The News: Delta Dilemma, Burning Plastic, Back to School

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: BMA’s new board members, Betty Cooke retrospective at the Walters, food distribution shut down, and more reporting from Baltimore Brew, WYPR, Maryland Matters, and other local and independent news sources.



A vaccination event with Lt. Governor Rutherford at Union Collective in May. —Maryland GovPics via Flickr Creative Commons

Is Baltimore Prepared to Fend Off a Damaging Delta Variant Outbreak?
by Huanjia Zhang
Published August 3 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Just as many Baltimoreans are starting to feel as though life is getting back to normal, the coronavirus—now with its ultra-contagious Delta variant—is once again gaining an upper hand in the pandemic tug-of-war. So much so that last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidelines, recommending that everyone—including those who are fully vaccinated—mask up indoors in areas with “substantial or high transmission.”

Although Baltimore City and its surrounding counties are spared by the updated C.D.C mask guideline for now—with only a “moderate” level of community transmission—infectious disease experts and health officials are still urging residents to take measures in an effort to help the city fend off the worst outcomes from the potentially torrent Delta wave.

“We’re still well below the peak, but the trajectory is concerning,” says Dr. Aaron Milstone, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “The best way to bend the curve is to have people get vaccinated and put the masks back on.”

So far, Baltimore City has not reinstated its mask mandate (though other surrounding cities, such as Washington D.C., have.) However, City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa says her department will “constantly be reassessing to determine if a change is needed in the future.”



Boxes with Separate collection of waste for recycling. Stock photo. Credit: Getty Images

Dumpster Fire: Baltimore Burns 20 Times the Plastic It Recycles
by Jaisal Noor
Published August 4 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: Baltimore burns more than 20 times the plastic it recycles, according to a new report by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). Using publicly available data, researchers found the city recycles just 2.1% of plastic waste and incinerates nearly 50%, while the rest is landfilled.

The oil industry scammed and misled the public into believing more plastic can be recycled than is actually possible, but the rate at which Baltimore is able to recycle its plastics is far lower than the national average or the four other cities researchers surveyed: Detroit, MI; Long Beach, CA; Minneapolis, MN; and Newark, NJ. The #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign has launched a petition that calls for non-recyclable plastic to be banned, the banning of waste incineration, and for plastic manufacturers to be held responsible for disposing of their products.

“While residents’ and workers’ call for Zero Waste has never been louder, we also face an unprecedented challenge in the plastics production boom that imposes toxics into our daily lives from the moment we are born,” Shashawnda Campbell of the South Baltimore Community Land Trust (SBCLT), which help release the report, told Battleground Baltimore.

See also:

Study finds just 2.2% of Baltimore’s trashed plastic is recycled, while 47% is burned
by Timothy Dashiell and Fern Shen
Published July 30 in Baltimore Brew



Tiara Legge-Marks (center) with volunteers Mike Johnson and Carter Chris White at the currently idled Liberty Rec & Tech Center food distribution site. (Timothy Dashiell)

Kim Trueheart’s free meal program shut down, told to obtain permits
by Timothy Dashiell and Fern Shen
Published August 3 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Under activist Kim Trueheart, the one-time city recreation center at 3901 Maine Avenue in northwest Baltimore has been a steady source of food and support.

She began providing federally funded breakfasts and lunches there seven years ago. In early 2020, as the pandemic struck, the program expanded to a Monday through Friday operation, distributing over 1,000 meals a week.

“The community loves it,” said Trueheart, noting that the fare includes ready-to-eat meals like spaghetti and chicken-and-grits prepared by popular local restaurants including Miss Shirley’s and Teavolve. She got Chef José Andrés’ renowned World Central Kitchen to pitch in, too.

But on July 19, she was taken aback by an email from City Schools, the building’s owner, telling her to halt operations and obtain a permit from the Health Department.

“At no time over all these years were we required to obtain a food permit to distribute food to the community,” said Trueheart, executive director of the Liberty Village Project.

Trueheart shut the program down last Friday.



(Courtesy photo)

Bishop Douglas Miles, Koinonia founder, finds a rhythm in heaven his heart couldn’t know on earth
by Rev. Dorothy S. Boulware
Published August 3 in AFRO News

Excerpt: So here’s another of these articles they say I write so well; but I hate them so much. This one tells a story of a friend I’ve known since junior high school who, today, has preceded me in eternal life. I called him last week to host an event and received no response. Not his usual behavior. I found out later the same day that he was scheduled for heart surgery the next day.

This was one of the numerous medical interventions employed to sustain the heart of Bishop Douglas I. Miles, 72, a heart that worked so hard to sustain the faith and life of many others. A brilliant mind in the sciences and history, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, even he found it strange he couldn’t resist the call of heaven to become a minister of the gospel. He could have pursued many avenues of study and discovery, but the greatest draw for him was to see the lives of those he served become enriched and sustained by the grace of the God who’d drawn him to his life’s work.

See also:

‘A pioneer for the unjust, underserved, and underprivileged’: Baltimore community reacts to death of Bishop Douglas Miles
by Marcus Dieterle
Published August 4 in Baltimore Fishbowl



The Baltimore Museum of Art on Tuesday announced the addition of five new trustees to its board: Michael Ealy (top left), Nupur Parekh Flynn (top right), Lori N. Johnson (bottom left), Anne L. Stone (bottom middle), John Waters (bottom right). Photos courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Art.

Five new trustees join the Baltimore Museum of Art board
by Ed Gunts
Published August 3 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The Baltimore Museum of Art on Tuesday announced the addition of five new trustees to its board: Michael Ealy, Nupur Parekh Flynn, Lori N. Johnson, Anne L. Stone, and John Waters.

The new trustees join Clair Zamoiski Segal, the museum’s board chair; Christopher Bedford, the museum’s Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director; and 36 other active trustees in leading the institution at 10 Art Museum Drive.

The board is responsible for the governance and oversight of the museum and fostering support for its programs and initiatives.

“I am very excited to welcome the five new trustees, whose variety of skills and experiences across the fields of art, education, entertainment, marketing, and management will assist us as we continue to find ways to better serve our community and fulfill the Baltimore Museum of Art’s mission,” Zamoiski Segal said in a statement.



Baltimore jewelry artist Betty Cooke, 97, will get a retrospective exhibition at The Walters Art Museum. The exhibition will be open from Sept. 19 to Jan. 2. Photo courtesy of The Walters Art Museum.

Baltimore jewelry artist Betty Cooke, 97, is getting a retrospective at The Walters Art Museum
by Ed Gunts
Published August 2 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Over a 70-year career, Baltimore artist Betty Cooke has gained a reputation for being one of the most prolific and inventive jewelers in the country.

Next month, the Walters Art Museum will present the first major museum retrospective of Cooke’s work, starting in the 1940s and continuing into the 21st century.

“Betty Cooke: The Circle and the Line,” is the title of an exhibition that explores her jewelry and design practice, presenting a comprehensive overview of her body of work and the themes she has explored. It opens Sept. 19 and runs until Jan. 2.

“Betty Cooke’s storied career is a testament to both her incredible artistry and her fearless attitude toward seizing opportunities,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director of the Walters Art Museum, in a statement. “This exhibition is the perfect opportunity both to demonstrate how living artists provide new perspectives on our collection and to celebrate one of Baltimore’s most inspiring and venerable women in the arts.”

See also:

Good Design is Timeless: An Interview with Betty Cooke

by Shane Prada

Published November 23, 2020, in BmoreArt



Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), spoke at a rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of Korryn Gaines, a Black woman fatally shot by a Baltimore County Police officer in 2016. Carter decried racism and sexism that Black women face "at every level." Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

Advocates Rally for Family of Korryn Gaines on Five Year Anniversary of Her Death
by Hannah Gaskill
Published August 3 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Family members and advocates gathered at Patriot Plaza outside of the Baltimore County Circuit Court on Monday evening to rally for justice on the five-year anniversary of the death of Korryn Gaines, a Black woman who was killed by a Baltimore County Police Officer in 2016.

“Today, I get some healing because I’m able to see people that I know and love … here is supporting me,” said Gaines’ mother, Rhanda Dormeus. “I can finally start my healing process. But my fight doesn’t stop here because I know mothers all across the nation, that all haven’t dealt with the judicial system, but they still being drug [down].”

Dormeus was joined by family members of other young Black people slain by law enforcement, including Breonna Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer.

Taylor was killed during a no-knock warrant by police in Louisville, Ky., in March 2020.

“I’m sorry you’re still fighting this fight,” Palmer said to Dormeus. “I’m here. I can be whatever I can be for you. That’s all I know how to do.”



U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivered remarks at Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School in Southeast Baltimore on Wednesday, touting the Biden administration's guidance in returning students to in-person learning this fall.

Sec. Of Education Cardona Touts Biden’s Return To School Guidance In Baltimore
by Emily Sullivan
Published August 4 in WYPR

Excerpt: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona touted Wednesday in Baltimore the Biden administration’s guidance to return children to classrooms as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Children learn best in the classroom, he said in remarks at Graceland Park-O’Donnell Heights Elementary Middle School in Southeast Baltimore. He called on educators to follow the “Return to School Roadmap,” a series of documents that aim to assist educators in returning to in-person learning this fall.

“I remember last year we were reopening schools and we didn’t have the science, we didn’t have the experience, we didn’t have the lessons learned. We have it now,” Cardona said. “Our children shouldn’t have to compromise any more of their educational experiences or time in school due to the increase in community spread.”

The plan calls for school leaders to encourage and provide access to vaccination for all eligible students and staff members; vaccines are approved for children 12 and up.

See also:

No Telling Who Will Be Vaccinated When Baltimore County Schools Open For The Fall
by John Lee
Published August 3 in WYPR



Cars parked outside of Baltimore City Fire Department headquarters on East Lexington Street. (Google StreetView)

Taxpayers foot the bill for vehicles that take Fire Department brass home
by Mark Reutter
Published August 4 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Top Baltimore Fire officials, many commuting to and from Pennsylvania in city-owned SUVs and pick-ups, cost taxpayers $775,168 over the life of the vehicles.

That’s the conclusion of a report issued today by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming about one of the most coveted perks in city government – getting a car to take home.

Cumming found that 35 fire officials racked up more than 350,000 miles driving such vehicles to and from work between November 2019 and November 2020.

One employee drove a Ford F-150 truck 59.4 miles (as the crow flies) from his home on the Eastern Shore to Fire Department headquarters next to City Hall. The mileage was just a fraction below the 60-mile cutoff in which a city employee is not eligible for a vehicle.

The employee’s use of the pick-up (no one was named in the public synopsis of the report) cost the city $3,220 in fuel and $8,020 in annualized maintenance and repair costs, according to data supplied by the Department of General Services.



Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, center, and local lawmakers at the Rose Street Community Center in Baltimore, Md., at an event to mark the release of Scott's Baltimore City Comprehensive Violence Prevention Plan. Image via @MayorBMScott on Twitter.

Battleground Baltimore: Police Reform Won’t Save Us
by Jaisal Noor, Brandon Soderberg, and Lisa Snowden-McCray
Published July 30 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: Baltimore City is not interested in making the necessary, community-focused changes to the Baltimore Police Department. While most of that is due to a lack of political will, some of it is because police reform is designed to empower and enrich the very department many have called to defund. Supporting changes to police means ensuring nothing drastically changes when it comes to policing—but so many things need to drastically change.

Just this week, Johns Hopkins University announced it was continuing with its years-long plan to form its own armed private police force to patrol its campuses, nearby areas, and the numerous areas of the city under control of the university, including majority-Black neighborhoods the university has had a hand in redeveloping and gentrifying.

In response to this plan, introduced in early 2018, Hopkins students and residents in the area that would be policed by Hopkins began organizing against the private police force. The bill to allow Hopkins to establish its own police force was approved by the Maryland Senate in April 2019. In response, students occupied a Hopkins building, Garland Hall, for more than a month in protest—until Baltimore Police were called in to break down the doors, pull the remaining activists out, and arrest them. Plans for the university’s police force continued moving forward until June 12, 2020, when the university, in response to the police murder of George Floyd on May 25, announced that said plans would be put on a two-year pause.



Header image: Doris George (left) and Jeraldin Garcia pick up food at the now-closed food distribution site in April 2020. (Louis Krauss) from Baltimore Brew

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