The News: Repeal of LEOBR and More Police Reform, Governor’s Race Update, Renter Freedom or Predation?

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: The run-up to the run for Governor, local yarn company balls so hard, shelter in the time of COVID, and more reporting from Baltimore Sun, The Real News Network, Baltimore, and other local and independent news sources.



Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz at a State House press conference on economic recovery efforts. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Schulz Wastes No Time After Rutherford Bows Out; Glassman Expected to Run for Comptroller
by Bruce DePuyt and Josh Kurtz
Published April 14 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Hours after the news hit that Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R) will not run for governor in 2022, state Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz announced her candidacy with an online video and a new website.

“We’ve come a long way over the course of the past few years, but there is still so much work we have left to do,” Schulz said in her announcement video. “I’m running for governor so we can continue to build upon all of our past successes and fulfill the great promise and potential of our state.”

Analysts expect the Frederick County resident and former state delegate to play up her role in the cabinet of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), whose job approval numbers remain at historic highs.

Democrats immediately sought to tie Schulz to former President Trump, who is wildly unpopular among voters here.

In what appeared to be a coordinated move, Schulz waited until Wednesday to launch her candidacy in deference to Rutherford, who announced in a Maryland Matters interview that he will not seek the post that Hogan is vacating due to term limits.

See also:

Rutherford Won’t Run for Governor in 2022
by Bruce DePuyt
Published April 14 in Maryland Matters



Red Shed Village Provides Restorative, Transformative Shelter to Those in Need
by Cody Boteler
Published April 14 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Pamela used to live on a church portico, exposed to the elements and passersby. But since late January, her lack of housing is no longer an emergency concern. She now has four walls, a roof over her head, and a cat named Patience at Red Shed Village on the 2000 block of St. Paul Street in Charles Village.

“This village really means something to me,” said Pamela, whose last name is being withheld for privacy, during a recent winter gathering shared on social media. “It means a place to live, a place to call home.”

Pamela is one of four residents of Red Shed Village, which is located on a long-held community garden. Last April, four tents were added as a way for unhoused and housing-insecure individuals to shelter during the COVID-19 crisis, which has exacerbated the issue nationwide.

In late January, after several weekends and with the help of some 150 volunteers, those tents were replaced with four eight-by-eight-foot, tiny-home-like structures, insulated and fireproofed, and painted green with tin roofs and locking doors and windows.



Bmore Community Food director J.C. Faulk supervises Saturday’s food distribution. (Timothy Dashiell)

Salvaging food and saving lives
by Timothy Dashiell
Published April 12 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: The line of cars curved around the block as people waited for a Baltimore warehouse to open up and start distributing free meat, canned food, fresh produce, drinks, toiletries, diapers and more.

While picking up these items for themselves or to deliver to needy neighbors, many of the participants became emotional about what the assistance meant to them.

“If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t eat for days,” one woman said, after receiving boxes of food on Saturday.

“This is a blessing sent from heaven,” another yelled, smiling from ear to ear, as masked-up volunteers loaded her van with fresh produce and meat.

“Now I don’t have to choose between food for me and my kids or lights,” added a man who fought back tears.



Neighborhood Fiber Co. owner Karida Collins shows off the hand-dyed yarn, Observatory Circle, she created. The yarn is named in honor of Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo by Beth Weaver (Beth Weaver/Beth Weaver)

Baltimore maker of yarn purchased by Vice President Kamala Harris has stitched together a success story
by Billy Jean Louis
Published April 14 in the Baltimore Sun

Excerpt: When Karida Collins first launched Neighborhood Fiber Co., a Baltimore-based hand-dyed yarn company, she didn’t expect the success she’s having now.

Collins said she had no idea the company, based in the Bromo Arts District, was going to succeed because she didn’t plan well and made a lot of mistakes, including taking too many orders she couldn’t fill. But 15 years later, she’s able to provide health insurance and paid sick leave to her full-time workers as well as pay herself.

And, recently, she said, she’s been excited about a recent purchase made via one of her clients.

In March, during a visit at Fibre Space in Alexandria, Vice President Kamala Harris purchased a hand-dyed yarn that’s the color of the Observatory Circle — the residence of the vice president ― made by Neighborhood Fiber to celebrate Harris, Collins said.



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

‘We’re beginning a fundamental reset’: Urbanist Richard Florida on the state of downtown Baltimore
by Donte Kirby
Published April 14 in Baltimore

Excerpt: As cities prepare for a future reshaped by the pandemic, it’s a moment to rethink downtown.

Over 150 entrepreneurs, politicians and stakeholders from the Baltimore area gathered virtually Tuesday to discuss the “State of Downtown Baltimore” at an event featuring a keynote presentation by Richard Florida.

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore invited Florida, the noted urbanist scholar who has long tracked the creative class, to present on “building a better post-pandemic Baltimore.” He offered a looked a the history of past pandemics and emerging trends to discuss ways to change Baltimore’s downtown area for the better.

His chief thought: An urban exodus isn’t on the horizon, but rather a change in what it means to work and live in the city.

“We have a once-in-a-century opportunity to build our communities and cities back better,” said Florida. “We’re beginning a fundamental reset in the way, work, live, shop and how we go about our everyday lives.”

See also:

Downtown Baltimore shed jobs but is poised for recovery, analysis says
by Ed Gunts
Published April 13 in Baltimore Fishbowl



Battleground Baltimore: Freedom
by Lisa Snowden-McCray and Jaisal Noor
Published April 9 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: In this week’s roundup of Baltimore news: A controversial security deposit bill, Amazon donates what Bezos makes in four seconds to a local community garden, and a Prince George’s County mayor calls out the governor.

Housing advocates are calling on Mayor Brandon Scott to veto a bill passed by the City Council this week that they say will hurt renters. According to language in the Security Deposit Alternatives bill, Bill 21-0022, the legislation is “for the purpose of requiring certain lease provisions to create alternatives besides the traditional security deposit for residential leases.” The legislation requires that, in the event that a landlord assesses a security deposit more than 60% of monthly rent, the landlord must include in the lease an offer to purchase rental security deposit insurance or pay the deposit over a series of monthly installment payments.

All members of the council voted in favor of the bill, with the exception of Zeke Cohen and Ryan Dorsey. Councilperson Kristerfer Burnett abstained from voting.

“Sad to say everyone on the City Council voted to allow predatory, fake insurance products in Baltimore rentals except for @Zeke_Cohen & @ElectRyanDorsey. Thank you both for standing with renters,” tweeted the group Bmore Renters United shortly after the bill was passed. Dorsey responded: “To be more precise, it wasn’t a vote to allow them. They are already allowed. It was a vote to promote their use, to promote exactly one venture capital firm that’s swooping in and co-opting the language of progressivism to weasel in and take advantage of vulnerable people.”



A “for rent” sign by Elvert Barnes licensed under Creative Commons.

Does Baltimore’s security deposit alternatives bill offer ‘freedom’ or carve away renter protections?
by Libby Solomon
Published April 14 in Greater Greater Washington

Excerpt: In early April, the Baltimore City Council passed a bill requiring some landlords to offer security deposit alternatives, and the bill has been sent to Mayor Brandon Scott’s desk for consideration. One aspect of the bill, allowing renters to pay their security deposit over installments rather than in a lump sum, is widely supported by advocates. But the other, requiring landlords to offer tenants the option to purchase “security deposit insurance,” is drawing scrutiny.

The problem: security deposit insurance is neither a security deposit, nor is it insurance — and renter advocates say it opens the door for companies to prey on the city’s most vulnerable tenants.

“It’s predatory, and it’s misleading,” said Carol Ott, Tenant Advocacy Director for the Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland.

Proponents of the bill say it offers renters “freedom.” But tenant advocates say Rhino, the primary company that pushed for the bill in Baltimore that offers security deposit “insurance,” has business practices that mislead tenants, saddle them with unexpected charges, and remove the protections ordinarily in place when a landlord withholds a security deposit.

“They’re not giving people a choice,” Ott said. “They’re forcing poor people into an option that they may or may not actually want, but out of desperation they may take it.”



Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday announces a new pilot program in the Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood in northeast Baltimore, where residents will be paid to clean up their community. Image via Facebook Live.

Baltimore pilot program will pay residents to clean neighborhoods, combat illegal dumping
by Marcus Dieterle
Published April 12 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Baltimore is launching a new program to pay neighborhood residents to clean trash and debris in their communities, Mayor Brandon Scott announced on Monday.

The pilot program is starting in the Coldstream Homestead Montebello (CHM) neighborhood in northeast Baltimore, but Scott said he hopes to replicate it in other neighborhoods.

Scott called CHM a community “near and dear to my heart,” the place where he “first cut my teeth as a community organizer.”

Through a partnership between the Baltimore City Department of Public Works and the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corporation, the city will pay three neighborhood residents $15 an hour to clean trash away from their community.

In addition to payment for their services, the three residents will also receive workforce development training. At the completion of the pilot program, those individuals will be trained for full-time employment with the public works department.



Flowers adorn Anton Black’s gravesite in the corner of a cemetery in Kent County, Md., on Jan. 28, 2019. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

Chauvin Defense Witness Faces Lawsuit of His Own Over Death of Black Teenager in Police Custody
by Samantha Hendrickson and J.D. Duggan
Published April 4 in The Intercept

Excerpt: Nearly two years before George Floyd was pinned under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Anton Black was pinned to the ground by police outside his home in Greensboro, Maryland.

On September 15, 2018, body camera footage captured the 19-year-old struggling under the weight of multiple officers, laboring to breathe and crying out for his mother.

Black’s mother watched her son die in front of her. He used his last breaths to shout “I love you.”

Dr. David Fowler, who was the chief medical examiner of Maryland for nearly two decades, classified Black’s death as an accident. Now, he is an expert witness for Chauvin’s defense and is expected to offer testimony as to how Floyd died last year.

The forensic pathologist, who resigned from Maryland’s medical examiner office in 2019, is one of several parties being sued by the Black family for wrongful death and civil rights violations. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in December, alleges that Fowler “covered up and obscured police responsibility for Anton Black’s death.”

See also:

Controversial Former Medical Examiner Appears as Witness in Chauvin Trial
by Hannah Gaskill
Published April 14 in Maryland Matters



The Maryland State House. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

The General Assembly Overrode Hogan’s Vetoes of Police Reform Bills. We Break Down the Votes
by Hannah Gaskill and Danielle E. Gaines
Published April 10 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: A package of sweeping police reform measures is now law in Maryland, after a series of veto override votes in the State House on Saturday.

The votes came after a flurry of activity on police reform as the 442nd session of the General Assembly nears its end on Monday.

After months of negotiation, the General Assembly presented a bicameral police reform package to Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) late Wednesday evening.

Hogan responded quickly to the reform package, vetoing three bills Friday night, and allowing two others bills to become law without his signature.

“These bills would undermine the goal that I believe we share of building transparent, accountable, and effective law enforcement institutions and instead further erode police morale, community relationships, and public confidence,” Hogan said in a veto letter. “They will result in great damage to police recruitment and retention, posing significant risks to public safety throughout our state.”

The General Assembly acted with haste to override the governor’s vetoes before the session ends Monday, with the House overriding the veto of a sweeping bill sponsored by Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore City) within two hours after Hogan’s veto message was delivered publicly.

See also:

Baltimore Mayor on Maryland’s new police reform legislation: “We are talking about reimagining public safety” (video)
by Ali Velshi
Published April 11 in MSNBC



Photo illustration by Maryland Matters.


Is the Legislature Becoming Too Much Like Congress?
by Josh Kurtz
Published April 11 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Three times this General Assembly session, the top Democrat in the Maryland Senate, President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), visited a Senate Republican Caucus meeting.

The gesture was highly appreciated — and senators from both parties say they cannot imagine a similar scene taking place 31 miles to the west, in the U.S. Capitol.

“We have a very good working relationship,” said Senate Minority Leader Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel).

“It’s such a contrast from what you see at the federal level,” Ferguson agreed.

And yet despite the good will, many lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of the legislature believe the State House is becoming an increasingly partisan place.




Baltimore is burning trash, so we’re starving the fire (video)
Published April 12 in The Guardian

Excerpt: ​Residents in South Baltimore are fighting to ‘starve’ their nearby Bresco incinerator due to health concerns over the amount of pollution it creates. Of the 72 remaining facilities in the US, the vast majority are located in predominantly low-income or minority communities, raising concerns about compounding pollutants in already overburdened neighbourhoods.



Header image: Karida Collins, Neighborhood Fiber Co.

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