The News: Inspector General Questions BPD Benefits, Vax Education Push, Unemployment Hearing Scheduled

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: Unemployment benefits have their day in court, spreading the vaccine—not the virus, an app to help the homeless, and more reporting from the Baltimore Brew, The Real News Network, The AFRO, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.



Baltimore police last year respond to a protest at Mayor Jack Young’s house. (Louis Krauss)

Baltimore IG: Police officers allowed to take paid leave and overtime simultaneously
by Fern Shen
Published July 7 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: The Baltimore Police Department allows sworn employees to take paid vacation or personal leave on days when they are simultaneously earning overtime – even if the hours overlap.

The well-known and condoned arrangement, confirmed in a report released today by the Baltimore’s Office of the Inspector General, is spelled out in the agency’s collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 3.

Still, Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming notes in the report, the BPD’s policy is troubling considering the long-standing problem of spiraling police overtime.

“Although this practice is permitted and does not violate any City policy, it could be perceived as wasteful,” Cumming wrote in the Investigative Synopsis.



Protesters organized by the Unemployed Workers Union advocated Tuesday afternoon for the continuation of expanded federal unemployment benefits and faster processing of pending claims. Photo by Elizabeth Shwe.

Judge Schedules Hearing that Could Further Extend Unemployment Benefits, Franchot and Workers Decry Hogan’s Moves
by Elizabeth Shwe
Published July 7 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has scheduled a Friday afternoon hearing on a motion to stop Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) from halting expanded federal unemployment benefits early in Maryland.

The hearing comes after a spate of legal maneuvers over the Independence Day weekend. On Saturday, Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill issued a temporary restraining order to halt Hogan’s suspension of those unemployment benefits for 10 days.

Hogan is facing two lawsuits filed by unemployed Marylanders over his decision. Attorneys with the Public Justice Center and the Unemployed Workers Union each filed suit seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to continue federal unemployment benefits through early September.

The expanded benefits program was created by Congress and funded by a federal stimulus through Sept. But Hogan announced in June that Maryland would end the program two months early because state employers were having trouble finding people to hire.



COVID-19 vaccination site at the Baltimore Convention Center. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

“A New Way” Of Doing Vaccine Education
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published July 6 in WYPR

Excerpt: In Baltimore, and across the country, supply now outweighs demand for the COVID-19 vaccine.

That has led city health officials to shift their strategy to reach their goal of vaccinating 80% of the population by February. Part of that means moving away from mass vaccination sites and ramping up more accessible mobile clinics.

“How do we allocate resources directly to the community to really meet people where they are?” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said at a recent vaccine hearing with city council members. “Engage people at the level of where they live, where they work, where they play.”

Dzirasa told council members that daily vaccination rates have slowed since May.

“The vaccine is very widely available now,” she said. “And still, there are many who are unvaccinated.”

As of Tuesday morning, only about half of Baltimore city’s residents have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The health department has launched VALUE Baltimore, a vaccine education and community engagement program.

See also:

Governor Announces Scholarship Lottery For Vaccinated Teens
by Rachel Baye
Published July 7 in WYPR



Donnie Rideoutt, 68, has spent his life around racetracks, and is skeptical about planned renovations at Pimlico. Credit: Jim Burger

Hi Ho Pimlico
by Rafael Alvarez
Published July 7 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: When Donnie Rideoutt was 12 years old, he stood in the winner’s circle at Pimlico with his Dad and a horse owned by his father and step-mother. It was late November, 1964 and the triumphant steed was KI-D-KA, named for Rideoutt and his sisters: Kim-Donnie-Kathy.

“I didn’t get into this business because I wanted to,” said Rideoutt, 68, feeding a carrot to a bay filly named Ask Nicely last month at Pimlico. “I got into it because my father owned a horse. He came up with horses and I came up behind him. There wasn’t a choice about it.”

Donnie has been around racetracks all his life and began doing stable chores when Eisenhower graciously stepped aside for Kennedy. He’s still at it, doing whatever needs to be done at tracks around the state.

“I can’t retire, I need the money” said Rideoutt, a hot-walker, feeder, and jack-of-many equestrian trades. “The easiest part of racing is buying a horse. The hardest part is taking care of it. You can’t miss no days.”



Johnny Olszewski announces he will run for a second term two months ago. (Twitter)

Olszewski’s IG bill is now on hold, but questions about his motives will linger
by David A. Plymyer
Published July 6 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. today placed his bill to make sweeping changes to the law governing the Office of the Inspector General on hold, choosing not to introduce it before the County Council as scheduled tonight.

His decision to make a tactical retreat undoubtedly was based on the groundswell of public opposition to the draft bill.

Even if retreat turns into permanent surrender, it is important to recognize that this bill was a calculated effort to destroy a powerful tool for honest and efficient government.

The outcome could well have been different if the IG, Kelly Madigan, did not have the courage to publicly refute Olszewski’s claim that the bill was drafted in “collaboration” with her, falsely implying that she approved it.

Thankfully, her outspokenness drew the public’s attention to the measure.



Members of the Black Yield Institute and allies meet at the Cherry Hill Urban Garden, which meets the needs of a community with little access to healthy food, and is facing eviction by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. A rally is planned for July 3 ahead of a July 8 meeting with the housing authority. (Photo: Cameron Granadnio/The Real News Network, 6/30/2021)

Battleground Baltimore: The Fight for Green Spaces
by Jaisal Noor, Brandon Soderberg, and Lisa Snowden-McCray
Published July 2 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: The remote, deeply segregated Black neighborhood neighborhood of Cherry Hill does not even have a grocery store, but the Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden has been remedying that problem, providing fresh food to a community that has little access to it—and now they’re facing eviction.

Last month, The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) issued a notice to vacate the land where Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden exists. People at the Black Yield Institute, who have been running the farm since 2017, have been organizing in opposition to the eviction. Over 30,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the eviction, and Black Yield Institute is holding a rally on July 3, 2021 to call attention to the issue.

A spokesperson for the HABC said that the Black Yield Institute never had permission to use the land.

“We cannot overlook the fact that the Black Yield Institute is occupying the land without permission. Our hope is they will be able to relocate and continue their farming elsewhere. Importantly, in keeping with our mission, HABC’s longer-term plans call for building badly needed affordable housing on the property.”



James “Jim” Hamlin showing off his famous golden dinner rolls. —Photography by Christopher Myers

Roll of Honor
by Omnia Saed
Published July 6 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: They call him “Carbo-Man,” a nickname that James “Jim” Hamlin proudly accepts. “I’m a carbohydrates guy,” he explains. “No, I don’t look like it because I’m 158 pounds and my BMI is exactly where it’s supposed to be, but I consume bread more than anything else.”

Hamlin consumes so much bread, in fact, that he decided to learn how to make some himself. He started by trying to replicate the golden dinner rolls his mother used to bake when he was a child. Spending hours in the kitchen of his neighborhood home without a recipe, he tinkered with ingredients and measurements to get the perfect batch. When he did, he knew he was onto something.

“He had his mother taste it,” says Brenda Hamlin, Jim’s wife of more than 50 years, who works with him at the bakery. “And I remember she looked at him and said, ‘These are good. These are better than mine.’”

The rolls quickly caught on. Hamlin, who grew up in a family of 10, soon began baking rolls on holidays and for gatherings. Rolls for his siblings, family friends, and extended family. Rolls for neighbors and friends of friends.

“It was getting out of hand,” says Brenda. “Especially after he retired, I would come home from work and I couldn’t find my dining room table. I couldn’t find my kitchen counter. I couldn’t find anything because there was bread all over the place. I said, ‘You need to find a place to do this, because I’m tired of not being able to find my house.’” photo by MChe Lee.

CDC Disparities Study: Maryland Had Second-Lowest Rate of In-Person Learning During Pandemic
by Laura Olson
Published July 6 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: After last year’s abrupt shutdown of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, increasing numbers of students returned to in-person learning.

But a new study shows that racial and geographic gaps persisted as K-12 students went back to their classrooms—with non-Hispanic white kids more often the ones attending a brick-and-mortar school full-time in most states.

From last September through April, students in the South also generally had greater access to full-time, in-person learning than those in other regions of the U.S., according to the study, featured in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study’s lead author was Emily Oster, a Brown University economist who became a cultural icon for many U.S. parents during the COVID-19 pandemic for her data analysis of the health threats to children from the virus and advice on how to calculate risk.



Brittany Young, CEO of B-360. (Courtesy photo)

New funding is bringing growth for Baltimore dirt bike x STEM program B-360. Founder Brittany Young talks about what’s next
by Donte Kirby
Published July 2 in Baltimore

Excerpt: B-360 founder Brittany Young has taken the program she founded that combines dirt bikes and STEM education to high-profile stages.

In April, she and several of the participants in the program made an appearance on the Kelly Clarkson Show, where they were surprised with a $10,000 donation from well-known motor oil brand Pennzoil.

In a TED Talk posted in May, she talks about starting the venture, and brings the international audience that can access clips from the influential video and conference series right to Baltimore.



(Courtesy Photo)

Street Care app equips users with toolkit to be good neighbors to those experiencing homelessness
by Megan Sayles
Published July 6 in The AFRO

Excerpt: There is no shortage of opportunities to help people who are experiencing homelessness. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, make clothing donations to shelters and even fundraise for organizations dedicated to alleviating homelessness.

However, Bright Mind Enrichment and Schooling (BME), a community wellness education organization, determined that there was a need for a comprehensive platform to educate people about how they can safely help homeless people on a regular basis and forge meaningful connections with them.

This led the nonprofit to launch Street Care, a mobile app and website that provides 60-second video tutorials, wellness and health tip sheets and a toolkit that details the most useful care items for people living on the streets.

“We’re not doing anything that anybody else couldn’t do, but what distinguishes Street Care is that we’ve taken the time to create the technology along with the content and videos to work carefully to get out the message of how to work with homeless people while still giving respect and dignity to people in this situation,” said Martin Brooks, director of Street Care and co-founder of BME.



Header image: "B-More Vaccinated," the anonymous IT professional from Baltimore who won the $400,000 VaxCash jackpot. (via AFRO)

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