-The latest development in the Gun Trace Task Force scandal: A Baltimore County bail bondsman named Donald Stepp who ran—oh boy, wait for it—Double-D Bail Bonds (complete with a sexy cartoon woman as the logo) plead guilty to assisting BPD’s Sgt. Wayne Jenkins in selling cannabis, cocaine, and heroin Jenkins had taken off the streets—only to put back on the streets. It was also revealed that Jenkins passed Stepp off as a police officer.
-As part of a new campaign—presumably involving Gregory Tucker, who as the Baltimore Brew reported gets paid $240 an hour to do P.R. on the city’s dime—that we suppose suggests the mayor is no-nonsense, Mayor Catherine Pugh posted a video her yelling at a Baltimore squeegee kid for not being in school. He doesn’t get to answer why he isn’t in school because Pugh keeps yelling and at the end of the video, he walks away dejected. As far as the video shows, Pugh doesn’t offer him a ride to school or offer him resources (she created a squeegee program). Reprehensible behavior by our mayor—all in an attempt to generate good P.R.
-Last week, Mayor Pugh announced that the city would demolish six buildings in West Baltimore’s Gilmor Homes—the housing project now best known as the place where Freddie Gray lived and where he was picked up by Baltimore Police to later die in their custody. There is no doubt Gilmor Homes is in disrepair, and we’ve long heard residents observe that the way the housing’s situated makes crime easy to hide, but Baltimoreans are also suspicious of a currently P.R.-obsessed mayor down to demolish a partial reminder of the uprising. Besides, it’s not the building causing the crime, it’s the years of divestment and city apathy that has made Gilmor a problem area. Fix that, please.
-The roof of noted live outdoor venue Merriweather Post Pavilion collapsed last week. The Frank Gehry-designed pavilion, located in Columbia, was having its roof worked on as part of a five-year-long renovation project—the venue is closed until the spring season. Fortunately, no one was working on it when it collapsed. “Nobody was hurt,” Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. and operator of the venue, wrote in a statement. “That is of course, the most important thing. Second most . . . yes everything will be ready for season opening.”
-Mayor Pugh responded quickly and accurately last week when President Donald, discussing immigration, reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “shithole countries.” “I’m appalled by these latest comments,” Pugh said. “They reinforce abhorrent racist attitudes, and evidence of the lack of knowledge, understanding, and empathy we expect of the person who occupies the highest office in the land.”
-Singer Davon Fleming has been a favorite of the mayor lately—she welcomed him home from his stint on NBC’s “The Voice” with a key to the city and had him perform during last month’s vigil to honor the city’s homicide victims. Then he served as grand marshal of the city’s MLK parade. It’s easy to see why: Fleming is wildly talented and some welcome good news when there’s so much bad going on. What’s less clear is why she decided, according to the Baltimore Sun, to award him a one-year consulting contract, paying up to $65,000 to “develop the operation of a program for City youth that focuses on the performing arts and community enrichment.” No doubt Fleming can sing, but aren’t there other more qualified folks already working in the city that could find better use for that money?
–A heartbreaking video spread quickly over Facebook last week. In the video, shot by Baltimore-based mental health counselor Imamu Baraka, a woman, seemingly in distress and wearing just a hospital gown and socks, wanders around in the cold outside the Emergency Department of University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus. Hospital officials acknowledged their error, noting that they failed to show “basic humanity and compassion.” But what would have happened to the woman if the incident hadn’t been caught on tape? How many others like her are there? And can we stop using the dehumanizing term “patient dumping” to describe this horrible act?
-Between Jan. 8 (when the previous issue of the Beat went to press) and Jan. 15 (when this issue of the Beat went to press) there were five homicides in Baltimore: Tavon Harrington and Kebreya Coleman, both on Jan. 11 in separate incidents; and three victims not yet identified on Jan. 10, Jan. 12, and Jan. 13. In total, there have been 11 homicides in Baltimore this year.