The News: Graham Coreil-Allen’s Public Art Projects, BCPS A/C Issues, Mayor Mandates Vax for City Employees

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: Baltimore’s sewage bungle pollutes the Bay, healthy ways to go back to school, Graham Coreil-Allen’s public art makes Baltimore City streets safer, evictions loom large locally, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Community Architect Daily, Maryland Matters, The Afro Newspaper, and other local and independent news sources.



Officials gather for the May 10 ribbon cutting of the nearly completed Headworks Project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. (DPW Facebook)

Baltimore’s poor management at root of newly discovered sewage outflows into the Bay
by Fern Shen
Published September 1 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: On a sunny day in May, Baltimore city and county officials and Maryland’s two senators, assembling in person to cut the ribbon for the Headworks Project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, crowed about what the $430 million expenditure would do to curtail sewage overflows.

New pipes and alignments, two 18-million-gallon “wet weather equalization storage tanks” and “a brand new 800-million-gallon-a-day pumping station,” they promised, would slash sewage overflows in the city by 80%.

“Headworks is a game changer for the Baltimore region,” Mayor Brandon Scott declared, as he stood with the other dignitaries at the Dundalk facility.

“It’s all about improving the lives of residents across the Baltimore region while also making our waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, healthier,” according to the mayor.

“Slashing by 80% the sewer overflows in Baltimore that can deposit a variety of unwanted pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay is a tremendous accomplishment,” added U.S. Senator Ben Cardin.



#WordinBlack: Transportation issues and hot classrooms City School’s return to in-person learning
by Alexis Taylor
Published September 1 in The AFRO

Excerpt: Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) did indeed return to “normal” this week, as the first day of classes ended in mid-day dismissals for hundreds of students due to a lack of air conditioning.

Many students returned for in-person learning for the first time in 18 months since the threat of COVID-19 forced what was supposed to be a two-week quarantine.

The deja vu and frustration was palpable as parents scrambled to deal with first day challenges and inequities, now compounded by the threat of a mutating coronavirus.

“My concern is that my daughter doesn’t have transportation and she has always had it,” said Mary Walker, a mother of two. “They are talking about a bus shortage. She is supposed to have transportation. I can’t take her to school.”



Photography by Mike Morgan

How Graham Coreil-Allen Uses Public Art to Slow Down Cars
by Ethan McLeod
Published September 1 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: In Reservoir Hill, a prismatic display has erupted over the asphalt and sidewalks. Last spring, Graham Coreil-Allen gathered neighbors to help paint the intersection at Whitelock Street and Brookfield Avenue with a carefully placed rainbow of literal street art, bolstered by flex posts and fresh crosswalk lines that, together, urge approaching drivers to slow their roll.

“Before it was a lot of speed-thru action going on,” says Lauren Miller, a local resident and volunteer at the Whitelock Community Farm across the street. Now, “it’s a cognitive thing. When you see brighter colors, you’re gonna look. You’re gonna stop.”

Since 2016, Coreil-Allen has run with that theory to make Baltimore City streets safer through his design-build business Graham Projects, working with neighborhoods, transportation officials, and traffic engineers on inventive art that doubles as a traffic-calming tool. The lifelong artist has built a brand on advocacy, engagement, and collaboration, becoming a sort of street-design expert along the way.

“My work is very much driven by the needs of communities,” he says. “No public art is ever going to make everyone happy, but the goal is to have an equitable process and something that builds bonds of spirit and, ultimately, trust.”



Photo via Wikimedia Commons

BRIDGES Coalition petitions for overdose prevention sites in Maryland
by Marcus Dieterle
Published September 1 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: A coalition of community health organizations has launched a petition urging the Maryland General Assembly to create overdose prevention sites across Maryland.

In the 2020 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly failed to pass a bill seeking to establish an Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Services Program, including the creation of up to six overdose prevention sites.

The Baltimore Resources for Indoor Drug-use Grassroots Education & Safety (BRIDGES) Coalition comprises more than 30 community-based organizations, as well as peer advocates, faith leaders and residents. The coalition launched their “Yes On My Block” campaign on Tuesday, which also marks Overdose Awareness Day.



Photo from

Following AC Meltdown in Baltimore, Hogan Orders School-by-School Audit
by Bruce DePuyt
Published September 1 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: For two days, frustrated parents in Baltimore have been forced to retrieve their children from school on short notice due to back-to-back early dismissals. The reason: a lack of functioning air conditioning systems that made buildings unbearably hot.

On Wednesday, a visibly irritated Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) ordered Maryland’s top education officials to conduct a building-by-building review to determine which schools lack proper ventilation and air filtration systems.

Thirty-one city schools were forced to shut down early on Tuesday, the second day of class.

Speaking at the start of the bimonthly Board of Public Works meeting, Hogan hammered local officials for failing to ensure that every building was ready for the start of the new school year.

“It’s unbelievable to me that this is still happening after the Comptroller and I have worked together for the last six years to push to get every school air conditioned, and to provide record funding for every school to be air conditioned, and our nonstop efforts to hold schools accountable,” the governor said.


City school officials pushed back on the governor’s comments.

In a statement, they said the system is “successfully implementing the air conditioning plan” that he approved in 2017.

“The plan calls for all school buildings to be air conditioned by the 2022-2023 school year, depending on approvals and the availability of state funding,” officials added. “City Schools is on track to meet that goal. There would be no plan and five-year timeline if the governor did not approve it first, yet he continually denies his role.”



Vials containing COVID-19 vaccines. Mayor Brandon Scott has announced a vaccine mandate for city workers. Those who opt out must receive testing for the virus every week.

Mayor Scott Announces Vaccine Mandate For Baltimore City Employees, Effective Oct. 18
by Emily Sullivan
Published August 31 in WYPR

Excerpt: Mayor Brandon Scott announced Tuesday a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Baltimore City employees effective Oct. 18. Employees who choose not to be vaccinated or who have medical or religious exemptions must be tested for the virus every week.

City Administrator Chris Shorter, who will oversee the program’s rollout, told WYPR that the city’s priority is providing a safe environment for the men and women who serve it.

“And in these times, what that means is making sure that we are allowing our employees to come into an environment where their colleagues are vaccinated,” he said.



Getty Images

Experts Support Mask Mandates for Students but Say Vaccine Mandates Will Be More Difficult
by Elizabeth Shwe
Published August 31 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: As many students across Maryland return to school this week while the delta variant continues to drive the state’s COVID-19 case rates higher, requiring masks inside school buildings is the “lowest hanging fruit” schools could take to protect against the coronavirus, public health experts told lawmakers on Monday.

“Children with masks on play just as hard and learn just as well as children without masks, but they’re protected from acquiring COVID and spreading it to others,” Karen L. Kotloff, a professor of pediatrics in the University of Maryland Medical System, told the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

“I think that is the lowest hanging fruit and the easiest intervention that can be done,” she continued. “Masks are easy.”

See also:

As Kids Head Back to School, Local Experts Offer Advice on How to Stay Healthy
by Huanjia Zhang
Published August 31 in Baltimore Magazine



The zoning board has been hearing testimony about Vaughn Greene’s request to put a crematorium in an existing building at its York Road location. (Fern Shen)

Residents along York Road come together to oppose crematorium
by Fern Shen
Published August 31 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: A plan to put a crematorium in North Baltimore’s Govans neighborhood has generated intense opposition from residents, who fear serious health impacts from a facility with a proposed 40-foot tall smokestack to be located 200 feet from the nearest homes. The owners of Vaughn Greene Funeral Services, meanwhile, call these concerns overblown and say that, once the crematorium is in place, passersby wouldn’t even know it’s there.
One of their experts likened the emissions from the cremator to those of her Ford F-150 truck. Another feature of the debate: Both sides say they are speaking on behalf of Black neighborhoods. Race was first raised by Vaughn C. Greene, who wants to add equipment to his funeral home at 4905 York Road, so that human remains can be cremated there rather than at an outside facility.

“I’m simply trying to provide services that people need and people are requesting of me,” Greene said at a meeting of the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals earlier this month.



still from video

Millions of Americans at risk of eviction
Video by Xinyan Yu
Published August 31 in BBC News

Excerpt: Millions of Americans who are behind on their rent are now at risk of losing their homes.

That’s because the US Supreme Court has overturned a federal ban on evictions that was introduced to protect tenants during the pandemic.

A government rescue package which was meant to get cash to struggling tenants – and in turn help landlords who say they have mortgages to pay – has only dispersed a fraction of the funds so far.

We report from Baltimore where housing advocates warn that one in three tenants are at risk. The BBC contacted the landlord of the Copycat but received no response.



Blue= Population gain, red =population loss. The Black Butterfly and the White L in different colors

How to stem the tide of Baltimore’s population loss
by Klaus Philipsen
Published August 27 in Community Architect Daily

Excerpt: The results of the 2020 census must be a wake-up call for Baltimore. Just like every previous decade before, Baltimore has been bleeding population once again. My friend Paul Sturm summarized the calamity in an opinion piece in the Sun this way:

Many of the stories about the new census data showing Baltimore City lost over 27,000 people (5.7% of its population) from 2010 to 2020 neglected to mention Baltimore is the only major city in the northeast corridor to see its population decrease over the past decade. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and New York all gained residents during this period — ranging from a 5.1% increase in Philadelphia to 14.6% in Washington.

Even more troubling is Baltimore’s 30-year population trend compared to other major northeast cities — particularly Boston and Washington. In 1990, just over 736,000 people lived in Baltimore City while 574,000 lived in Boston and about 607,000 in Washington. But as Baltimore lost more than 150,000 people over the past 30 years, Boston gained 100,000 residents while Washington added nearly 110,000. Each city now has over 100,000 residents more than Baltimore.

I have long held the opinion that population growth is the closest to a silver bullet that Baltimore has to offer. (see previous blog articles here and here). More people would add resources, avoid school closings, help retail and prevent our neighborhoods from falling into a cycle of decline. More demand would stabilize real estate values in declining neighborhoods and would help maintaining a qualified and versatile workforce. In all, maintaining Baltimore’s population would make life of existing residents better, not worse.



Header image: sculptor Rodney Carroll and his pig weathervane (in progress) via Baltimore Sun

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