The News: Security Deposit Alternatives Bill Vetoed, BPD Report “Encouraging,” Mosbys Make Headlines

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: A look at City Hall corruption, Scott vetoes Security Deposit Alternative Bill, Baltimore vaccine plant fails to deliver one dose, and more reporting from Baltimore Magazine, Baltimore Brew,, and other local and independent news sources.



Cleaning Up City Hall
by Ron Cassie
Published May 19 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: In 1991, the citizens of Baltimore elected 47-year-old Jacqueline McLean their new comptroller, the first woman ever to hold the city’s third most powerful position. After eight years on the City Council, McLean swept into office in high style, cruising to a resounding win for the open seat following the retirement of colorful, “champion of the little guy” Hyman Pressman, who had served seven terms and 28 years before announcing his retirement. The fashionable co-owner (with her husband) of an apparently successful travel agency, Four Seas & Sevens Winds, Inc., McLean presented as every bit the savvy businesswoman with a large house in Guilford, two vacation homes, and assets valued at more than $1.7 million. Political observers, including her fellow elected officials, felt certain she’d make a strong run for mayor someday. It had been a remarkable ascent. The sky was the limit.

“With Jackie’s smashing victory, it potentially sets her up for bigger and better things in the city,” state Sen. Nathan Irby said after McLean’s big win in the Democratic primary, adding, “. . . she knows how to play. That’s the key to politics.”

McLean had not risen from the east or westside Democratic clubs when she launched her political career in 1983, bypassing the establishment by spending gobs of her own cash on her campaign and TV ads. Her wealth had not only made her candidacy possible, but seemed its very basis. She trumpeted her business acumen and captured the public’s imagination with its symbols of success—beautiful homes, smartly tailored clothes, and stylish jewelry. When asked after her first political victory about the seemliness of using her own money, lots of it, to buy herself a seat on the City Council, she’d smiled sweetly, the Baltimore Sun reported, and said, “He who has the gold makes the rules.”



Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott vetoes security deposit alternative bill
by Hallie Miller and Emily Opilo
Published May 17 in Baltimore Sun

Excerpt: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott delivered a last-second veto Monday on a bill that supporters said would give renters more options when paying security deposits, but which housing advocacy groups said would create a system that preyed on tenants.

The veto, the Democratic mayor’s first since he took office in December out of more than a dozen passed bills, was announced just as City Council began its evening meeting.

Scott said in a written statement that he “could not ignore” the concerns expressed by activists, tenant advocates and other progressive groups.

Under the bill, landlords with 10 or more units who charge a security deposit of more than 60% of a month’s rent would have to offer prospective tenants one of two alternatives: pay the deposit in three monthly installments or purchase “rental security insurance.”

Several council members objected to the latter provision. They argued “insurance” is a misleading term for this type of security deposit alternative, which is typically offered via a surety bond.


After Scott’s veto, Mosby calls criticism of security deposit bill “modern-day redlining”
by Fern Shen
Published May 17 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott today vetoed the Security Deposit Alternatives bill, saying a provision in it “can hurt the very people it is intended to help.”

Scott’s action brought quick praise from the critics who have been imploring him to veto the measure, but condemnation from City Council President Nick Mosby, who denounced the veto as “modern-day redlining with an outsized impact by a vocal advocacy class.”

Alleging publicly what the bill’s sponsor, City Council Vice President Sharon Middleton has been saying privately, Mosby denounced critics of the bill as paternalistic and racially motivated.

“When we’re talking about working-class folks – predominantly Black – somehow a product becomes nefarious and predatory,” he said in a statement released tonight.

“This is what structural racism looks like in practice: Government’s role turns paternalistic when it comes to poor Black people.

“We must not abandon the path that is right for the majority in our city in favor of a few who believe we need to protect our residents from themselves.”

The charge drew fire from supporters of the veto who have noted that the coalition opposing the bill, organized by Baltimore Renters United, is diverse and includes longtime advocacy groups for low-income communities, consumers and the homeless.



Internal emails show Rhino’s role in security deposit legislation
by Fern Shen
Published May 16 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: One day after the Security Deposit Alternatives bill was introduced in the City Council, its sponsor, Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, received an email from an officer at the Greater Baltimore Committee. He was “reaching out to connect” her with his friend, Rhino lobbyist Jordan Stein.

“Jordan and I first met a number of years ago when I was working for Gov. O’Malley and he was working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” wrote Jeremy Rosendale, GBC’s director of member engagement and external affairs.

Rosendale forwarded to Middleton an email sent to him by Stein the same day – January 12 – explaining his company’s efforts to pass “Renter’s Choice” legislation in other cities. Stein (lobbying the Baltimore bill, though unregistered to do so) said he wanted to reach Middleton.

“It was exciting to see Baltimore Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton introduce a bill along the same lines as Atlanta’s,” Stein wrote to Rosendale.



Report: Baltimore police progressing on reforms; too early to determine success
by Marcus Dieterle
Published May 19 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The Baltimore Police Department is showing “encouraging” signs as it implements new policies and training required by an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, but compliance monitors say it is too soon to gauge success.

And staffing shortages are crimping efforts to build community policing and provide stronger management, according to the sixth semiannual report of the Baltimore Consent Decree Monitoring Team.

Four years after a judge approved a consent decree, the police department and city government begin the “hard part”: proving that their changes to policies, training and departmental operations work, authors of the 96-page report wrote.



Not One Usable Vaccine So Far Out of Baltimore Plant With Multi-Million-Dollar Federal Contract
by Laura Olson
Published May 19 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Angry U.S. House Democrats on Wednesday had one key question as they grilled executives of a Maryland biotech manufacturer forced to dump 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine: Has there been one usable vaccine dose produced as a result of the $271 million paid to date by the U.S. government?

The answer is no, Emergent BioSolutions chief executive officer Robert Kramer acknowledged when pressed during a hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

“None of the vaccine that we’ve manufactured has been made available to the U.S.,” Kramer said. Quality control errors have plagued the rollout.

See also:

A U.S. company that ruined vaccine doses gave its top executives hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses.
by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Sharon LaFraniere
Published May 19 in The New York Times



What data shows about the state of Baltimore’s neighborhoods, and potential solutions
by Donte Kirby
Published May 19 in Baltimore

Excerpt: To understand Baltimore’s population trends, look to the neighborhood level.

That was on view Tuesday at one of the first sessions of Baltimore Innovation Week 2021. Seema Iyer, who oversees the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) at the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute, led a workshop using the Vital Signs19 report. The annual report from BNIA uses civic data to look at the health of Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

The session was geared toward business owners, and focused on three topic areas of the report: Workforce and economic development, housing and community development, and crime and safety.

Some of the data was stark in its depiction of the health of Baltimore. Population data set the stage.



MD Democratic Party Chair Slams Hogan’s Decision to Reinstate Work Search Requirements for Unemployment Recipients

by Bryan Renbaum
Published May 13 in Maryland Reporter

Excerpt: Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis Thursday slammed Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent decision to reinstate the pre-pandemic requirement that Marylanders who receive unemployment insurance benefits be actively searching for work.

Hogan announced the decision at a news conference on Wednesday. The governor said that he directed the state’s Department of Labor to begin working with the federal government to reinstate work search requirements, which are scheduled to be put back into place in late June.

President Joe Biden has said that Americans who are offered jobs commensurate with their education level and who decline to accept those jobs will lose their unemployment insurance benefits. Biden has directed the U.S. Department of Labor to begin working with states to reinstate the mandate.



Amended travel policy would require State’s Attorney Mosby to report her trips
by Mark Reutter
Published May 18 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: The Scott administration has issued revised rules that would require Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and other elected officials to secure approval for future out-of-town travel regardless of who pays for their trips.

Under administrative changes headed for the Board of Estimates tomorrow, officials whose work-related travel expenses exceed $100 (if paid for by a third party) or $800 (if paid for jointly by the city and a third party) would be required to disclose their trips and request board approval.

5/19 BREAKING: The Brew has learned that Council President Nick Mosby was the board member who requested that the BOE defer today’s vote on the travel policy. Board Secretary Bill Henry announced the item will be deferred to the BOE’s June 2 meeting.

The deferral came just before Mayor Brandon Scott issued a public announcement about the revised rules, quoting City Solicitor Jim Shea praising them as “consistent with Mayor Scott’s pledge to bring transparency and accountability to city government.” The press release said the rules “will be considered by the Board of Estimates at an upcoming meeting.”



Abandoned row home in West Baltimore set to become a home for the arts
by Abigail Matthews
Published May 18 in The AFRO

Excerpt: West Baltimore is about to get a new home to help the homeless through the arts. The Coppin Heights Industrial Complex for the Arts (CHICA) in the 1700 block of Ashburton Street is scheduled to open in July. The project was created by Baltimore resident Dalila Muir to help clean up the streets and provide mental health care and housing to the homeless.

Muir said she started CHICA to give homeless people and those struggling with mental health issues a clean and safe space to better themselves. CHICA’s goal is to also give its clients resources to build a better life. The independently-funded program will have living spaces along with areas to explore different art forms. CHICA will also implement a skills-based training program.

This is not new work for Muir.

She has been advocating for the homeless for the last seven years. The construction of CHICA is happening next door to an already renovated row home for mental health care and assistance to the homeless. Muir said she and her sister have provided mental health care services for clients all around the DMV area servicing over 60 clients. Many of their clients are still being affected from childhood trauma.



Header image: Brandon M. Scott on Twitter and his new pup

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