Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Regional Media 9/10

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This week’s news includes: City government shake-up, COVID hospitalizations on the rise, Trump bashes Baltimore, and more reporting from Baltimore Brew, Baltimore Business Journal, ProPublica, and others.



Deputy Rec and Parks Director William Vondrasek was told to resign last Thursday. (Fern Shen)

More high-level officials leave Baltimore city government
by Mark Reutter
Published September 9 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Three other city agencies have been hit by senior staff departures in the wake of the sudden firing of Baltimore Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman and resignation of his top aide 2½ weeks ago.

None of the personnel changes has been disclosed by the Young administration.
Foremost was the removal last Thursday of William Vondrasek, the No. 2 administrator at the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Vondrasek was escorted out of the Ralph W.E. Jones Jr. Administration Building in Druid Hill Park after being told to resign, retire or be fired on the spot, two informed sources tell The Brew.

He reportedly chose to resign.

His position was advertised on on Friday, with the agency saying it is seeking “an innovative, collaborative, results driven and highly experienced individual” as deputy director.

Yesterday, David Carter, chief of park maintenance, announced his resignation after 34 years at the department.

A message left at Vondrasek’s residence seeking comment about why he left was not returned.



Maryland’s coronavirus hospitalizations rise for third straight day
by Marcus Dieterle
Published September 9 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Maryland increased for the third consecutive day, state data show.

After Maryland’s COVID-19 hospitalizations fell to 341 on Sunday, they rose to 362 on Monday, 365 on Tuesday and 370 today.

There are currently 370 Marylanders hospitalized with coronavirus, including 275 COVID-19 patients in acute care and 95 in intensive care.

The number of acute care patients rose by 12 while the number of intensive care patients declined by seven, marking a net increase of five more people hospitalized with coronavirus compared to Tuesday.

The state has hospitalized a total of 14,672 people with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

At least 113,575 Marylanders have tested positive for COVID-19, while 1,301,947 have tested negative as of Wednesday morning, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s COVID-19 Case Map Dashboard.

The state’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 336, an increase of about 0.3 percent.



Baltimore Loosens Restrictions To Allow 50% Capacity At Malls, Religious Facilities, Indoor Dining
by Emily Sullivan
Published September 8 in WYPR

Excerpt: Loosened pandemic restrictions in Baltimore’s phase 2 reopening will go into effect at 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, including increased capacity at indoor restaurants.

Mayor Jack Young issued an executive order that allows restaurants, religious facilities, retail establishments and malls, indoor recreation establishments and casinos to increase operations from 25% to 50% of their capacity.

Capacity at indoor restaurants, religious facilities, retail establishments and malls, indoor recreation establishments and casinos may increase from 25% to 50%, per an executive order from Mayor Jack Young.

The Democrat also released new mandates for indoor and outdoor gatherings; they are capped at 25% of a space’s fire-code rated maximum occupancy. For example, the number of guests allowed at a wedding venue with an outdoor space would be capped at 25% of its fire code rated capacity.



"Cancel the rent" protesters marching down Rowe Boulevard toward the State House and governor's mansion in Annapolis earlier this summer. Photo by Bennett Leckrone

U.S. Eviction Moratorium ‘Not Helpful to a Lot of People in Md.,’ Official Warns
by Bennett Leckrone
Published September 9 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Marylanders will still need to go to court to fend off evictions under the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium, state officials told tenants during a Tuesday night virtual town hall.

The CDC moratorium has stringent requirements for renters to avoid eviction, Assistant Attorney General Karen Straughn told the Montgomery County Renters Alliance during a virtual forum on Tuesday. Straughn called the order “very limited” and said Marylanders aren’t automatically protected by its provisions.

“It’s not helpful to a lot of people in Maryland,” Straughn said.

In order to avoid eviction under the new moratorium, tenants will be required to sign an affidavit saying that they won’t earn more than $99,000 in annual income in 2020 and meet other income requirements; tried to get any available government rental or housing assistance; are trying to make “timely partial payments;” and showing that they lost income due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tenants will also have to show that they would be made homeless if evicted, or would have to move into a “congregate or shared-living setting.”

Eviction filings will go forward despite the CDC’s moratorium, Straugh said, and tenants aren’t automatically exempt from facing eviction.

See also:

Applications open for $16 million in Maryland Eviction Prevention Partnership grants
by Baltimore Fishbowl Staff
Published September 9 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Chief Judge: Eviction Filings Face Court Backlog
by Bennett Leckrone
Published September 9 in Maryland Matters



Photography by Christopher Myers.

A Fight on Two Fronts
by Rebecca Kirkman
Published September 7 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: A wave of positive energy follows Lt. MeShondra Collins as she makes her way across the fourth floor of the Baltimore VA Medical Center, home to the medical and cardiac ICUs, called MICUs, which she oversees as a nurse manager.

Bubbly and outgoing, Collins, 41, greets or chats with the doctors, patients, and support staff she passes, effortlessly recalling the names of even short-term patients. Since she first arrived at the Baltimore branch of the VA Maryland Health Care System as an intensive-care nurse in 2014, Collins has quickly risen into leadership. Her patients and colleagues affectionately call her “Meme” (Mee-mee).

“A lot of times, my rounds are long, probably because I talk more than everybody,” she says with a laugh as she begins to loop through the MICU’s 10 beds. But she points out that those seemingly breezy conversations serve a purpose. As she gets to talking with patients or staff, they share ideas with her or offer feedback that she might otherwise miss. Sometimes, it’s just a word of support, with patients sharing how welcomed they feel in her units. “That’s my proudest thing, because as long as that’s the feedback I’m getting, I’ve done my job. The nurses are doing what they see me do all the time.”



Union Craft Brewing responds to allegations of ‘harassment’
by Amanda Yeager
Published September 8 in Baltimore Business Journal

Excerpt: Baltimore’s Union Craft Brewing says it has severed ties with an unnamed member of the brewery’s team after “allegations of harassment” surfaced, first in private and then online.

The Medfield brewery released a statement Monday responding to accusations that a Union staff member took private photographs and videos without permission from the phones and emails of female employees and sent them to himself.

“We take any and all allegations of this nature seriously and have taken steps to investigate and address the circumstances that led to these allegations,” the brewery wrote.

Union did not name the person accused, citing “privacy laws,” but said he has been “relieved of his duties and removed from the operations at the brewery.” The statement said the brewery is also working to hire a human resources manager.

The allegations were made public over Labor Day weekend on a local artist’s account, drawing hundreds of comments and calls for Union to respond.



“In the end, the city just did what they wanted”
by Mark Reutter and Fern Shen
Published September 5 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: The childhood home of bandleader Cab Calloway was torn to pieces by demolition excavators today in what critics described as a stealth attack by the city housing department.

“This was very sneaky of them to do on a holiday weekend,” said Marti Pitrelli, an architectural historian and a leader of a year-long drive to save the Calloway house.

As she spoke, a pair of yellow excavators had already knocked down half of the 2200 block of Druid Hill Avenue, billows of yellow and black smoke rising in their wake.

Three weeks ago, Pitrelli filed an appeal in Baltimore Circuit Court of an administrative order that gave the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) permission to raze the block.
The appeal was approved by Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey M. Geller on August 18, and is currently listed as “active” on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search.



Under Armour plans 600 layoffs amid COVID-19
by Stephen Babcock
Published September 9 in Baltimore

Excerpt: Under Armour disclosed plans to lay off 600 employees Tuesday as part of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Baltimore-based athletic apparel company made the disclosure in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, saying that the layoffs would come “primarily in its global corporate workforce.” The company didn’t disclose whether or how many employees in Baltimore would be affected.

The filing was an update to an already-ongoing restructuring plan for 2020 that was initially made before considering COVID-19 considerations. In the original plan, the company said it expected to incur charges of approximately $475 million to $525 million total, with $340 million in charges incurred through the first half of the year. On Sept. 3, the company’s board approved another $75 million in restructuring charges.

The layoffs represent the latest cuts at the company that is Baltimore’s largest and most prominent brand to be founded in the last few decades. Under Armour has had a series of restructuring moves in the last three years as it has sought to regain sales footing from a string of quarterly losses that began in 2017. This is the largest announced round of layoffs, following 280 in 2017 that included 140 job losses in Baltimore, and 400 in 2018 that included 50 people who lost their jobs in Baltimore.



President Trump again targets Baltimore in tweets: ‘Baltimore is the WORST IN NATION’
by Greg Ng
Published September 7 in WBAL 11

Excerpt: President Donald Trump again targeted Baltimore in tweets posted early Sunday morning.

It’s the second time in a little more than a year that the president has taken shots at Baltimore over social media.

The Republican incumbent in the White House is taking aim at a Democratically controlled city while endorsing the Republican candidate for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, Kimberly Klacik. She’s running to unseat Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who won the seat in a special election in April after the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings.



A New York City police officer walking by the words “Black Lives Matter” painted on a street in Brooklyn on June 26. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

What Can Mayors Do When the Police Stop Doing Their Jobs?
by Alec MacGillis
Published September 3 in ProPublica

Excerpt: Across the United States, cities are experiencing turbulence and a rise in gun violence following the protests of abusive policing sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. More than 110 people were shot in that city in the month following Floyd’s death, eight fatally. In Atlanta, 106 people were shot over a 28-day period ending July 11, up from 40 over the same period last year.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that America has seen such protests followed by a spike in violence. In the spring of 2015, the death of Freddie Gray, 25, from injuries sustained in police custody brought demonstrators into the streets of Baltimore. The protests flared into rioting and looting. Soon afterward, the city’s chief prosecutor announced criminal charges against the officers involved in the arrest. The officers’ colleagues responded by pulling back on the job, doing only the bare minimum in the following weeks. In the resulting void, crews seized new drug corners and settled old scores. Homicides surged to record levels and case-closure rates plunged. “The police stopped doing their jobs, and let people fuck up other people,” Carl Stokes, a former Democratic city councilor in Baltimore, told me last year. “Period. End of story.”

See also: Commentary/critique of this article by journalists Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg, who wrote a book on Baltimore police corruption

Header image: Trump tweet from WBAL TV 11

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