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The Dripby Fern Shen9:55 pmSep 7, 20110

Wisecracks and serious questions at Cosby appearance for Rolley

Above: Comedian Bill Cosby campaigning for candidate Otis Rolley among senior citizens in West Baltimore. (Cosby’s wearing a tee shirt with a photo of a boy and a rooster.)

Comedian Bill Cosby played the bawdy grandpa today during a campaign appearance for Baltimore mayoral candidate Otis Rolley III at a senior citizens’ apartment building.

“Some of you look younger than I am!” the 74-year-old Cosby cracked, peering around the room, as residents of St. James Terrace on Arlington St. snapped their cameras.

“You’re 58? Get out of here!” he said to William White, who came with a pencil drawing of the Cos. “You guys are going to be wearing out the women here.” He left the front of the room (I”m going to find me a woman!”) and sat down next to a woman and her granddaughter, pretending they were married and quipped “we already have a child … we hope that you will make better schools for our child!”

“The young man wants to know if you have any questions,” Cosby said, when it came time to get serious. “Now you-all are, by this time, looking at your neighborhoods and feeling a certain way about your children, your grandchildren and your own lives.” He got them talking about how they remember being able to sit in the park and, nowadays, can’t safely do it.

“Why don’t you ask him about that?” he said, handing things over to Rolley.

The candidate was facing a crowd of nearly 50 people, including some clustered in the hallway,  most of whom had never heard of him.

“Otis who?” said Robert Moore, 70. He and Janet Brown Simmons, 67, said they basically came to see Cosby and already had made up their minds who to vote for – the incumbent.

Brown Simmons’ effusive praise of Rawlings-Blake hit on all the themes in the mayor’s recent radio and television ads. “She’s from here so she’s experienced and she knows the city… She cares about our children… I’m not downing the other candidates like they’re downing her,” Brown Simmons said.

The crowd peppered Rolley with a number of questions – about attracting more people to move to the city, about drug addiction and his plan to deal with Baltimore’s many vacant houses.

One of the more urgent questioners was Larry Inman, who asked for Rolley’s thoughts on hiring additional police, saying, “It’s not safe walking. There’s been a lot of robberies.”

"To live around here and witness the robberies and the drugs is devastating," Larry Inman said. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Rolley told him Rawlings-Blake wants to hire 300 new police officers, “but there are 300 police vacancies right now.” Better to properly train and equip the police we have and make sure they have better relations with the community, he said.

Afterwards, Inman said he grew up in the city on Amity St., left to live in Catonsville for a time and has been shocked at the changes he observed after returning to live in Baltimore in the 1990s.

“To live around here and witness the robberies and the drugs is devastating,” the retired forklift driver said. “I drive a new model car and I can’t drive it without people coming up on me. They think you have money.”

Inman said he was impressed with Rolley and planned to vote for him. “I liked the way he talked, I liked that he had been in the shadows,” he said. (Rolley had told the group they had never heard of him because he had worked in the background, for others in government.) “Sometimes it’s the ones that have endured that are impressive. It’s not always about how fast you go.”

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