The elections are over. Now what?
Wes Moore is Maryland’s governor-elect, and with this win he makes history as our state’s first Black governor. Baltimore hasn’t always had the best relationship with Annapolis. Current Governor Larry Hogan has often taken aim at our city, saying leaders aren’t tough enough on crime, lying about the police being defunded, and visiting mostly just for Ravens games and press events. Moore, on the other hand, has enjoyed a much friendlier relationship — in fact, he won the support of many of Baltimore’s elected officials early on in his campaign. Does the fact that he looks like the majority Black population of this city mean that he’ll look out for the people here? We shall see.
Marylanders overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that made it legal for people 21 and over to possess and even grow some weed, starting July 1. Here in Baltimore, voters approved several ballot initiatives, including one backed by the chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group that would limit the mayor, comptroller, and City Council to two four-year terms. As we said in our election guide, rich folks meddling in city business can be cause for concern. Baltimoreans are no stranger to scandal from their electeds, but critics say this measure isn’t the way out of that — they argue that this measure creates a vacuum of institutional knowledge.
Citizens also backed a measure that turns local control of police over to city officials. The Baltimore Police Department has been run by the state of Maryland since 1860. What does this mean when city leaders still overwhelmingly give the police whatever they want, year after year, as crime continues to rise?
Baltimore Police shot and killed Tyree Moorehead
Tyree Moorehead, 46, who was better known as rapper and anti-violence activist Tyree Colion, died November 6 after a Baltimore City Police officer fired multiple shots at him. It happened at the intersection of Lafayette and North Fulton avenues, where officers said they were responding to reports of a woman being attacked.
Moorehead was known for using spray paint to designate “no shoot” zones at places where people had been shot throughout the city. In 2016, when a vigil for the slain rapper Lor Scoota turned into a tense standoff with police in riot gear, Moorehead negotiated a solution and helped de-escalate the situation between mourners and the same department that ultimately killed him.
Moorehead’s cousin, Carlie McCaskill, told WBAL-TV that he had struggled with mental health. Onlookers said that the officer kept shooting him even after he was clearly injured and on the ground.
“That’s what made me upset,” Demontea Madison told The Baltimore Sun. “He didn’t have to shoot him like that.”
This apparent tendency of Baltimore police to “shoot first and ask questions later” when it comes to mental health is not new. Last Christmas, Baltimore City Police shot and injured a man in crisis, who they say claimed to have a bomb and pointed a gun at police. Police initially reported that the man shot a gun at them, although they later revealed that the gun was inoperable.
In a statement released a few days after Moorehead’s death, the Baltimore branch of the NAACP asked these questions:
1. Fourteen shots were discharged from the officer’s weapon. Is that use of force
justified or is this a case of excessive force?
2. What are the resources or programs that are in place or need to be put in place
when there are patterns of mental health crisis in order to circumvent incidences
that may cause harm to self or others?
3. What are the changes to training or policy that BPD will need to implement as a result of this incident?
Squeegee kids — poor, mostly Black young people who clean windshields at busy traffic lights and intersections in the city — have long been punching bags for the powerful. Instead of taking aim at the poverty conditions that compel these kids into working on street corners, politicians, business owners, and many local media outlets have decided that the kids themselves are the problem. This all came to a head in July, when 48-year-old Timothy Reynolds got out of his car and crossed several lanes of traffic to charge at a group of kids working at a busy downtown intersection. One child had a gun and pulled it out and shot Reynolds, killing him. The child has since been charged as an adult.
In the aftermath of Reynolds’ death, Mayor Brandon Scott assembled a so-called Squeegee Collaborative, made up of civil rights activists, nonprofit leaders, and some of the kids themselves. The results of their work were released in early November. Some of the solutions collaborative members came up with (caseworkers who can connect kids with support services, job readiness resources, and mentorship opportunities) seem fine. However, the plan also calls for the establishment of several pilot no-squeegee zones. This potentially puts kids back in the line of sight of a police department that is still killing members of the community and is still under the consent decree put in place after Freddie Gray’s death. “You cannot ‘equitably’ remove Black people from public space, @MayorBMScott,” tweeted activist organization Organizing Black. Read more about the collaborative and their work at: aamebaltimore.com/squeegee-collaborative.
A New Rec Center for Cherry Hill
Talking to Baltimoreans of a certain age, we often hear the refrain: “Bring back the recs!” But, over the years, more and more city rec centers have closed their doors, giving kids in the city fewer opportunities for enrichment and play. On November 9, the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center opened its doors. The structure includes amenities like three swimming pools, basketball courts, fitness studios, and a multipurpose playing field. City leaders said the facility is evidence of their desire to center all of Baltimore and to right some of the wrongs enacted on kids in the city.
“It is our responsibility as leaders to ensure that we do everything in our power to set future generations up for success and ensuring access to high-quality recreation facilities, parks, and greenspaces in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Brandon Scott said in a press release that announced the center’s official opening. “I am incredibly excited to see the impact this facility will have on the quality of life of our residents in South Baltimore.”