Friday, October 30, 2009

No Taxation without Pink Representation

The Boston Tea Party has nothing on Baltimore.

We know how to protest unwanted taxes... But the subject this time wasn't taxes on tea or stamps or whisky...

This time the tax was on a pink flamingo.

Sculpted from bedsheets and wire, the flamingo has hung outside of Cafe Hon in the Baltimore Neighborhood of Hampden for the past seven years...and has never had to pay a tax for the privilege...

Until this year.

Evidently the city of Baltimore can assess a minor privilege fee on business owners who have items outside their businesses that encroach onto the sidewalks, such as tables and benches. But the tax can also include anything hanging over the sidewalk...such as awnings, light fixtures, signage and even... a pink flamingo.

So, when the owner of Cafe Hon, Denise Whiting, received a taxation bill for the pink flamingo for $800 (evidently the fee is calculated based on square footage of the item), she chose to take down the pink perched bird rather than pay the fee.

Photo via The Baltimore Sun
And the loss of this pink paragon of the Hampden community outraged the city! And her fight had just begun...she printed out flyers...

Photo via The Baltimore Sun
Enlisted the support of her community, and attracted the attention of the 98 Rock radio station.

These actions fueled the spark of protest which resulted in a group of irate orniphiles flying to the aid of their fellow feathered friend.

The outraged mob landed on the lawn in front of City Hall and refused to move until the issue was addressed.

Photo via The Baltimore Sun
Many well-known Baltimore celebrities showed up, including the reigning 2009 Baltimore's Best Hon, Charlene Osborne, seen here with Baltimore's mayor Sheila Dixon.

Photo via The Baltimore Sun
The outcome resulted in the annual tax being sliced in half to $400 by changing the calculation of the square footage of the flamingo from a rectangle to a triangle...AND, an extra coup, the mayor agreed to place a billboard along I-83 which runs into Baltimore attracting tourists to the neighborhood of Hampden.

Photo via The Baltimore Sun
And Hampden is worth the visit. It's home to Cafe Hon, sporting our newly-taxed, pink bird, and it's the only place in town where we've eaten with Elvis.

It's most famous for the Hon Fest which is held every June, a uniquely "Bawlmer" festival celebrating the working women of Baltimore and the unique familiarity with which they refer to everyone as "Hon"... It's hard for me to describe in short order so I send all those interested in knowing more to this link here.

The Festival originally started as just a contest behind Cafe Hon's restaurant to select Baltimore's Best Hon has now grown into a national phenomenon.

Photo via The Baltimore Sun
So should you come to Baltimore, Hampden is a "must see". It's an eclectic, artistic community with many unique stores, vintage shoppes, and interesting places to eat.

And it's the only place where we've seen a pink-velvet statue of Jesus...

So...Maybe Hampden has more going for it than pink feathered friends, beehive hairdos and Honfest...

Maybe they just have an incredibly charming and effective way of getting their point across without the usual vitriol and negative speak...

Photo via The Baltimore Sun
It seems that, in Baltimore, a little pink persuasion goes a long way.

And I'm proud to be a part of that.


Cathy K said...

What a great post!!! I don't know which I love more, the pink flamingos or the beehive hairdos!!! Or the positive spirit with which this effort was undertaken.... :-) You definitely need to let Beverly at How Sweet the Sound ( know about this for Pink Saturday..... Hugs, Cathy

Carol said...

Susan, my friend, you SHINE again. Though I must admit, this kind of protest and political movement is right up my alley!! I would have been the first to call the radio station and reporters.

Its amazing how the cities shortage of $$ has brought out the magnifying glasses to search for new ways to collect $$ from those that can least expect it.

In my own area, the sheriff has proposed a gas tax on speeding tickets that are issued. Each ticket will carry an addition $12 fee to pay for gas in the police cars.

However, where did all those flamigos fly in from? I heard that the factory that makes them went bankrupt and quick production.

Loved your Pink Post.

Vicki W said...


Judy S. said...

Fun! Gosh we were in Baltimore for a wedding in 2003 and missed all the good spots, I think. Time for another trip, I guess.

Pigtown-Design said...

YAY! I had just taken some friends from DC to Cafe Hon the week before they took the bird down and they've been following the saga.

Apparently a radio station bought 1000 flamingos and put them on the city hall lawn. It was a great visual.

Do you know that in the shop next to Cafe Hon, there's always a PeeWee Herman in the window? YOu have to hunt to find him sometimes.

FredaB said...

We came to Baltimore and only spent time at the Inner harbour. I think someday we must return. There were more flamingos then I have seen in all of Florida. Come to think of it I haven't seen a pink flamingo since we arrived 10 winters ago. Maybe they all flew north.

You would make a great reporter/photographer if you decided to re-start your working career after Jack goes to college.



Marnie said...

You gotta love the city on the Harbour! The sea of pink made me think about the sea of green my husband and I were swallowed up in at our last Baltimore St. Patty's Day parade. You do live in one of the greatest cities!

Chris said...

Thanks for the big smile to start my day.

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