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Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Regional Media 7/16

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This week’s news includes: Back-to-school standoff, unemployment claim fraud uncovered, opposition to Hopkins private police force grows, and more reporting from Baltimore Jewish Times, The AFRO, The Appeal, and others.

 

 

Cheryl Bost, Tonya Sweat and Diamonté Brown call for Gov. Hogan and state education officials to support their call for an online-only 2020 first semester in Maryland. (marylandeducators.org)

Teachers unions: “We prefer in-person teaching, but we prefer our lives over everything”
by Ian Round
Published July 14 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: With Covid cases showing signs of resurgence in Maryland, teachers union officials pushed back today against the plans of some school districts to open for in-person classes next month.

“Caution now makes it more likely that we will be able to transition to a hybrid model later in the school year,” Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost said at a virtual press conference this afternoon.

Bost, an elementary school teacher in Baltimore County, said arguments pointing out the low rates of transmission among children ignore the fact that adults work in schools too.

Joined by Baltimore Teachers Union President Diamonté Brown and Tonya Sweat of the Maryland PTA, Bost said the risk of the virus is greater than the damage done to students trying to distance-learn without internet or computers.

“If we open our schools too quickly and without adequate safety precautions, the result will be that some educators, students, and their family members will contract the coronavirus,” says a letter the three sent to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and State School Superintendent Karen Salmon.

See also:
School This Fall? Some Parents Are Torn, Some Aren’t. All Are Stressed.
by Mary Rose Madden
Published July 15 in WYPR

 

 

Photo by Marvin Joseph/The The Washington Post via Getty Images.

As COVID-19 Permeates Prisons and Jails, Baltimore Defendants Continue to be Held without Bail
by Jerry Iannelli
Published July 14 in The Appeal

Excerpt: On April 28, Angela Burneko sat and listened to Baltimore City prosecutors argue that a teenager who uses a wheelchair was a threat to public safety. Burneko, a volunteer with the legal observer group Baltimore Courtwatch, said prosecutors from the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office tried to convince a judge that a Black 18-year-old arrested for illegal firearm possession—stemming from an incident in which he was shot and paralyzed—was a public safety threat if he wasn’t incarcerated pretrial.

“The ASA still made a claim that just because someone is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean they can’t ‘get around or be a danger to the community,’” Burneko told The Appeal. “I have etched that into my brain. I’ll never forget this.”

The case, Burneko says, exemplifies what Baltimore public defenders, defense attorneys, and legal observers say has been a consistent problem amid the coronavirus pandemic: Despite the fact that jails and prisons are often the epicenters for the virus, prosecutors working for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby routinely request to hold people without bond.

 

 

Photo courtesy of CDC

COVID-19 cases increase by more than 700 for second straight day, state reports record number of tests
by Marcus Dieterle
Published July 15 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: For the second straight day, the number of coronavirus cases in Maryland rose by more than 700, state data show.

Maryland’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 756 since Tuesday, when officials reported an increase of 733. Today’s total represents the largest one-day increase since June 5, when there were 912 new cases.

But the increase comes as state health officials reported an additional 21,533 coronavirus test results on Wednesday, marking the largest number of results recorded in a single day.

 

 

Baltimore’s City Hall building faces a public square, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Baltimore City Extends Application Deadline For Temporary Rental Assistance
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published July 13 in WYPR

Excerpt: Baltimore City has extended the deadline for applications for its temporary rental assistance program to July 19. Applications were originally due at 7 p.m. Monday, July 13.

The city launched the program July 1 to help residents who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to prevent mass evictions by paying April, May and June rent to landlords.

Michael Braverman, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development, said 4,000 applications have been submitted thus far and that he is aiming to help 6,000 households.

“Based on our modeling, we can accept a few more before we close the program down,” he said. “We want folks to take advantage of the program and certainly not wait until the great machinery for the courts gear up.”

 

 

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R). File photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Hogan: State Has Uncovered Massive Unemployment Claim Fraud
by Bennett Leckrone
Published July 15 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Maryland officials have uncovered a “massive, sophisticated criminal enterprise” that attempted to steal $501 million in unemployment insurance from the state, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Officials blocked payment to more than 47,500 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims after noticing an unusual increase in out-of-state claims, Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson said. Hogan said the operation involved widespread identity theft using information acquired from previous national data breaches.

Details on the investigation were limited, but Hogan said the fraud attempts were recently discovered and shut down. State officials immediately alerted federal law enforcement authorities.

 

 

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison talks with the AFRO from his offices at police headquarters about the movement to defund the police. Recently, budget cuts of more than $22 million to his department were enacted on July 1. (Photo Credit:Sean Yoes)

Exclusive: Commissioner Harrison Talks to the AFRO: `We Have Been Asked to Be All Things to All People’
by Sean Yoes
Published July 9 in The AFRO

Excerpt: Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison spoke exclusively to the AFRO about budget cuts to his department that went into effect on July 1, and the role of law enforcement in Baltimore. Part one of two.

Last month, the Baltimore City Council voted to cut the BPD budget by $22.4 million in 2021, which went into effect on July 1. After a long and sometimes arduous debate, the Council passed the cuts with little resistance on most of the budget items targeted for reduction. Baltimore City Council President and Mayor Elect Brandon Scott promised “tens of millions of dollars” of more cuts to the BPD budget over the course of a multi year plan.

“We have been asked to be all things to all people,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison during a conversation at his offices at BPD headquarters at 601 E. Fayette St. downtown.

 

 

Photo by innovatedcaptures / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Six Things Baltimore Black Jews Wish You Knew
by Carolyn Conte
Published July 12 in Baltimore Jewish Times

Excerpt: Imagine facing both anti-Semitism and racism. For the people in Baltimore commonly referred to as “Jews of Color,” there are a few things you can be aware of to make their day a little less uncomfortable.

The JT spoke to three people about what they don’t like to hear when it comes to race, and what they would like to hear instead.

 

 

photo by Brandon Soderberg

Abolish, Not Delay: Opposition to Proposed ‘Pause’ on Johns Hopkins Private Police Force Grows
by Jacob Took
Published July 13 in Baltimore Beat

Excerpt: Two weeks after Johns Hopkins University administrators announced what they called a two-year “pause” on a controversial plan to establish their own private police force, about 100 students, faculty and community members marched to the home of Hopkins President Ronald Daniels to tell him that this proposed pause is not enough.

Wearing masks and trying to keep six feet apart, demonstrators gathered on June 29 at Tubman Grove near Wyman Park Dell, holding up signs with familiar slogans like “NO JHU PRIVATE POLICE” and new messages like “ABOLISH, NOT DELAY” and “IN 2 YEARS, COPS WILL STILL BE KILLERS.”

Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies Lester Spence cited the reasons he has been opposed since Hopkins first announced plans for a private police force in March 2018.

 

 

Baltimore’s Northwood: Remembrance of Desegregation Past
by William F. Zorzi
Published July 9 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Times change. Buildings come and go. Things are “repurposed.” (New verbs are created out of thin air.) Whole cities reinvent themselves.

In Baltimore, where not a tremendous lot seems to be reinvented, much of late has been made of the demolition of the Lexington Market Arcade, a relatively recent addition to what is reportedly the nation’s oldest public market, dating to 1782. “World famous,” the signs say.

The daily newspaper noticed. The Afro. The TVs, too. The town’s hipsters lamented the loss on social media.

But the structure being demolished, over there on the west side of what used to be the city’s central business district, only opened in 1982, when William Donald Schaefer was still mayor. So, it’s not so great of a loss. Not really.

 

 

East and West Baltimore, hit hard by the coronavirus, push for more testing
by Fern Shen and Louis Krauss
Published July 10 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Outside a West Baltimore church, 10 people stood in line for free coronavirus testing, offered to fill what church leaders said was a long overdue need.

“We have an underserved, distressed neighborhood that does not have access to Covid testing,” said Pastor Phyllis Felton of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.
As staffers from the University of Maryland Medical Center conducted the tests yesterday, Bishop Kevin Daniels explained the idea behind them.

“What sparked our interest and concern in making a [test] site was that we weren’t hearing a lot about the [virus case] numbers in this area, even though there was a lot of Covid activity,” Daniels said.

“A public action targeting Gov. [Larry] Hogan demonstrating the need for more testing and tracing services in the under-resourced and underserved neighborhoods of the 21217 and surrounding ZIP codes,” was how the clergy and community group BUILD, one of the organizers, described the event online.

At about the same time yesterday, in the 21224 ZIP code on the city’s Eastside, free virus testing was being offered at Iglesia de la Resurrección in Ellwood Park and at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Highlandtown.

The testing was part of a city Health Department partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine, the University of Maryland and BUILD.

 

 

BONUS:

Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr

BPD report: Overall crime decreased since 2019, but homicides increased
by Marcus Dieterle
Published July 15 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: In the first five months of 2020, crime in Baltimore is down 21 percent compared to the same period in 2019 however the pace of homicides is up slightly from last year’s staggering total, according to a report that the Baltimore Police Department released today.

The report reviews the progress so far of BPD’s five-year “Crime Reduction & Department Transformation Plan” over the last fiscal year.

In a year-to-date comparison of the first five months of the year, the total number of crimes fell from 14,395 in 2019 to 11,404 in 2020, a 21 percent decrease, according to data from BPD.

Violent crimes declined by 12 percent. That includes incidents of rape (38 percent decrease), robbery (15 percent decrease) and aggravated assault (9 percent decrease). Shootings, which are a subcategory of aggravated assault or robbery, decreased by 15 percent.

However, homicides increased by 2 percent. A total of 348 Baltimoreans were killed in 2019, the second highest total on record.

 

 

Header image: Infection rates (cases per 1,000) by ZIP code, as of July 9, underscore the high rate in southeast Baltimore. (coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov)

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