren’t enough. Somewhere in the gun-purchasing process, a person needs to prove mental competency to qualify. Because now we’re a nation where the mass shooting of the century has become the mass shooting of the year or even of the month.

We need to remember the name Aalyiah. Like the roots of her name, “aliyah, we need to ascend and stop this unconscionable free fall.

Also Heard At The Council

At last week’s meeting, other speakers included Harford County Executive David R. Craig, new Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance and head of the Baltimore County Education Foundation Deborah Phelps.

Craig spoke about his community’s successes and then said he is considering a run for Maryland governor.

Dance, who started in his current role this past July, explained that he is working on a blueprint for progress, a 10-year plan for Baltimore County schools. He noted that this plan focuses on the following areas:

• The academic program
• College/vocational training
• School safety
• Communications/marketing
• Efficiency

Said Dance: “Three’s a lot of good going on.”