Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Regional Media 10/29

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This week’s news includes: COVID comeback, Mosby murmurs, BMA backs off, and more reporting from Baltimore Magazine, The AFRO, Baltimore Fishbowl, and others.




Baltimore Seeing “Significant Increase” In COVID-19 Positivity Rates
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published October 28 in WYPR

Excerpt: City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said Baltimore has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 positivity rates so far this month. The latest seven-day average is 4.4%.

“That is concerning given that probably back in September, we were around two and a half percent,” Dzirasa said at a press conference. The city is still meeting its goal of maintaining a positivity rate below 5%. As of this morning, she said, Baltimore’s COVID cases increased by about 83% over the past four weeks.

Dzirasa also said there hasn’t been a decline in positivity rates or deaths over the past 14 days. She urged people to be especially careful as the holidays approach.

“I know that we are all experiencing a bit of COVID fatigue. I also know how important it is to gather with your family,” she said. “But try to think of creative ways to still see your family — maybe it’s virtual, it’s online or having that family call — as opposed to meeting in person.”



Maryland Educators Call For Safety Measures Before School Buildings Reopen
by Elizabeth Shwe
Published October 26 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: More than three-quarters of Maryland educators do not think that schools will be able to reopen safely for full in-person learning for the next few months, according to a recent Maryland State Education Association poll.

Before school buildings can reopen, there needs to be daily sanitation of schools, adequate air ventilation and procedures for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, including contact-tracing, according to more than 90% of Maryland educators who took the poll.

Teacher unions are asking all educators, students and parents to use a checklist, endorsed by Maryland State Education Association, Baltimore Teachers Union and the Maryland PTA, to assess whether or not a school building is safe to reopen for in-person learning. It includes conditions such as no-touch hand soap dispensers and hand sanitizers in classrooms, HVAC systems to run for two hours before and after school buildings are occupied, and a supply of masks.

“This checklist is not asking for anything outrageous. It is asking for what is right. It is asking for what is safe,” Cheryl Bost, president of MSEA, said in a statement.

See also:

Poll Says Most Maryland Educators Think Schools Are Not Ready To Reopen
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published October 26 in WYPR



Official campaign photo of Nick Mosby, the Democratic Party nominee for City Council president. (Friends of Nick Mosby)

Positions created for incoming Council president trigger controversy and threats
by Mark Reutter
Published October 26 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Since The Brew broke the story last Monday that the Young administration wants to boost the number of full-time staff for incoming City Council President Nick Mosby, life in the upper reaches of City Hall has been anything but calm. Members of the finance and human resources departments were informed, in no uncertain terms, that heads would roll if anyone tried to delay or derail the supplemental jobs for Mosby, who is the overwhelming favorite to win the Council President’s race next Tuesday.

Top-level people who questioned the process were yelled at or ignored or both. “It was brutal, and people are mad about it,” reported an insider, who said there’s also been an effort to find the source of the “leak.”

Despite a hiring freeze announced by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young last March, a large projected shortfall in the budget because of the pandemic, and the recent announcement that 63 water bureau employees would be permanently laid off – the new positions for the Council president are now official, listed on page 21 in the Board of Estimates agenda made public this afternoon.

The listing says the nine positions – one Operations Officer I, three Operations Specialists II and five Staff Assistants – would cost $715,462 in annual salaries alone.

See also:

Nick Mosby owns consulting company based at the address of a contributor
by Mark Reutter
Published October 28 in Baltimore Brew



Brice Marden's 3 (1987–88) was one of three works expected to be sold by the Baltimore Museum of Art. COURTESY THE ARTIST/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK

Baltimore Museum of Art Calls Off Controversial Deaccession Plan Hours Before Sale
by Alex Greenberger
Published October 28 in Artforum

Excerpt: In a shocking last-minute move, the Baltimore Museum of Art has “decided to pause” its plans to sell three works from its collection with Sotheby’s, according to a press release. The news was announced by the Maryland institution just two hours before two of the works were expected to hit the auction block in New York.

In a release, the museum said that the decision was made following “a private conversation between the BMA’s leadership and the Association of Art Museum Directors,” a prominent industry group that offers recommendations about deaccessioning. Previously, members of the BMA’s leadership had staunchly defended the plan in the face of a mounting outcry that resulted in a call for a formal investigation and the resignation of two board members.

The museum had previously planned to sell works by Brice Marden, Clyfford Still, and Andy Warhol; the Marden and the Still abstractions were to be auctioned tonight. The Warhol, a 25-and-a-half-foot-long version of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, was to be sold privately by Sotheby’s and was given an estimate of $40 million. Together, the works were to bring in a collected $65 million.

BMA leadership said the deaccessioning was intended to help the museum achieve equity, both in its collection and in its staff. Funds from the sales would be distributed among several initiatives, including ones meant to diversify the museum’s holdings with works by women and artists of color known as the Endowment for the Future.



Md. Lawmakers Urge USDA to Increase Statewide Access to COVID-19 Food Security Program
by Hannah Gaskill
Published October 28 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Maryland’s congressional delegation sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week, imploring the agency to alter its Farmers to Families Food Box Program to include more Maryland families and vendors.

“We are disappointed to learn that multiple Maryland vendors and municipalities did not receive sufficient support from the program’s third round,” the letter reads. “We urge the Department take immediate action to remedy this as it impacts the food sources of thousands of Marylanders.”

The letter, led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) and signed also by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Reps. Steny H. Hoyer (D), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D), John P. Sarbanes (D), Kweisi Mfume (D), Anthony G. Brown (D), Jamie B. Raskin (D) and David J. Trone (D), asks Purdue to provide more information about:

• The process used to determine the total number of boxes to be received by the state in the third round;
• How jurisdictions are chosen to receive food boxes;
• And how the USDA decides to move forward with vendor contracts.



Preservation Maryland releases study of state’s LGBTQ+ history, map of sites that are significant to community
by Marcus Dieterle
Published October 28 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The multi-year study culminated in a more than 100-page report detailing Maryland’s LGBTQ+ history from the 17th century through 2016, authored by Dr. Susan Ferentinos, an LGBTQ+ research expert from Indiana. The project also features a map of important LGBTQ-associated locations across Maryland, which was compiled by Benjamin Egerman, a paid intern for Preservation Maryland.

With Maryland’s study being the second of its kind in the nation—after Kentucky published its own study in 2016—Preservation Maryland communications director Meagan Baco said it “fundamentally opens the door to different approaches to public history in a way that had been shut for decades, if not centuries.”

The LGBTQ+ community has always archived its own history, but Baco said this new study consolidates that information in a format that is more accessible to the public.

“This isn’t just private history. This isn’t history that people are ashamed of,” they said. “This is incredibly important, social and medical history that creates a whole new way of looking at things that for too long was omitted.”



—Photography by Schaun Champion

No Margin for Error
by Ron Cassie
Published October 26 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Mileah Kromer had thought of everything. Or so she thought. She had sharpened her political polling and branding skills under Elon University professor Hunter Bacot, who’d developed a national reputation for excellence as the director of the North Carolina school’s renowned polling operation. Hired by Goucher College to direct the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center and launch Goucher’s own Maryland polling operation in 2012, Kromer had done an enormous amount of work to get the school’s first-ever poll out a week before the elections that fall.

Beyond the careful formulation of questions and statistical modeling, she built a phone center on campus from scratch and hired and trained students to make calls, all while maintaining a full-time teaching schedule. The stakes were high, too. Included in that inaugural poll were questions about same-sex marriage and the expansion of casino gambling, which were both on the ballot. Also in that first Goucher Poll were a host of questions about how Marylanders felt about undocumented immigrants. Should they be able to pay in-state tuition? Should they be allowed to keep their jobs and pursue a path toward U.S. citizenship? So, too, were favorability queries about President Barack Obama, challenger Mitt Romney, and Governor Martin O’Malley.

Kromer spent days tabulating the results and quadruple-checking the numbers, and then crafted a press release. She took a deep breath, and a week before the election, hit “send” to a long list of local news organizations and media contacts on Monday morning as planned. But there was one thing she hadn’t considered: Superstorm Sandy hit Baltimore that same morning. Sort of. The city basically escaped unscathed. Not that you would’ve known it from television coverage.

“I was watching WBAL that morning and the whole time, they’ve got someone down at the Inner Harbor saying, ‘It’s windy, it’s very windy,’ but meanwhile nothing is really happening,” Kromer recalls. “I’m like, ‘C’mon, you can cut away for two minutes and show the results of the poll.’ They never did. More shots of the wind. It was so frustrating. Everyone had done so much work. A couple of days later, I heard from [Daily Record reporter] Bryan Sears, who was then at He said, ‘I saw you released a poll.’ He was the only reporter who called. To do all that work and then it was like nothing happened. It was so frustrating. I was like, ‘Never again.’

“Now I check the weather along with everything else.” Eight years from that less than auspicious launch, each biannual Goucher Poll is now diligently reported and hashed over by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, Daily Record, Baltimore Brew, Baltimore Fishbowl, local radio and television outlets, as well as this magazine, and has become an institution in state politics and journalism circles.


The CleanStat dashboard is an example of CitiStat's recent intiatives.

From gotcha to collaboration: CitiStat’s growing pains in Baltimore offer lessons for data-driven government
by Donte Kirby
Published October 28 in Baltimore

Excerpt: The City of Baltimore was a pioneer of civic tech, data and the cross section of the two. As a trailblazer, the city’s government has had a front-row seat as views on how local governments use data morph from luxury to supplementary to necessity over 20 years.

For the city government, a big focus on using data started under the tenure of Mayor Martin O’ Malley 20 years ago with CitiStat. It was also around that time when the nonprofit Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA), now housed at the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute, was founded and began releasing civic data publicly with a focus on the community level.

In the years since, the city government went from gotcha stat sessions and charging for access to data to open data portals and CleanStat dashboards. It also became clear that leadership and culture among city agencies had to evolve alongside these tools, according to leaders who have seen Baltimore’s data-based governance initiatives progress through multiple administrations. Throughout, it was clear that the executive power of the mayor shaped the use of public data. With the city approaching a mayoral transition in December, the lessons from recent history offer a reminder that the day a mayor goes into office is the day it’s decided whether the initiative is relevant or not.



Baltimore officials obtained cyber insurance last September after a ransomware attack cost the city $18 million. CARLEY MILLIGAN

City poised to re-up $20M in cyber insurance adopted after ransomware attack
by Ethan McLeod
Published October 26 in Baltimore Business Journal

Excerpt: A panel of Baltimore’s top officials is set to renew $20 million worth of cybersecurity insurance acquired last year in the wake of a massively disruptive ransomware attack.

The cost of re-upping the coverage — $10 million apiece from New Jersey-based Chubb Insurance and Stamford, Connecticut-headquartered AXA XL — from Nov. 1 through Nov. 21, 2021, will be $949,172, according to this week’s Board of Estimates agenda, published ahead of Wednesday morning’s meeting. Chubb’s premium would be just over $569,000, while AXA XL’s would be $380,000.

Ten carriers had submitted bids for the renewal of the policies, the agenda said. The selected companies are the same ones the city used when it purchased cyber insurance last year.

The combined cost represents an increase of about $115,000 in premiums from the policies the city purchased last year. Together, they cover expenses that would arise from another attack, like investigative teams, business interruption losses and other expenses, digital data recovery and third-party coverage for cyber privacy, network security and more.



Senator Ben Cardin (AP Photo)

Sen. Ben Cardin’s Statement on the Confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court
by Senator Ben Cardin
Published October 26 in The AFRO

Excerpt: U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today [Monday, October 26] released the following statement in response to Republican confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States.

“I am gravely concerned that the rushed and sham process the Senate has used to advance Judge Barrett’s nomination will undermine the public’s faith in the independence and legitimacy of the Supreme Court as a fair and impartial body. Were we to have followed historical precedent and traditions of the Senate, we clearly should have followed the ‘McConnell Rule’ adopted after the death of Justice Scalia and let the American people pick the next president and Senate before considering the next Supreme Court justice. This would have allowed the American people to have their voices heard, rather than choosing to ignore the will of the majority.

“Never in modern times has the Senate taken up a Supreme Court nomination so close to an election, and never has a justice been confirmed after at least 60 million Americans have already cast their votes for the next president. The actions of my Republican colleagues have done a tragic disservice to the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and will undercut the rights for which she fought throughout her entire career.



Header image: Alvin Thorpe voted at Baltimore City Community College, one of eight voting center locations around the city. (from The AFRO)

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