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The News: Spotlight on the Red Line, Sex Workers Speak Out (over Mosby Press Conference), M&T Stadium Vaccine Site

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: Hogan sees Red (Line), Comcast offers a concession, Comptroller’s office due for an overhaul, and more reporting from Techncial.ly Baltimore, WYPR, Baltimore Brew, and other local and independent news sources.

 

 

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) listens to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) Wednesday as both testified virtually before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Photo by Joe Andrucyk/Executive Office of the Governor.

Hogan Catches Flak for Red Line Cancellation at U.S. Senate Hearing on Infrastructure
by Daniel C. Vock, Danielle E. Gaines, & Bruce DePuyt
Published February 24 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) testified virtually before the U.S. Senate Wednesday about President Biden’s push for a major new infrastructure package. He was part of an all-star panel of state and local leaders that included Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

But Hogan ran into surprising criticism during the hearing by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about his decision in 2015 to cancel the Red Line light rail project.

Hogan and Whitmer were invited as governors known for proposing ambitious, if not always successful, infrastructure improvement plans. The two will be among the governors slated to meet with Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday.

In most respects, the hearing was largely harmonious. Senators who could decide the fate of any Biden infrastructure package seemed open to his priorities, particularly the president’s emphasis on replacing vehicles that run on gas and diesel with ones that use electric power.

The hearing marked the first time the Senate panel formally discussed some of the ideas put forward by Biden for new infrastructure spending. The committee oversees transportation policy but not the question of how to pay for projects.

But when it came to the question of who should oversee new federal transportation money — states or city governments — there was far less agreement.

 

 

Dancers outside City Hall call on Mayor Brandon Scott to reopen strip clubs. (Louis Krauss)

Presser questioning Baltimore’s inspector general is postponed when it coincides with strippers’ protest
by Mark Reutter & Louis Krauss
Published February 24 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Eight African-American city leaders, who summoned the media to the front of City Hall to express concerns about Baltimore’s top corruption investigator, called off a news conference after being drowned out by strippers protesting the shutdown of adult entertainment venues.

The group, which included former Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said they “demand equity in investigations” by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming in the wake of her report on the travels, gifts and private businesses of State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.

Using the letterhead of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP, the group said it would “call for greater clarity and accountability from the Office of the Inspector General.”

In addition to Young (who as mayor had praised Cumming for her investigative findings), the group included Rev. Kevin Slayton, publicist Robyn Murphy, Baltimore NACCP President Kobi Little, attorneys Tiffani Collins, J. Wyndal Gordon and James Rhodes, and Nicole Hanson-Mundell, executive director of Out for Justice.

The event, however, was canceled within minutes of its scheduled start after about 50 dancers and other club employees staged a loud protest of Covid-19 restrictions that mandate the continued closure of adult entertainment venues.

See also:

Cumming says she won’t revise her Mosby report despite demands by the state’s attorney to do so
by Fern Shen
Published February 22 in Baltimore Brew

 

 

Photo by Flickr user Titanas, used under a Creative Commons license

Comcast is delaying plans to enforce internet data caps until 2022
by Donte Kirby
Published February 24 in Technical.ly Baltimore

Excerpt: Comcast has delayed the rollout of its data caps in the northeast U.S. until sometime in 2022, an announcement that many advocates for digital equity count as a win of a battle, and not the war.

Last year, Comcast announced that it would cap internet data usage at 1.2 Terabytes of data a month for residents in the northeast United States, and charge an extra $10 per 50GB for overages, up to $100. Earlier this year, the company delayed the originally-planned March 2021 rollout until July. Now, an announcement states it is giving customers “more time to become familiar with the new plan.”

Coming amid the pandemic, advocates from the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition and Zeke Cohen, District 1 representative on Baltimore’s city council, felt the move to introduce data caps was akin to price gouging and let Comcast and the public know about it.

“These changes are the product of hard work by customers, students, and grassroots organizations who have long argued that Comcast practices digital redlining, i.e. the systemic exclusion of people of color from technology,” said Adam Echelman, executive director of Libraries Without Borders and a member of the coalition.

 

 

As Baltimore City eases some coronavirus restrictions Monday, Mayor Brandon Scott said it is not an opportunity for recklnessness and urged residents to continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines. Image via Facebook Live.

M&T Bank Stadium opens vaccine registration, Baltimore officials urge vigilance amid eased restrictions
by Marcus Dieterle
Published February 22 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Eligible Marylanders can now schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment at M&T Bank Stadium, which will open as a mass vaccination site on Thursday.

But appointment slots and supply of vaccine remains limited, even as the state looks to expand locations and make the process more convenient. Many health officials say it will be months before vaccine supply is able to meet demand.

“The opening of our next state-run mass vaccination site is another milestone toward ending this pandemic,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “I want to thank all of our partners who have worked to convert M&T Bank Stadium into a mass vaccination site. As supply increases, this site will serve thousands of Marylanders each day.”

Maryland officials on Monday opened a limited number of appointment slots starting Thursday, and will open more on a rolling basis. The Baltimore Sun reported that demand for the slots overwhelmed the registration web site, causing it to shut down.

Between 250 to 500 vaccination appointments will be available at M&T Bank Stadium during the first several days of the “soft launch phase” of the site. Maryland officials plan to provide up to 2,000 vaccinations per day in early March.

 

 

Comptroller Bill Henry. CREDIT WILL KIRK/COURTESY OF COMPTROLLER’S OFFICE

Henry Introduces Bills To Modernize City Comptroller’s Office
by Emily Sullivan
Published February 23 in WYPR

Excerpt: A package of bills aimed to modernize the office of the Baltimore City Comptroller, including one that would require real estate records to be maintained on an online public database instead of a “well-bound leather book,” were introduced to the City Council Monday night on behalf of Comptroller Bill Henry.

“These bills are just the start of a sizable code reform effort I’ll be pursuing over the next few months,” Henry said. “Legislative reform is essential for modernization.”

The Democrat, who unseated incumbent Comptroller Joan Pratt in last year’s primary, campaigned as an agent of change poised to bring transparency to the comptroller’s office, which Pratt held for over 25 years.

 

 

Baltimore may get control over its police department for the first time in 160 years. MATT POPOVICH / UNSPLASH

Will Baltimore Regain Local Control Of Its Police Department?
audio of Kojo Nnamdi Show
Published February 23 in WAMU

Excerpt: While Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, it’s the only jurisdiction in the state that doesn’t regulate its own police department. But with new bills in the Maryland legislature, that could soon change.

The Maryland General Assembly has a slew of bills focused on police reform this session. Two of them aim to reinstate Baltimore’s control of its police department. Under an omnibus bill from Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore City), the police force would return to the city’s control by October 2021. Similar legislation from Del. Melissa R. Wells (D-Baltimore City) and Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) would pass control of the department back to Baltimore by 2025.

We discuss how Baltimore first lost control of its police department, and what local control would look like.

 

 

Images courtesy of James W. Voshell

Baltimore Painter Documented ’70s and ’80s in Photorealism
by Ron Cassie
Published February 18 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: After five years teaching art in Baltimore County Public Schools, Jim Voshell ditched the steady paycheck to paint full time, moving in 1971 into a former flophouse squeezed between the old Fish Market and police stables, near the still “thriving” red-light district known as The Block.

“A 90-foot room with 11-foot ceilings, $40 a month, and I fixed the plumbing and kitchen so I could live there,” the now 77-year-old Voshell says, smiling. “It was the perfect place for a working artist.”

“If you opened the windows on one side, the smell of fish hit you,” he recalls. “If you opened the windows on the other side, the stench of horse manure wafted in.”

The bearded, burly, photorealistic painter from the Eastern Shore, who graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art, quickly emerged as a leading documentarian of the changing city. He painted street corners, sidewalks, and bus stops as he found them: full of arabbers, balloon vendors, strippers, alcoholics, fortune tellers, cops, trash, and, at least once, a dead rodent.

 

 

Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) leaves the State House on Jan. 22. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Carter Says Amended Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights Bill ‘Guts the Concept of a Repeal’
by Hannah Gaskill
Published February 20 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted Friday night to pass a repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights out of the committee.

“It should be retitled ‘The Reinstatement of the LEOBR,’” Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) told Maryland Matters in a text message after the voting session.

Carter, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill had been amended to restore “all of the things that are unnecessary in the bill, which completely guts the concept of a repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.”

Following a contentious debate Thursday, Carter went cautiously into the voting session Friday, acknowledging that forthcoming amendments likely sought to undo her bill.

“Here we go again! 4th or 5th voting session on sb627 #LEOBRRepeal ― all my amendments have been adopted and I fear many now being offered seek to restore the current LEOBR,” she tweeted at the start of the evening voting session.

 

 

For decades mere children kept Black Baltimore abreast of pressing issues facing the race, current events, and pop culture. Source: https://laurawmurphy.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/my-dad-the-afro-paperboy/

How Baltimore’s Black youth furthered the cause of Black press
by Alexis Taylor
Published February 20 in The AFRO

Excerpt: Long before 24-hour news coverage, Facebook feeds, and Tik Tok videos, newspapers kept the masses informed through an intricate network that criss-crossed the nation.

Though the information was crucial- fairness in print was not- leading a mighty league of publishers, reporters, and commentators to call for equal rights, launch the Great Migration, and humanize a race of newly-freed people.

The barrels of ink used to print Black-owned publications undoubtedly improved the plight of African Americans, but the Black press couldn’t have wielded the power they cultivated without the linchpin of their operation: the paperboy.

 

 

John Waters shows Divine’s birth certificate, which he had to purchase on eBay.

:: BONUS ::

John Waters and Ricki Lake hold a virtual reunion on TV to mark Hairspray’s anniversary
by Ed Gunts
Published February 24 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Filmmaker John Waters has never been in a Jacuzzi. He believes putting thin actors in fat suits is akin to putting white actors in blackface. He has a copy of Divine’s birth certificate – but he had to buy it on eBay.

Those are a few of the facts viewers learned last night when Waters and actress Ricki Lake held a virtual reunion with talk show host Andy Cohen on Bravo.

The reunion on Cohen’s show, Watch What Happens Live, was to mark the 23rd anniversary of the premiere of the original version of Waters’ film, Hairspray.

The movie debuted at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore on February 16, 1988, and was released nationwide on February 26. Lake starred as Tracy Turnblad, a heavyset teenager who becomes a heroine when she brings racial integration to a local TV dance show.

For half an hour, Lake and Waters answered questions from Cohen and fans and let viewers know what they’ve been up to lately.

 

 

Header image: “The Checker Players” wall mural, 1976, 28 x 46 ft., acrylic on masonry, top: James Voshell's assistant Pontella Mason on the scaffolding.

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