Week In Review: Opposition to Hopkins cops continues, Hogan withholds hundreds of millions from Baltimore, and Trump sure don’t know his history

Photo by Brandon Soderberg

-We are still waging battles to make sure that everyone has access to clean and affordable drinking water. Organized by the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, lawmakers, activists, and citizens rallied outside City Hall this week against a near 10 percent water rate hike that started this week. It is the first of three yearly rate hikes for Baltimoreans. Baltimore Right to Water pointed out that according to the United Nations, water bills should not be more than three percent of a household’s income. “With the rate increase, more than 40% of families in our city will be billed more than this amount,” said Rianna Eckel of Food and Water Watch. “While we recognize the need for improvements to this aging system, the Department of Public Works has failed to propose a meaningful comprehensive water affordability program to ensure that low-income families still have access to water.” For more, read Dharna Noor’s report from the rally over at The Real News Network.

-The state will be designating Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue corridor as an official arts and entertainment district. The news means a part of the city that has long been ignored by city leaders can now benefit from the tax breaks and extra attention that comes with the designation. Beat Editor in Chief Lisa Snowden-McCray wrote a little about what organizers hope to eventually do with the area for Essence Magazine last winter. “What we want to do is use Pennsylvania and North Avenue as a place where we want to light up, illuminate and revitalize live entertainment,” said Arch Social Club president Van Anderson.

-On Monday, July 1, the day that the ridiculously-named Community Strengthening Act (aka the bill that lets Johns Hopkins University have its own armed, private police force—the first of its kind in the state) went into effect, students and residents who have been organizing against the bill gathered to show they aren’t finished their efforts against it. For those who have not been following the Beat’s coverage, protests against the bill escalated in April when students began a sit-in at a JHU building and then eventually, took that building over, all of it ending with a hundred or so police raiding the building, making a handful of arrests. Since then, students and residents continued demanding a meeting with Hopkins about the police and are still waiting, so last week a group of 100 or so marched through Charles Village, stopping by the BPD building on 29th Street and the Campus Safety building next door, showing they were not going away and opposition has not wavered.

An op-ed for Maryland Matters written by Bobby Moore and Richard DeShay Elliott lays out an argument for why bro-faced councilman for District 11 Eric Costello has got to go and specifically, why a progressive needs to primary the hell out of him. The op-ed details how Costello opposed the minimum wage hike, takes major donations from developers and staunchly defended decisions such as the Port Covington TIF, and is a major player in the “squeegee kid” debate where his solution continues to be “sick police on kids trying to make a few bucks.” The op-ed goes on to explain that Costello could be beat in an election. “We need a progressive candidate to emerge in the next two months and we must unite behind him or her. If several progressive candidates are interested, they need to meet privately and openly hash out which among them has the best shot and be open to throwing their weight behind a fellow progressive,” the op-ed demands.

-Last Friday, attorney Steven T. Mitchell was arrested for allegedly smuggling in suboxone to Roxbury Correctional Institution. The stories were typically, apoplectic and all simplified this to “GASP—Baltimore lawyer sneaks drugs into a jail.” Well, for one suboxone, although it is a controlled substance and it is illegal to sneak anything into jails, is a drug that doesn’t really get users high and is used to treat opioid use disorder. It is a medicine for those struggling with drug use. Getting it to people will help people. Plenty advocate that it should be allowed in jails already and in some states it is and by 2023, thanks to Maryland Senate Bill 846, it must be made available to inmates in Maryland jails who need it. Why Mitchell snuck it in, we don’t not know (the Beat reached out to Mitchell for comment but he declined to comment) but shame on local media for misunderstanding and misrepresenting suboxone. This is a classic example of how straight-down-the-line news fails to inform.

-As first reported by Beat cofounder Baynard Woods on Twitter, a case will go to Maryland’s highest court to determine whether the city is responsible for the actions of members of the Baltimore Police Department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. From some of Baynard’s tweets: “City Solicitor Andre Davis laid out the city’s case that GTTF officers were not acting in the scope of their employment when they committed crimes as part of a complicated legal maneuver to get the Court of Appeals to provide a ruling on the issue…as part of the strategy both the city and the legal team of William James agreed on a statement of facts—which includes Wayne Jenkins planting a gun on James, who was denied bail and spent 7 months in jail…here the City of Baltimore is agreeing that its officers planted a gun on James…There’s a lot more to say about the legal arguments on several different fronts—according to Davis, the intent is to join this case with a federal case in asking the state’s highest court to rule on [the] scope of employment.”

-Larry Hogan announced right before the holiday that he would not be releasing $245 million in funds that were earmarked for various programs around the state. For Baltimore, that means among other things, less money for the cash-strapped Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, fewer opportunities for kids to take part in the city’s youth jobs program, and a lack of funding to test rape kits (on this issue Hogan said he will find other ways to fund it). Of course, we are used to Hogan depriving Baltimore of resources that could make the city better so at this point, this behavior isn’t surprising. What continues to baffle us is that the narrative of Hogan, the great centrist just won’t die. In early June, WBAL-TV’s president and general manager Dan Joerres wrote an editorial lauding Hogan for choosing not to run against President Donald Trump and staying here to pursue moderation in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun’s Editorial Board chided Hogan for the funding decision, but don’t forget that they also endorsed him for governor. At the time it was frustrating—now it feels like journalistic malpractice.

-Rain clouds rolled through Baltimore on the Fourth of July, but here, they’d cleared out in time for dazzling fireworks shows all over the area. In D.C., however, as President Donald Trump hosted his bizarre, patriotism-themed salute to himself, it poured. Soggy reporters posted pictures of attendees swathed in plastic parkas and fenced off military machinery in the pouring rain. Granted, there’s not much of anything to celebrate anyway, with reports continuing to come in about the tortuous and unsanitary conditions of refugees under the Trump administration. And there was a Baltimore connection in Trump’s messy, error-ridden speech. Either by idiocy, an inability to read the teleprompter, or both Trump declared, “our Army manned the air, it ran the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory,” apparently shoving Fort McHenry and the War of 1812 into a hot mess of ahistorical nonsense about the Revolutionary War. Merry Independence Day or whatever.