Week In Review: Old new ideas from Commissioner Harrison, Baltimore protests ICE, and council committee changes

Screenshot Courtesy The Real News

-Hey, remember when we had that scandal that led to our mayor leaving office in shame over some poorly written children’s books? Remember when our former police commissioner was sentenced to 10 months in prison for doing shady stuff with his taxes and as a result we found out that other police officers were also doing shady stuff with their taxes? Guess how much, according to the Baltimore Sun, the city has budgeted for ethics enforcement next year? Nothing. Like, zero dollars. To compare, Anne Arundel County budgeted over $200,000 for ethics oversight and Prince George’s County budgeted over $800,000. “No city staff are dedicated to enforcing ethics rules and the word ‘ethics’ appears nowhere in the city’s 1,035-page budget proposal for the coming year,” wrote Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan. This is shameful.

-In related ethics news, Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, who has uncovered plenty of waste and fraud since she took office in February, 2018 made another discovery this week. Two Baltimore City Housing employees who relocated (one across the country, the other halfway around the world) were allowed to still work for the city to keep their full-time status while using their sick leave to get an entire paycheck. For more on Cumming, read the Beat’s profile of our fairly new and very dogged IG.

-Baltimore City Council now has a Transportation Committee and it is headed by councilperson Ryan Dorsey who proposed Complete Streets and in the best way, we really mean it, truly won’t shut up about changing this city’s terrible car culture and improving public transportation and taking bike lanes and pedestrian rights seriously. The Transportation Committee is one of the new committees introduced under new council president Brandon Scott. The others are Cybersecurity and Emergency Preparedness, Health, Land Use, and Legislative Investigations. And taking over for council president Scott as chair of the Public Safety committee is “Yitzy” Schleifer—he of the Shomrim Patrol dust-up, which you probably remember from 2017, yikes.

-Donald Trump is toying with the fate of thousands of Latinx immigrants and refugees. Locally, Baltimore Fishbowl reported that ICE agents were seen stopping and detaining Latinx residents in Columbia. Earlier in the week, CASA hosted a bystander training workshop where members of the community could learn how to help if they ever see such raids going on. Then on Thursday, hundreds of people showed up outside of ICE’s Baltimore office in protest with signs that read “Abolish Ice” and “No More Children in Cages.” Even Mayor “Jack” Young and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison have an event planned on July 2 to help people understand what they can and can’t do in the face of this immigration crackdown (more info on that event here). Things are awful right now and every bit anyone can do to slow the spread of fascism helps—especially because we can’t depend on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (or the House in general) to not agree to fund Trump’s concentration camps.

-Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison has finally released something like a crime plan and it is, as far as we can tell, more of the same. He’s directing police to certain areas of the city where there have been the most shootings and he’s calling these areas “microzones.” Police officers will be told to hang out in these are for 20 minutes, three times each shift, both talking to the community and doing “enforcement,” which means looking for crime and arresting folks. “Microzones” though is a continuation of decades-old “hot spot policing.” The Fraternal Order of Police said as much, calling Harrison’s plan, a “regurgitation of past efforts.”

-A whole bunch of Baltimore drug bust news this week: Baltimore postal worker William McRae plead guilty to delivering 100 kilograms of cannabis while on his mail route, discovered via federal investigation; feds at the Baltimore Port Authority seized 333 pounds of cocaine being brought into the country, stuffed in some black bags in a container full of beach chairs; and the Baltimore Police and State’s Attorney’s Office touted the arrests of the so-called “J30 Paybacc Crips,” dealing in the Coldstream and Upper Montebello area. We here at the Beat are always saddened to see more people going to jail for drugs—end the drug war now, legalize all drugs—and we’re always suspicious when this stuff is brought out before the cameras. What busts mostly mean is a disruption in the drug market which results in more violence. And as for the pot dealing postman, who cares? You know, there are other parts of the country where delivering weed is totally legal. Just this week in Annapolis, a task force to look into cannabis legalization began.

-It’s been exactly one year since five employees of the Annapolis Capital Gazette were killed as they went about the business of putting out a paper. Since then, the rest of the staff has been stronger than anyone should have to be, working hard and getting out the news to a community that needs it. Take some time, by the way, to readtheirwords as they remember the day as only journalists can. To honor journalists Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters, Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed June 28 “Freedom of the Press Day.” Much respect and love to all the Capital Gazette staff, the families of those slain, and especially to Editor in Chief Rick Hutzell who has led the way with grace and dignity.

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