Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Regional Media 7/2

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This week’s news includes: Budget cuts, relief for renters falls short, “Baltimore’s gift to the global community,” and more reporting from Baltimore, Real News Network, Baltimore Magazine, and others.


Illustration by Joe Maccarone

A World of Difference
by Ron Cassie
Published July 1 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Matt Hornbeck, the principal of Hampstead Hill Academy, a pre-K to 8th grade public school next to Patterson Park, found out Maryland schools were closing at the same time everyone else did—after Gov. Larry Hogan’s afternoon press conference on Thursday, March 12. It meant he and his staff had less than 24 hours to prepare 859 students for a transition to online “school,” which would last for the remainder of the academic year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Hornbeck’s staff got as many learning packets to the kids as they could. They spent the next few weeks safely distributing Chromebooks. Teachers began posting assignments, reading books to students online, and creating homemade instructional videos. They provided sample schedules to parents and organized “coach” classes—where kids could log-on in a live setting and ask their teacher questions.

Given the city’s gaping digital divide, hoping that a class of 25 city school children would start showing up in daily 8 a.m. Google classrooms was never an option. Many Baltimore kids simply don’t have WiFi at home. Others don’t have a parent in the house during the school day to help navigate the process. Even at Hampstead Hill, the highest performing school in the city, the staff still hadn’t heard from 55 students—and that was after six weeks of diligently whittling down their “hardest to reach” list.

Schools, like Hampstead Hill, are more than sources of neighborhood pride. They are hubs providing breakfasts, lunches, after-school activities, and childcare. It’s where kids make friends and connect, and parents do, too.

“It doesn’t look anything like school used to look,” Hornbeck says. “It’s hard to even call it school.”

It’s a statement that applies to almost everything at the moment.



Maryland Board of Public Works members Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp at their virtual meeting Wednesday, July 1.

Divided ‘Works’ Panel Approves Big Budget Cut; Hogan Warns of Layoffs
by Bruce DePuyt
Published July 1 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved a scaled-back plan to reduce state spending on Wednesday, voting 2-1 to chop $413 million from the budget, to offset a steep reduction in revenues.

But Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who altered his original proposal under pressure from the panel’s two Democrats, warned that the failure to cut more deeply increased the likelihood that thousands of state employees will lose their jobs in the coming months.

The reductions, coming on the first day of Fiscal Year 2021, will save $395 million in general fund revenue from the state’s nearly $44 billion budget.

Hogan was supported by Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D). Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) voted against the cuts. She said the state should not reduce expenditures until the fiscal picture is clearer and other options have been explored.



Latinx health crisis: 42% of sampled Johns Hopkins patients test positive for coronavirus
by Louis Kraus
Published June 30 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: When Octavio Colin discovered that he contracted Covid-19 earlier this month, his mind leapt immediately to the lonely death suffered by a friend who also contracted the disease.

“His whole family was infected, so when he was in the hospital, no one could see him,” said Colin, a 33-year-old construction worker, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 12.

Colin says he has seen for himself how hard the coronavirus pandemic is hitting people like him.

He waited 2½ hours in the line that regularly forms for weekly free tests at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown, a mainstay of Baltimore’s Latinx community. His friend who died had been standing in the same line when he passed out and was rushed to the hospital.



Baltimore’s elections are finally over. Here’s what that means for the future of transit in the city
by Alex Holt
Published July 1 in Greater Greater Washington

Excerpt: It took a month-long delay in voting, numerous mishaps from ballot vendors and both the state and local Boards of Elections, and 13 days of counting after the polls had closed but with all the votes finally being certified on June 15, but the 2020 Baltimore City Elections are finally over.

True there’s technically still the general elections in November, which should include referendums on quite a number of significant amendments to the city’s charter. But in a city that hasn’t elected a Republican Congressmember since 1992, a Republican City Councilmember to a single seat since 1938, or any Republican to any citywide office at all since 1963, the Democratic Party primaries have almost invariably functioned as the real elections.

But what impact will this past election and the city’s chosen legislators have on Baltimore’s current transit and future system?



This Guidebook is Baltimore’s gift to the global community, and we hope it will be a valuable resource to areas far beyond our city.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young

‘Design for Distancing’ guidebook provides ‘tactical concepts’ for reopening local businesses
by Ed Gunts
Published July 1 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Baltimore’s leaders have joined with designers and public health officials to help restaurants, stores and other businesses find ways to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and others on Monday released the “Design for Distancing Ideas Guidebook,” a free online resource created to show business owners and communities how they can use streets, sidewalks and vacant lots to reopen and improve their own properties while complying with public health guidelines for social distancing.

The guidebook was created by a team that included the Mayor’s office, the Baltimore Development Corporation, the Neighborhood Design Center, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and local architects and artists, all seeking ways to improve the public realm.

Also read:
Baltimore’s Design for Distancing guidebook is here to make public health part of the urban landscape
by Stephen Babcock
Published June 29 in Baltimore



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

Baltimore City Launches $13 Million Pandemic Rental Assistance Program
by Emily Sullivan
Published July 1 in WYPR

Excerpt: Renters in Baltimore City who lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic can receive financial assistance under a $13 million renter relief program launched Wednesday.

Baltimore has a moratorium on evictions scheduled to expire on July 25. The program aims to prevent a wave of evictions by getting residents up to date on rent from April, May and June by sending rental payments directly to landlords.

“Like millions of families across the country, many Baltimore families are struggling to pay rent and have faced record unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayor Jack Young said in a statement. “With this program, along with the support aimed at overall homelessness prevention, we will serve low-income households facing financial hardship or loss of income.”



It sounds like you don’t know how you’re sending out the money or what the parameters are yet.
Delegate Brooke Lierman

Hogan’s proposed rent assistance covers a fraction of tenants’ needs, lawmakers say
by Ian Round
Published June 30 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Lawmakers criticized Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s rent relief plan at a hearing in Annapolis yesterday, saying the state must spend much more to stop a likely “tsunami” of evictions and foreclosures.

On Friday, Hogan announced $30 million in rent relief for tenants affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday representatives from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) faced questions on how exactly that money will be spent.

“This has been going on for months and it’s shocking to me that there’s so little planned out about this program right now,” Delegate Brooke Lierman told DHCD officials at a House Environment and Transportation Committee hearing on the pandemic’s effects on housing.



image via Real News Network

COVID-19 Is Amplifying Racial Inequities, Educators Say
by Jaisal Noor
Published June 26 in Real News Network

Excerpt: Baltimore Teachers Union President Diamonté Brown discusses a recent lawsuit over unpaid instructional days, global protests against racism, the movement to defund the police, and calls to remove officers from schools.



The Maryland State Board of Elections office in Annapolis. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

GOP Election Board Members Would Require Voters to Apply If They Want Mail-in Ballots
by Bennett Leckrone
Published July 1 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: The Maryland State Board of Elections won’t recommend an entirely in-person general election in November, but is divided along party lines on whether to conduct the election entirely by mail or in a hybrid model.

Elections board Chairman Michael R. Cogan, along with his fellow Republican board members Kelley A. Howells and William G. Voelp, support of a mix of in-person and mail-in ballots on election day.

The option Cogan, Howells and Voelp support provides that applications for mail-in ballots be sent to registered voters, who will be “strongly encouraged” to use them.



Photo by Stephen Babcock

10 action steps to sustain the fight against systemic racism
by Stephen Babcock
Published June 30 in Baltimore

Excerpt: As a mostly white crowd of protestors climbed the hill heading east toward Johns Hopkins Hospital, they were greeted by mostly Black residents, in cars and standing on porches. On that sun-soaked June Saturday in Baltimore city, the residents showed gratitude with cheers, honks and words of thanks.

Amid a period of nationwide pain following the 8:46 video that showed George Floyd’s final moments, the tears in the eyes of one woman offered proof that the show of support was meaningful, and a crowd that stretched down the hill on Fayette Street from the hospital seemingly all the way to the Shot Tower showed it was big, too. It was one of the acts of this month that fostered hope that the protests could result in change, and that perhaps this time will be different.

Yet, in Baltimore, it was also a reminder that it is still too rare that white people take time on a Saturday afternoon to show up for the city’s Black population, which, while making up a majority of residents, as a whole has been historically marginalized by racist policies that touch many facets of everyday life. Truly showing up requires a sustained commitment to action, and that can’t be just for one day, or one month.



Header image: via Twitter user @RanchoGordo

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