Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Regional Media 10/8

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This week’s news includes: The hidden history of Native Americans in Baltimore, COVID and the courts, Maryland moves to protect those with pre-existing conditions, and more reporting from Maryland Matters, Smithsonian Magazine, WYPR, and others.



A feature story on the Lumbee of Baltimore in the September 1957 issue of Ebony Magazine depicts Minner's aunt, Jeanette Jones (Locklear) at top left of the right page. The caption reads: "Typical Indian girl," with no mention of her name. (Sean Scheidt)

A Native American Community in Baltimore Reclaims Its History
by Isabel Spiegel
Published October 5 in Smithsonian Magazine

Excerpt: One chilly March afternoon in 2018, Ashley Minner, a community artist, folklorist, professor and enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, gathered the elders together for a luncheon at Vinny’s, an Italian eatery on the outskirts of Baltimore. The group crowded around a family-style table, eager to chat with friends after a long winter. Over a dessert of cannoli and Minner’s homemade banana pudding, she got down to business to show the group what she had found—a 1969 federally commissioned map of the Lumbee Indian community in Baltimore as it stood in its heyday.

Her discovery was met with bewildered expressions.

“The elders said, ‘This is wrong. This is all wrong.’ They couldn’t even fix it,” Minner recalls from her seat at a large oak desk in Hornbake Library’s Special Collections room. When she speaks, she embodies a down-to-earth, solid presence, with an air of humility that her University of Maryland students will tell you is how she conducts her classes. That day, she wore no jewelry or makeup, just a T-shirt, jeans and a bright purple windbreaker.

At the luncheon, plates were cleared but questions remained. The elders drafted a rough sketch of the neighborhood based on their recollections. Now it was Minner’s turn to be perplexed. Though she has lived all her life in the Baltimore area, nothing looked remotely familiar.

“It wasn’t until my Aunt Jeanette took me to Baltimore Street, and pointed and said, ‘This is where I used to live,’ that I realized the reason I wasn’t getting it was because it’s a park now. The whole landscape has been transformed.”

See also:
Ashley Minner’s interview with Suzy Kopf for BmoreArt, published Nov. 1, 2019



THE IMPERIAL MAYOR: Baltimore’s strong-mayor system comes under question (Part 1 of 3)
by Joan Jacobson
Published October 5 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: In a poor, shrinking and dysfunctional city – a city known far more for its government scandals than its civic successes – some major structural government changes are finally being suggested as a remedy.

That’s because the power structure of city government here is absurdly imbalanced.
“If there is a government with a stronger mayor, I haven’t been able to find one,” said Matthew A. Crenson, professor emeritus in urban government and American political science at Johns Hopkins University.

Like others in the U.S. right now, Baltimoreans may be horrified to see the power that Donald Trump has galvanized in the office of the president. But do they realize that their own mayor has possessed for over a century nearly as much supreme power?

See also:

THE IMPERIAL MAYOR: Transparency? Checks and balances? Those are for losers! (Part 2 of 3)
by Joan Jacobson
Published October 6 in Baltimore Brew

THE IMPERIAL MAYOR: When ward bosses reigned and the Board of Estimates was born (Part 3 of 3)
by Joan Jacobson
Published October 7 in Baltimore Brew



A screenshot shows changes to a Prince George's County courtroom as Maryland courts entered a final phase of reopening and the resumption of jury trials on Monday. The state's public defenders union and other groups have called for greater protections. Maryland Judiciary screenshot.

As Courts Reopen, Public Defenders Fear for Themselves and Their Clients
by Hannah Gaskill
Published October 6 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Cynthia Christiani is a public defender and has served at Baltimore City’s district courthouse on North Avenue for 15 years. She said her office in the winding, windowless basement has seen minimal, if any, updates.

“I’ve never seen any updates to anything,” she told Maryland Matters in the courthouse hall last Friday.

Christiani called the building “frightening in general,” noting issues with the ventilation and a sewage problem a couple of years back that left her without an office for weeks.

But as courts enter into their final stage of reopening as the pandemic continues to rage on, the fear becomes more tangible.

All of Maryland’s courts became fully operational Monday for the first time since Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera ordered them closed in March, leaving Christiani and her fellow public defenders in a state of freefall.

“After declaring an emergency back in March and shutting down, the Maryland Judiciary issued a reopening plan in June,” said Charles County Public Defender Henry Druschel at a virtual forum held last week. “They named October 5 as the date on which full operations would resume. But as June and July and August passed, the Judiciary gave almost no guidance to stakeholders ― attorneys, litigants, court workers ― about what that reopening would look like and how it would be kept safe. And it’s only been in the last few weeks of September that those plans have started to take shape.”



photo: Scott Buchmann

The Great Restaurant Reinvention
by Jane Marion
Published October 6 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: On March 16, the day Governor Larry Hogan closed all restaurants and bars for in-person dining in Maryland due to the COVID-19 crisis, Irene Salmon, co-owner of Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, was in something of a state of shock. The beloved oyster bar at the corner of 36th Street and Chestnut Avenue in Hampden had been having a great run ever since opening its doors in December 2016. Most days of the week, the neighborhood restaurant was bustling with seafood lovers craving old-school dishes—coddies, cured anchovies, soft-shell crab sandwiches—washed down by local beers on tap. And the dining room, packed with everyone from hipsters perched on bar stools to families crammed into wooden booths, was convivial and carefree.

Fast forward to early July when an alarm sounded every 30 minutes to signal that it was time for staff to sanitize hightouch surfaces with industrial-grade disinfectants and cleaners. Long gone were the half-pencils and paper oyster menus that once graced every table. Masks were now mandatory for servers, as well as guests, who also got their temperatures taken. Interior capacity was capped at the mandated 50 percent, though in the small space, with tables spaced six feet apart, that allowed room for only 20 patrons. Weather permitting, sidewalk dining was available.

A few weeks later brought more doom and gloom, as Baltimore Mayor Jack Young once again shut down restaurants for indoor dining for two weeks. And by early August, it was back open at quarter capacity, though by that point, says Salmon, “no one wanted to sit inside, even when the patio was full.”



U.S. Supreme Court facade by Kevin H. with Flickr Creative Commons License

Marylanders with pre-existing conditions will be protected regardless of how SCOTUS rules on Obamacare
by Bryan Renbaum
Published October 6 in Maryland Reporter

Excerpt: Even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) is unconstitutional Marylanders with pre-existing health conditions will still be protected under a state law that went into effect on Oct. 1.

Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), who is vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee sponsored the legislation, which prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It also maintains other popular ACA consumer protections such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they reach age 26.

“That’s in Maryland law now. It was an emergency piece of legislation to get Senate Bill 872. And irrespective of what happens in the U.S. Supreme Court, those are now codified in Maryland law,” Feldman told in a phone interview.

He added: “There was concern about the case that’s making its way challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. So we decided to move forward with this bill to protect Marylanders in the event the Affordable Care Act is tossed out on constitutional grounds by the U.S. Supreme Court.”



A solid waste crew at work in East Baltimore in 2015. (Mark Reutter)

Two councilmen push for raises for DPW garbage workers
by Ian Round
Published October 7 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: City Councilmen Zeke Cohen and Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer brought pizza and bottled water to the Eastern Sanitation Yard yesterday, continuing their pressure campaign on Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to give more money to garbage workers.
Like many waste hauling agencies around the country, the Department of Public Works is facing a worker shortage as households produce more trash while sheltering at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cohen and Schleifer say the best way to get rid of the trash accumulating in Baltimore’s alleys and to resume recycling suspended in August, is to pay workers more for the difficult and dangerous job.

“They get that first paycheck and they never come back, and I don’t blame them,” Schleifer said at a press conference outside the building.



CDC image

Maryland’s COVID-19 hospitalizations rise to highest amount in more than a month
by Marcus Dieterle
Published October 7 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The number of Marylanders currently hospitalized due to coronavirus reached 391 on Wednesday, the largest amount in more than a month, state data show.

The state’s hospitalizations are the highest they have been since reaching 395 on Sept. 4.

Of the 391 residents who are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 298 are in acute care and 93 are in intensive care.

The number of acute care patients climbed by 26 while the number of intensive care patients rose by five, marking a net increase of 31 more people hospitalized with coronavirus compared to Tuesday.

Maryland has hospitalized a total of 15,843 people for COVID-19 to date.



Police Reform Clears Baltimore County Council
by John Lee
Published October 5 in WYPR

Excerpt: Changes are coming to the Baltimore County Police Department.

After months of debate, the county council approved police reform legislation Monday night.

After Democratic Councilman Julian Jones’ first attempt at police reform failed in August, the legislation was reworked into a version that was approved Monday night by a 6-1 vote.

Among other things, the legislation will require that police officers receive annual training in de-escalation and the use of lethal force. Jones said it was important to make that law, and not leave it to the police department.

“Even if funding is tight, this training that’s required by law will move forward because we’ve codified that as well as everything else into law,” Jones said.



Charm City Kings is a coming-of-age story set in Baltimore's dirt bike culture. It's based on the 2013 documentary, 12 O'Clock Boys. William Gray/HBO Max

‘Charm City Kings’ Is An Exhilarating Tale Of Bikes, Boyhood And Baltimore
by Lulu Garcia-Navarro
Published October 4 in NPR

Excerpt: In Baltimore, summer Sundays are the time to ride — on warm evenings, dirt bikes and four wheelers roar through the city’s streets with young riders popping wheelies and pulling gravity defying tricks.

Filmmaker Angel Manuel Soto says Baltimore’s bike culture is unlike any other: “It’s one of the most exhilarating and emotional spectacles of talent that I have ever seen, streetwise …” he says. “They were literally like dancing on top of their bikes while popping a wheelie. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Soto is the director of Charm City Kings, a new coming-of-age film based on a 2013 documentary called 12 O’Clock Boys. It stars Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Mouse, a 14-year-old kid trying to figure out who he wants to be; he loves animals, he loves bikes, and he’s grieving the loss of his late older brother.



The Columbus Obelisk monument in Herring Run Park.

Baltimore City Council Passes Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Hotel Labor Bills
by Emily Sullivan
Published October 6 in WYPR

Excerpt: The Baltimore City Council held a busy virtual meeting Monday night. They passed two prominent bills that re-examine the legacy of Christopher Columbus, plus two bills to boost protections for the city’s hospitality labor force. They also introduced two new bills to create an evictions assistance program for city renters and officially suspend water shutoffs. WYPR’s Emily Sullivan and Nathan Sterner talk through each piece of legislation. 




Header image: photo credit Edwin Remsberg, Maryland Traditions, VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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