Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Regional Media 11/12

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This week’s news includes: Baltimore City Schools slow their roll, COVID continues to climb, John Waters’ water closets at the BMA, and more reporting from Baltimore Brew, The Real News Network, The AFRO, and others.



An empty classroom. CREDIT AJALFARO/FLICKR

As COVID Rates Climb, Baltimore City Schools Scale Back Reopening Plans
by Emily Sullivan
Published November 10 in WYPR

Excerpt: Baltimore City Public Schools will scale back a planned partial reopening from 44 to 27 schools and open on-site testing at schools as local COVID-19 cases spike, CEO Sonja Santelises announced Tuesday evening.

“I had epidemiologists telling me back in April, beware of the fall/winter surge. And it is happening,” Santelises said. “It’s also why we’ve started with small groups, because we wanted to make sure that we could move through this.”

The announcement couples a slew of alarming pandemic trends, including the statewide positivity rate surpassing the 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organization, with Santelises’ emphasis on classroom learning for the system’s most vulnerable students.



Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) at a Nov. 5 press conference regarding COVID-19 cases in the state of Maryland. Photo by the Executive Office of the Governor.

As COVID Cases Rise Into ‘Danger Zone,’ Hogan Tightens Restrictions
by Danielle E. Gaines
Published November 10 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: As the number of Marylanders with COVID-19 continues to rise and the state crossed warning thresholds set by the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) reduced dine-in capacity for bars and restaurants, issued new guidance to avoid out-of-state travel, encouraged telework and asserted that a coronavirus surge could be in Maryland’s future.

Maryland has had seven straight days with more than 1,000 new cases. The state has crossed over into a “danger zone,” Hogan said.

“Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue, and they began letting their guard down. Too many Marylanders are traveling out of state to unsafe locations, hosting large gatherings, crowding in bars, attending house parties, and refusing to wear masks. Too many businesses are failing to comply with the state regulations and orders. And counties with the primary responsibility for ensuring compliance of the law and enforcing public health regulations are in some cases failing to do so,” Hogan said during a State House news conference Tuesday evening. “Sadly, as a result, the virus has returned to our state in a big way.”

See also:

Hogan cautions Marylanders while COVID-19 surges again
by Kaitlyn Francis
Published November 11 in Captial News Service



image: Jill Fannon

John Waters, Droll Bard of Baltimore, Promises Art to Hometown Museum
by Ted Loos
Published November 11 in The New York Times

Excerpt: The 1998 John Waters movie “Pecker,” about a young photographer on the rise, lovingly skewers the art world, with one of the filmmaker’s longtime muses, Patricia Hearst, playing a pretentious photography collector.

This week, it is Mr. Waters who is taking on the patron role in real life, announcing the bequest of 372 works by 125 artists, the bulk of his personal collection. The trove will go to the Baltimore Museum of Art, his hometown institution, after his death, although the works may be exhibited in 2022.

The collection, stocked with photographs and works on paper, includes pieces by Thomas Demand, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Christian Marclay, Catherine Opie, Gary Simmons, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and Christopher Wool.

It’s a classy lineup, not always what you expect from Mr. Waters, 74, given his carefully developed reputation as the Pope of Trash, a nickname earned most vividly for the scene in his 1972 cult classic “Pink Flamingos,” in which the performer known as Divine eats dog feces.

On a Zoom call the other day, Mr. Waters savored the ironies in his ebullient, amused, fast-talking way: “I’ve always said you have to know good taste to have good bad taste.”

See also:

John Waters bequeaths his art collection to Baltimore Museum of Art, whose bathrooms will be named in his honor
by Mary Carole McCauley
Published November 11 in Baltimore Sun

Photo Credits: Jill Fannon (header and left) originally from Anarchy at 72: John Waters Indecent Exposure at the BMA


A Baltimore garbage truck rolls through a very clean and green neighborhood in this DPW photo

Facing a garbage pileup, Young administration ups the pay of sanitation workers
by Ian Round and Mark Reutter
Published November 9 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Some of Baltimore’s lowest-paid public workers are getting a raise to keep them on the job collecting the city’s trash.

The Department of Public Works is creating 30 new full-time positions for temporary garbage workers, entitling them to a pay increase from $11 to more than $16 an hour, plus healthcare benefits.

Meanwhile, the starting salary for DPW garbage truck drivers will be raised from $38,805 to $42,607 a year.

In addition, all sanitation workers and drivers at DPW will receive a $500 bonus. The one-time payment will cover about 285 employees.

The changes are aimed at a common goal – to retain workers who are currently struggling to keep garbage off the streets and out of the alleys.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Taurus Barksdale, an Eastside community leader who knows many DPW workers and coordinates neighborhood cleanups. “Guys are now going to start showing up for work.”



Photo by Flickr user Marc Nozell, used under a Creative Commons license

The election is over. What will a Biden win mean for Maryland’s economy?
by Stephen Babcock
Published November 9 in Baltimore

Excerpt: After a week of counting, the election results are in: Joe Biden is the projected winner of the presidential race, meaning Donald Trump is expected to exit the White House after one term once the Electoral College votes.

When it comes to the economy, this might mark an endpoint for the presidential election, but the twin realities of the pandemic and the recession remain. So while we may be able to leave vote tallies and red-and-blue maps behind, there are plenty of other 2020 metrics set to come back into view.

Even as Friday’s jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor indicated unemployment fell slightly to 6.9% in October, COVID-19 cases are on the rise. This is playing out locally, too. Maryland reported its highest single-day total of new cases since May, with an increase of more than 1,500 infections, per WJZ. Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate rose to 7.2% in September, the latest data states.

It all points toward a truism we heard last month, that COVID trumps all when it comes to economic questions.



The empty Ottobar stage. —Photography by Christopher Myers

The Day The Music Died
by Lydia Woolever
Published November 11 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Last spring, a collective sigh of relief spread throughout the Baltimore music community when it was announced that the Ottobar, the beloved, rough-and-tumble rock club in Remington and a local institution for the past two decades, would be purchased by its longtime bar manager, Tecla Tesnau.

Just six months earlier, it went up for sale, leaving fans of all ages wondering what it would mean for the city’s cultural landscape if that small black room and dimly lit dance floor was no longer packed with sweaty bodies. Or worse, if the graffitied walls were painted over to become just another slick venue without the same gritty heart and soul.

Behind the bar since its inception downtown on Davis Street, Tesnau had seen the Ottobar through many changes over the past 23 years, from the digitization of the music industry to the gentrification of Baltimore—none of which would prepare her, of course, for what would arrive six months after she took over, when the novel coronavirus swept around the world and left a sea of shuttered concert halls in its wake.

“After I got handed the keys, we were running full tilt, 100 miles per hour, setting records left and right, the lineup was absolutely stellar—even my accountant at one point was like, ‘Good work, kid,’ which is high praise from someone who is usually all about the books,” says Tesnau on a Tuesday afternoon in late September. “Then, boom, COVID landed, and we hit an absolute cinderblock wall. We got knocked on our ass.”



Sean Yoes

Donald Trump is out of time
by Sean Yoes
Published November 5 in The AFRO

Excerpt: Where I’m from in West Baltimore, time isn’t usually on our side and the same is true for most Black Americans regardless of where they are from.

The “luxury” of living week to week, month to month or even year to year is typically for rich people. I would invert the age-old adage of “time is money.” I would argue that money is time. The more money you have usually means a greater ability to live life gazing at the more distant horizons of the calendar.

But, like in so many other instances, this rule doesn’t apply to Donald John Trump.

Trump is the only rich man that I know of that regularly lives hour to hour, often minute to minute and sometimes even second to second. For the last four years we’ve watched this most mercurial American president ricochet to and fro, declaring fiat via Twitter and sometimes shifting his position in mid-sentence. But, most assuredly Trump is now out of time.



Hope and havoc in Baltimore politics
by Lisa Snowden-McCray
Published November 5 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: From progressive insurgents and petty tyrants to Kim Klacik, TRNN Baltimore Editor and Managing Editor Lisa Snowden-McCray speaks with Maryland State Senator Jill Carter and local musician DDm about the wild world of Baltimore politics.




Map: Sean McGoey Source: Maryland State Board of Elections Created with Datawrapper

Maryland’s political battle lines continue to harden in 2020
by Sean McGoey and Amina Lampkin
Published November 6 in Capital News Service

Excerpt: Looking at the unofficial results of the 2020 presidential election in Maryland, one thing is clear: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

As of Thursday morning, 23 of 24 jurisdictions had opted for the same party that they chose in the 2016 election.

Furthermore, 17 of 24 jurisdictions have voted for the same party in at least the last six elections, from George W. Bush’s contentious 2000 victory over Al Gore through 2020. The one exception in 2020: Frederick County, where former vice president Joe Biden holds an advantage of 4.5 percentage points after Donald Trump won the county by a 2.5-point margin in 2016.



Photo by Daniel Reche from Pexels

Baltimore Region May See New Comprehensive Mental Health Crisis Care
by Hannah Gaskill
Published November 10 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: A coalition of care providers in central Maryland is working to create an emergency call center that would divert residents in mental health crises from emergency rooms and meet them with specialized care teams, and not law enforcement.

Behavioral Health System Baltimore, the Horizon Foundation and other providers have proposed a model for the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission’s  Regional Partnership Catalyst Grant Program that would create one centralized crisis care system across Baltimore City and Howard, Carroll and Baltimore counties.

Mental health struggles are increasingly common.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the U.S. wrestled with their mental health in 2018.



New York Post


Biden’s Mandate for Moderation
by Larry Hogan
Published November 7 in The Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: I want to congratulate President-elect Biden on his victory. Everyone, regardless of political affiliation, should want him to succeed because we need our country to succeed.

Precisely because I want him and America to succeed, I’d like to offer Mr. Biden some unsolicited advice. If he is going to heal and unify the nation, he must start by recognizing that this goal is in conflict with the Democratic Party’s lurch leftward. Pushing a far-left agenda would bitterly divide the country. It may be what the loudest voices in Mr. Biden’s party are demanding, but he wasn’t elected to divide and disrupt. He won the election because America is fed up with bitter partisanship, divisiveness and dysfunction.

Look at the results down the ballot. Despite suffering the first loss for an incumbent president since 1992, Republicans added a governorship in Montana, appear to have held the Senate majority, and even gained seats in the House. Americans wouldn’t vote for divided government if they wanted radical change.

See also:

Some of Baltimore Twitter’s response to Hogan’s op-ed


Header image: John Waters stands before one of his pieces, "Movie Star Jesus" (1996) at his exhibition, "Indecent Exposure," at the BMA (Baltimore Museum of Art

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