Week In Review: Pugh criticizes media, Amy Sherald reveals Obama portrait, no homicides, more

Amy Sherald. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
  • During Baltimore Magazine’s Visionaries Panel Discussion last Thursday evening, Mayor Catherine Pugh took the stage to critique media representations of Baltimore and claim she was misrepresented when she said she was not following the Gun Trace Task Force scandal. She blamed it on an “angry” reporter—the cool, calm, and collected Ian Duncan—and then claimed her absolutely ridiculous plan for a City Hall television studio was to help local media, not to create her own media. Pugh has generally come off as Trump-like in her critiques of the press. So while she does not have time to read articles about GTTF, she does have time to read media that critiques her and offer point and counterpoint? Got it.
  • Despite the significant drop in homicides, the Baltimore Police Department, under new Commissioner Daryl DeSousa, remains embattled and messy. It all began with the rumored ousting of a number of BPD higher-ups on the day he was announced, which was then backtracked and blamed on both technical mishap and fear of leaking—and now looks like some kind of failed coup—and has continued through half-stepped commentary on the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, and then peaked last week when a number of promotions were announced, then declined, including that of new Dep. Commissioner Thomas Casella. Casella’s promotion was put into limbo by a leaked memo released by Fox45 which BPD has said is not entirely accurate though it’s explanation have been vague and full of backtracking. What a mess.
  • Actor Reg E. Cathey, known as Norman Wilson on “The Wire,” Freddy Hayes on “House Of Cards,” Scalio on “The Corner,” and for appearing in a number of other Baltimore-based productions including “Homicide” and “Roc,” died on on Feb. 9 at the age of 59.
  • On Feb. 12, Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald unveiled her gorgeous portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama alongside Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of former President Barack Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, which commissioned the paintings. This comes right after Sherald snagged another big honor, the $25,000 David C. Driskell Prize, which recognizes contributions to African-American art, and not long after Sherald was named a new board trustee at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Next up: Sherald’s first solo museum show at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.
  • Baltimore’s Metro system is closed through March 11, inconveniencing on average nearly 20,000 Baltimoreans who ride it Monday through Friday each week. Emergency work to the tracks need to be done and hey, that’s a reason to close it—but the closure was done, like so many things in the city, haphazardly and with little concern for the lives of those in the city—with little community outreach and drips of information and updates. Gov. Larry Hogan has set up emergency buses to run the route to help people out, but it all funnels back to a lack of parity in transportation in the city: If the Metro was used by more people, if it was not limited in its scope and mostly used by black Baltimoreans, would it have been handled this way? And would the repairs been made a long time ago?
  • As of press time, there have been no homicides in Baltimore in 10 days. This is something of a mini-miracle in Baltimore, which was averaging almost a homicide a day last year and saw no suggestion of slowing down during the first few weeks of 2018. Why this is happening is unclear, but it might be best, for now at least, to consider a confluence of reasons: the community-based effort Baltimore Ceasefire from earlier this month; a shift in policing under embattled new Commissioner Daryl DeSousa, putting more police officers out in the streets; and perhaps fall-out from the massive Gun Trace Task Force scandal, which has very clearly demonstrated that the department must change its act. There have been 27 homicides in Baltimore in 2018.

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