Category Archives: Baltimore

Franchot’s Staff Troll Ferguson on Facebook

Hogan and Franchot Get Ready for the Cameras

Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot have been grandstanding in fine fashion lately. They are both outraged that Baltimore County and City are not installing air conditioning fast enough throughout the school system.

Hogan has more control over the budget than any other governor in the nation. He could have easily included the money for A/C in the budget without an iota of opposition but chose not to do so. Instead, he has set up a grandstanding moment with Franchot to deny the City and County monies needed for other school projects until they agree to install A/C in one year.

They kindly dumped the decision of what other projects the City and County should forego for the A/C on the Maryland School Construction Committee (IAC). Normally, this Committee reviews local projects to make sure they are ready to go and comply with other complex state requirements. Local governments determine which projects are needed in line with the Republican principle of local control – something that has gone out the window here.

Former Sen. and IAC Member Barbara Hoffman is shrewd and nobody’s patsy. She said correctly that this wasn’t the Committee’s job and moved to pass the job back to Hogan and Franchot on the Board of Public Works, who are eager to take credit for A/C but don’t want to explain why they are nixing taking care of problems like unsafe drinking water, fire safety and collapsing roofs. Even Hogan’s representatives on the Board voted for Hoffman’s motion.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has gone one better and agreed to speed up the A/C but on the condition that the State reimburse the County for its share. Will Hogan and Franchot put their money with their mouths and agree to Kamenetz’s plan? Or will they demand that the County install A/C but not fix other very serious problems important to student safety?

Franchot’s Facebooking Staff

Meanwhile, Franchot’s staff seems to have little else to do but harry Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) on Facebook for standing up for his jurisdiction’s priorities. Montgomery’s state legislative delegation doesn’t try to reorder our County’s priorities either.

Here is Len Foxwell, Franchot’s Chief of Staff, interrogating Sen. Ferguson during normal business hours:

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Apparently, Deputy Chief of Staff Emmanuel Welsh also has time to attack Ferguson on his Facebook page:

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I suppose Communications Director Peter Hamm is arguably doing his job by spending time on Facebook taking potshots at Sen. Ferguson:

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And here is more of Chief of Staff Foxwell:

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Communications Director Peter Hamm condescendingly calls Sen. Ferguson “pal” on Facebook. Proof, once again, that you may grow up but adolescence is forever.

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Press Secretary Alan Brody is also getting in on the fun:

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I never understand why politicians, let alone their staff, go after other politicians on Facebook pages besides their own. It rarely looks good.

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On Baltimore

As I write this, six police officers have just been charged in Freddie Grey’s murder and Baltimore remains under curfew in the wake of last Monday’s riots. Much commentary seems focused on assigning blame. In the post, I’d like to focus instead on the consequences and moving forward.

Addressing Police Conduct

The community desperately needs to hear more about models for better policing and to implement them. There have been major protests against police brutality and other vehement defenses of the police. But there is not nearly enough discussion of how to do it right.

I’d love to see discussion of places that have reduced complaints against the police even as they remain tough on crime. We want the police to fight crime in all neighborhoods. After all, the sharp drop in Baltimore’s murder rate means that hundreds of people–mainly African American–are walking around who would otherwise be dead.

But we also don’t want police treating everyone like a criminal. Even under the “broken windows” theory, the idea is to stop people who have committed minor crimes–not just for going about your business. Has any place figured out a better approach so that the police can do their tough job with fewer abuses and gain more confidence from the community?

Economic Damage

Last Monday’s riots have done long-term damage to Baltimore that will require concerted effort to reverse.

Neighborhoods that already lack businesses lost them and they may not come back. Many jobs held by working people doing their best to earn a living have been lost. If businesses do come back, their insurance rates will likely go up.

Equally devastating is that people who may have once thought about investing in Baltimore will likely go elsewhere and take the jobs and the revenue that they would have generated with them. The City and the Governor are going to have to work together to rebuild confidence in Baltimore.

Economic and Social Recovery

The economic debate can often seem as frustrating as the one surrounding the police. Left-wing types point to the crushing poverty in West Baltimore while right-wing types focus on a lack of responsibility by citizenry. The irony is that both narratives have something to offer but work better together than in isolation.

Well-distributed economic growth has more power than any anti-poverty program. Bill Clinton wasn’t known for awhile as “America’s first black President” because he played the sax but due to the dramatic drop in African-American unemployment with many previously marginal workers brought into the workforce with steady long-term growth.

At the same time, we have to do all we can to provide a helping hand for people willing to work hard and pay their taxes, as Bill Clinton often used to say when running for President in 1992. No doubt people like Pastor Donte Hickman, who has long toiled to provide those opportunities and fight for justice, has good ideas on how to do that. We should listen to them.

And It’s Not 1968

In 1968, blacks were essentially outside the power structure. Today, that’s no longer the case with the Mayor, State’s Attorney, and Police Chief along with many police being African Americans. It isn’t stopping their constituents from holding them–or the white politicians who also represent them–accountable. And that’s as it should be.

Doing Something

Courtney Snowden is a businesswoman and parent who ran for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council in 2014. Though she lost, Courtney gained a lot of deserved respect along the way and has now joined the Bowser administration. I think she had about the smartest advice I’ve heard in the wake of recent events:

Wanna know how to end this brutality against our people? Vote. Run for office. Join the police force. Become a teacher. Mentor a child and help them become a fully functional adult. Protest the systematic oppression of our people, but do it without burning down the few places where low skilled workers can work. Open a business and hire from the community. Learn how to code. Develop an app. Make some money and donate to the candidates and causes that support the creation of an ism free world. Invest in yourselves and your communities.

Become the change you want to see, and then spread it around. I left the private sector to work in government because I am tired of complaining about it. I want to take meaningful responsibility for doing something about it. Join me.

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Hogan Restructuring MTA

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has fired Robert Smith, a Democratic appointee, as head of the Maryland Transit Administration. This move is part of a larger effort to restructure MTA in the face of problems of facing the agency:

The agency is a year late in producing a promised plan for improvements to its beleaguered Baltimore bus network, is facing a class-action lawsuit from transit riders with disabilities who use its Mobility service, and hasn’t met a state mandate that it provide 35 percent of its operating budget through fare revenue since 2005.

Ridership across all MTA transit modes — including local buses, light rail and MARC train service — was down in 2014, though it has rebounded some this year.

The Baltimore bus network has been a particular problem. MTA’s inadequate slow motion plan to improve buses is scheduled over 18 years. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Transportation Secretary plans to review the plan.

Smith explained that aging infrastructure is a big part of the challenges that MTA faces:

“It’s an aging system. The Metro itself is 30 years old. The light rail is at mid-life,” he said.

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Hogan Stops Pollution Regulation Critical to Public Health

One of Governor Hogan’s very first decisions has been to rescind a pending air-quality regulation that would have curtailed emissions from existing coal fired power plants.  This regulation had been extensively vetted by industry, the public and the Maryland Department of the Environment. The Maryland Air Quality Control Advisory Council (AQCAC) concurred unanimously with the proposed regulation in October 2014. Note that the AQCAC:

consists of 15 members appointed by the Secretary of the Department. Members include representatives from industry, labor, professional associations, local and regional government organizations, academia, farming, the medical community and the general public.

Indeed, AQCAC is currently chaired by a BGE employee–John Quinn.

According the the Baltimore Sun,

Hogan has ordered a comprehensive review of all pending regulations, opening them up for further “public input, public hearing and full due process” before they can be finalized.

But that due process has already occurred. These sorts of regulations go through truly extensive vetting before they get published in the Maryland Register. The unanimous approval by all AQCAC members present on October 6, 2014 is testament to the success of the vetting process.

These environmental regulations will have an important impact on public health in Maryland. MIT published a study in 2013 showing that air pollution is the source of 200,000 excess deaths annually in the US.  On the east coast, a substantial share of the air pollution is due to electricity generation by coal  fired power plants.  Among the types of fossil fuels used to produce electricity, coal is far and away the greatest source of air pollution.  And guess which city has the highest mortality rate in the country due to air pollution:

The researchers also mapped local emissions in 5,695 U.S. cities, finding the highest emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution.

Among the many regulations that Gov. Hogan vetoed or delayed, this should not have been one of them. It had extensive review with unanimous concurrence by the full spectrum of stakeholders. The regulation was key part of the effort to address directly the root cause of the multi-year failure of the greater Baltimore metro area to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and reduce the associated cost of pollution to public health.

Regulations are often onerous with some having less merit than others. Environmental regulations, however, are critical because they force businesses to pay a cost–either in terms of public health or cleanup–that they otherwise would dump on the public. Open for business is great but not at the cost of the well-being of Maryland’s citizens.

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Jones-Rodwell Hangs It Up

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One of the hottest Senate primaries is no more. The Daily Record reports that Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell has decided to retire from the Maryland Senate (h/t Neal Carter).

As I blogged previously, redistricting had dealt Jones-Rodwell a poor hand by placing her in a district far more favorable to her primary opponent, Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam:

Del. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D 10), who lives in the portion of the old District 10 that is now part of the new District 44, is challenging incumbent Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell (D 44). The new district contains roughly twice as many people from Nathan-Pulliam’s old district, though it bears Jones-Rodwell’s district number.

Both Jones-Rodwell and Nathan-Pulliam struck me as assets to Baltimore in the General Assembly and I was unhappy to see them redistricted into the same seat. Sen. Jones-Rodwell’s voice will be missed from that body but hopefully not from Baltimore. Fortunately, Del. Nathan-Pulliam service in the House gives her a strong leg up navigating the Senate.

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