Week In Review: No water for Poe Homes, millions of dollars for Kevin Plank, a war on the poor at Lexington Market, and more

-12 Baltimore City Police officers facing misconduct charges had those charges dismissed this week—all because the BPD missed key filing deadlines. The Baltimore Sun’s Jessica Anderson reported that although we know that one officer faced criminal charges, we’ll never know the details of the other allegations because police don’t release them. There seems to be a consensus around officials that this was either a particularly bad screw-up—though possibly, an intentional one to help a few more cops skirt accountability.

-The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s board and management have locked BSO musicians out—all in an attempt to strong arm the orchestra into agreeing to a contract that would cut their salaries by 20 percent. This is brutal. As of June 17, BSO musicians are not being paid and are looking at a summer without paycheck and have had their disability coverage cancelled. Life insurance policies end on September 1. This all comes after BSO president/CEO Peter Kjome cited ten years of losses for the BSO and said the orchestra should operate on a 40-week schedule rather than a 52-week one. This is yet another example of workers’ rights being trampled and a grim look at what the arts and arts support looks like in Baltimore. Something like the BSO needs to be around. It shouldn’t have to be “profitable.” It should be supported and funded as should a lot more of the arts. To learn more about this issue check out Kate Wagner’s piece, “The Day The Music Stopped” for Jacobin.

-According to reporting from Propublica, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan awarded Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank an “opportunity zone” designation that could amount in millions of dollars in tax breaks originally intended to help improve poor and underdeveloped areas of the country. “As the selection process was underway, a deputy chief of staff to Maryland’s governor wrote in an email that ‘Port Covington does not qualify’ as an opportunity zone,” journalists Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott wrote. “Maryland’s governor chose the area for the program anyway—after his aides met with lobbyists for Plank who owns about 40% of the zone.” To do so, the governor skipped over other areas that are actually suffering—including the Brooklyn community, which has the highest drug and alcohol death rates in Baltimore. Look, the “Healthy Holly” scandal was important and the city is no doubt a little better off no longer having a self-dealing mayor in charge, but when schemes like this continue to sneak by and Hogan as usual, presents himself as a straight-shooter demanding accountability and fiscal responsibility, we all want to scream. Oh, and Port Covington by the way, is already lined up to receive hundreds of millions in city and state tax breaks.

-Residents at Baltimore’s Poe Homes had to go online and straight to local media this week to get help with a water main break that left them without water for four days. It was hard not to be shocked by images captured by Fox 45 reporter Keith Daniels of residents gathered around an open fire hydrant filling up pots, pans, and empty water jugs. Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott told Baltimore Beat that crews hoped to get water back on for residents by the end of the day Friday. In the meantime, the city is delivering gallons of water to people who don’t have any. It’s no surprise that Baltimore’s infrastructure is old and falling apart, but Maryland is the richest state in the country—can we please get this stuff sorted out? That it happened the same week we learn Hogan helped fudge Plank properties into an “opportunity zone” over areas that actually need it makes this even more egregious. Also: Can you imagine folks in like, Federal Hill having to go through this?

-The earth is melting and it is happening way sooner than we are all willing to accept and our president denies the climate crisis even exists so if we want our planet to be even a little bit inhabitable for future generations, we have to start rethinking the way we do the things we do. Last year, the Baltimore City Council approved legislation banning styrofoam in the city. Now, led by District 4 representative Bill Henry, they are working to ban plastic bags, too. The bill, introduced Monday, bans all plastic bags at the point of sale and creates a “checkout bag surcharge” that applies to paper bags, compostable bags, and any other bags given out at the store. It’s a small but significant step towards saving the planet.

-A war on the poor is going on at Lexington Market, the historic, multitude-filled food spot and just hands down, one of the best places in Baltimore and probably the whole entire world. Some of the market’s vendors have been denied eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, as you likely know it) and Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen along with Congressmen Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes are asking U.S. Department of Agriculture why and how. “The area in which Lexington Market operates is a historically low-income, food-and-transportation scarce area in which residents—many of whom already expend a higher proportion of their income to meet their basic needs—sometimes require nutrition assistance,” the letter said. It feels like a harbinger of changes to Lexington Market as the a redevelopment plan for the market finally kicks into gear.

-For those who understand that the way to addressing the homicide and non-fatal shooting problem this city has is not through more police—let alone flooding the streets with knockers looking for “bad guys with guns”—but rather through community-driven solutions, some good news. On Tuesday, the community-facing, violence interruption program Safe Streets, which employs ex-offenders to mediate and prevent street violence has just opened up a new zone in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Also of interest, is a study published by data analyst Peter Phalen which shows that during weekends where there is a Baltimore Ceasefire there are 60% less shootings. Go read “Modeling the Effect of Baltimore Ceasefire,” and see how the data was crunched.


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