The News: COVID Restrictions Relaxed, Diverting Behavioral Health Calls from Police, Dems’ “Hogan Accountability Project”

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: COVID rules relax, ice cream for the people/by the people, Hogan on the hot seat, and more reporting from The Real News Network, WYPR, Baltimore Fishbowl, and other local and independent news sources.



Baltimore set to ease coronavirus restrictions as vaccination rate grows, but vaccine disparity prevails
by Marcus Dieterle
Published May 12 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Baltimore is set to lift pandemic-related capacity restrictions at most businesses — including restaurants and retail stores — at 6 a.m. on Monday May 17, the mayor has announced.

However, convention and banquet halls; movie theaters; indoor venues that host live performances and sporting events; and outdoor venues will still be operating at 50 percent capacity, city officials said.

“While we are easing some restrictions, we must still remain vigilant and guided by the public health recommendations,” Mayor Brandon Scott said. “Particularly with summer approaching, we must continue to take COVID-19 very seriously.”



Hogan Lifts Most Remaining COVID-19 Restrictions, Effective Saturday
by Bruce DePuyt
Published May 12 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: In the latest sign that the state is emerging from a pandemic that has upended everyday life for more than a year, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) on Wednesday eased most of the remaining restrictions on public gatherings and commerce.

As a result, restaurants can return to 100% capacity both indoors and outdoors, effective on Saturday.

State restrictions on indoor entertainment venues, conventions and other businesses are also being lifted. And restrictions on outdoor professional sports, entertainment and arts venues are also being pulled.

“Effectively, as of Saturday, every business in Maryland will be able to open at 100%, with no restrictions,” Hogan told reporters outside Government House.

As of Wednesday, two-thirds of the state’s adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 2.4 million Marylanders have been fully vaccinated.



City To Launch Pilot Program To Divert Behavioral Health 911 Calls Away From Police
by Emily Sullivan
Published May 7 in WYPR

Excerpt: Baltimore City will launch a pilot program to divert some 911 calls to social workers and mental health clinicians and away from police. Beginning in June, emergency line operators will connect those experiencing suicidal ideation to trained behavioral health specialists.

Mayor Brandon Scott said Friday the pilot is not about defunding the Baltimore Police Department, but connecting 911 callers to the most appropriate resources for their crises and acknowledging that BPD officers are not substance abuse, mental health or trauma counselors. City 911 services receive more than 13,000 calls related to behavioral health each year.

“Imagine how much harder your job would be if you receive over 1,000 calls a month to attend to matters that you are not equipped to handle, calls to focus on fixing situations that you are not trained to fix,” the Democrat said at a news conference.



Taharka Bros: Ice cream with a side of worker ownership
by Jaisal Noor
Published May 6 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: Taharka Brothers is about more than just ice cream. They are a worker-run business that provides living-wage jobs, leadership, and wealth-building opportunities to young people of color in a city that offers few pathways to success. So when the pandemic hit, they were ready to pivot their business model, and stayed running at a time when so many others were forced to close permanently. Worker-owner Detric McCoy told TRNN’s Jaisal Noor: “Baltimore, Maryland, saved Taharka Brothers tenfold. And I love that the city did that for us. And you know, I believe they did that because of what we do here.”



Md. Democrats Seek to Tie Hogan to “Corruption,” Inflated Claims of Bipartisanship
by Bruce DePuyt
Published May 11 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: The Maryland Democratic Party has hired a veteran political strategist to spotlight what it called rampant instances of self-dealing and political exaggeration by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).

Zach Hudson, who most recently served as communications director for Senate campaigns at American Bridge 21st Century, a Super PAC that supports Democratic candidates, will lead the “Hogan Accountability Project.”

He previously worked as director of communications for now-Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

The goal of the project, Hudson said, will be “to hold [Hogan] accountable and tell the truth” — and to expose the “contrast” between the governor’s claims about being a “bipartisan dealmaker” and his record.

It comes amid growing speculation that the governor will run for president in 2024.



Employee in Marilyn Mosby’s office is under investigation
by Mark Reutter
Published May 11 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: A search warrant was executed today in the offices of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney, leading to speculation that the warrant involved the federal criminal investigation of SA Marilyn Mosby and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby.

Mosby’s spokesperson, Zy Richardson, quickly issued a written denial, saying that Mosby herself had just learned of the investigation “related to an employee” that was opened by Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III.

“We are fully cooperating with the Office of the State Prosecutor,” Richardson said in the press release. “This is an open and pending investigation and we cannot comment any further.”

The employee in question, three sources tell The Brew, is Adam L. Chaudry, a homicide prosecutor in Mosby’s office. He is allegedly being investigated for misusing grand jury subpoenas to gather information on an ex-partner, the sources say.



Anatomy of a Crime Wave
by Stephen J.K. Walters
Published May 5 in City Journal

Excerpt: A decade ago, Baltimoreans became lab rats in a fateful experiment: their elected officials decided to treat the city’s long-running crime problem with many fewer cops. In effect, Baltimore began to defund its police and engage in de-policing long before those terms gained popular currency.

This experiment has been an abject failure. Since 2011, nearly 3,000 Baltimoreans have been murdered—one of every 200 city residents over that period. The annual homicide rate has climbed from 31 per 100,000 residents to 56—ten times the national rate. And 93 percent of the homicide victims of known race over this period were black.

Remarkably, Baltimore is reinforcing its de-policing strategy. State’s Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby no longer intends to prosecute various “low-level” crimes. Newly elected mayor Brandon Scott promises a five-year plan to cut the police budget. Both justify their policies by asserting that the bloodbath on city streets proves that policing itself “hasn’t worked”; they sell their acceleration of de-policing as a “fresh approach” and “re-imagining” of law enforcement.

See also:

Baltimore’s spending board approves proposed budget with police funding hike. Next, City Council gets a crack at it.
by Emily Opilo
Published May 12 in the Baltimore Sun

The Emerging Movement for Police and Prison Abolition
by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Published May 7 in the New Yorker



Registration for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in March. South Africa has one of the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates of any country.Credit...Joao Silva/The New York Times

Baltimore Vaccine Plant’s Troubles Ripple Across 3 Continents
by Chris Hamby, Sharon LaFraniere and Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Published May 6 in The New York Times

Excerpt: Quality-control problems at a Baltimore plant manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines have led health officials on three continents to pause the distribution of millions of Johnson & Johnson doses, as the troubles of a politically connected U.S. contractor ripple across the world.

Doses made at the plant owned by Emergent BioSolutions have not been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States, and the Biden administration has repeatedly assured Americans that none of the Johnson & Johnson shots administered domestically were made there.

But millions of doses have been shipped abroad, including to Canada, the European Union and South Africa. Regulators in various countries are now working to ensure that those doses are safe after the disclosure in March that workers at the Baltimore plant accidentally contaminated a batch of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine with the harmless virus used to manufacture AstraZeneca’s. Both vaccines were produced at the same site. The mistake forced Emergent to throw out up to 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses after tests showed that the batch failed to meet purity requirements.



In a hedge fund’s bid for Tribune’s newspapers, a hidden risk lurks in the fine print
by Jonathan O’Connell and Sarah Ellison
Published May 6 in The Washington Post

Excerpt: In its bid to acquire Tribune Publishing, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital vowed to provide $375 million in cash to the owner of the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and other titles — a theoretically welcome influx to an investment-starved newspaper chain.

But industry and financial experts have looked at the fine print and see something starkly different: Alden, they say, has already signaled it plans to saddle Tribune with debt that could further hollow out the company, and it may not have $375 million available to begin with.

Alden has made the certainty of its finances a central part of its push to acquire Tribune, saying in a December letter that it “can fully finance the Transaction with cash on hand” and “we will have no financing conditions and will not require third party debt or equity to finance the Transaction.”



Maryland NAACP leader blasts Gov. Larry Hogan’s posthumous pardons of lynching victims as ‘political posturing’
by Chandelis Duster
Published May 11 in CNN

Excerpt: The head of Maryland’s NAACP on Sunday lambasted Gov. Larry Hogan’s posthumous pardon of lynching victims as “political posturing,” criticizing the Republican governor for issuing a blanket pardon of dozens of the state’s Black victims even though many were never convicted of any crimes, but merely charged or accused of wrongdoing before they were killed.

The scathing criticism comes after Hogan on Saturday issued the blanket pardons for Howard Cooper, a 15-year-old Black child who was hanged from a sycamore tree after he was convicted of raping and assaulting a White woman, and 33 other victims of racial lynching in Maryland between 1854 and 1933.

According to a historical marker erected during Saturday’s news conference, Cooper faced an all-White jury, which reached a guilty verdict in under a minute despite the fact the victim did not testify she was raped. Cooper was killed before his attorneys had an opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The criticism also comes amid a racial reckoning stemming from recent deaths of Americans of color at the hands of police, reigniting a discussion around the country’s racist past that included lynching, violent and horrific murders of Black people at the hands of White people.



Header image: Dunkin' Donut's Black Eyed Susan donut, special for the Preakness (Photo Courtesy of Guy Rudiger)

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