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O’Malley meets with his tweeps

Gov. Martin O’Malley held his first “Tweetup” Monday morning, fielding a handful of questions from 16 Twitter followers who met in person to discuss issues in the state.

“We have an opportunity in these times to be better connected than ever before,” O’Malley said, kicking the event off.

The questions ranged from softballs — “What book are you reading now?” was the first one — to specific policy questions, like whether libraries would also have to shoulder a share of pension costs along with the counties.

O’Malley said that issue, along with how school funding requirements would be affected by the proposed pension shift, are yet to be decided.

The governor said the state has a “tremendous opportunity” this year to bring in tourist dollars associated with the bicentennial of the War of 1812, an event that could also help clean up Baltimore’s image.

“You have to talk about the good things happening in the city,” O’Malley said. “It’s not a good way to sell newspapers, but it’s a good way to sell the city.”

He called growing Baltimore’s population “absolutely critical, absolutely essential for not just the city, but for the future of our state.”

“We have to grow in a smarter way, and the key to that is Baltimore City,” said O’Malley, a former Baltimore mayor.

The high-tech governor got off to a slow start at the tweetup. He struggled through his opening tweet, and said he wrote it ahead of time.

“I composed it this morning,” he said. “I want to make sure I get it right. I’m very nervous here.”

The tweeting would have gone smoother on his omnipresent Blackberry, O’Malley said, rather than the laptop he was using.

“When I first started carrying a Blackberry, William Donald Schaefer referred to it derogatorily as my ‘Blueberry,'” O’Malley said. “He’d ask ‘Do you think your Blueberry ever filled a pothole? Do you think your Blueberry ever took down a dead tree?'”