Category Archives: Baltimore City

Ex-Felons Demand Removal of Baltimore City Board of Elections Chair for Voter Suppression

From the Communities United Press Release:

“We have the right to due process!”

Ex-Felons and Members of the Community Demand the Immediate Removal of Sr. Director, Armistead Jones.

Baltimore, Md. – Communities United chapter of Ex-Felons are holding a press conference and rally to call for the immediate dismissal of Sr. Director, Armistead Jones. Under the leadership of Mr. Armistead Jones, the Baltimore City Board of Elections has made a mockery of the voting process, which can be viewed as voter suppression. Numerous errors have occurred under the leadership of Mr. Jones;  enough for him to be called before a special hearing in the Maryland Senate to explain the debacle of the most recent Primary Election. Even at that time, Sr. Director Jones has repeatedly failed the members of his staff, while never taking any personal accountability or ownership of the failings in his role as Sr. Director of the Baltimore Office of the Board of Elections. Mr. Jones’ position of leadership requires that personal accountability for the proper execution of all tasks be solely his. Perry Hopkins, a Field Organizer for Communities United and Ex-Felon states, “Voting is the bedrock of our democracy and as such, we must have absolute faith in the process and be able to rely on those entrusted to handle our votes, accurately count our votes and accurately report the results in an orderly and timely manner.” As a direct result of mismanagement by the current leadership of Sr. Director, Armistead Jones, this was clearly not the case across Baltimore City in the last and most recent Primary Election cycle.

Sr. Director Jones has repeatedly faulted the members of his staff, while never taking any personal accountability or ownership of the failings in his role as the head administrator and Sr. Director of the Baltimore Office of the Board of Elections. Mr. Jones’ position of leadership requires that personal accountability for the proper execution of all tasks be solely his.  Kimberly Haven, an Ex-Felon and advocate stated, “It is our contention, that the actions of Mr. Jones (and his office) not only violated the basic tenet of trust in the execution of our voting process, but in our Democracy as well.”

“I think it’s a personal matter of how he feels. He doesn’t want to look at the Ex-Felons who want to vote, because he’s not concerned about our rights,” says Reginald Smith.

All of the problems listed below, happened on Sr. Director, Armistead Jones’ watch:

1. Several polls did not open or close on time, thereby suppressing the vote, as voters were turned away.

2. Unlawful letters were sent to numerous newly enfranchised Ex-Felon Voters, discouraging them to register to vote, which is an act of voter suppression.

3. There were not sufficient numbers of functionally trained judges to service voters at polling sites.

4. Of his own volition, the Sr. Director certified election results before all votes were accurately counted.

5. Votes and voting ballots were improperly handled and miscounted. Provisional ballots were scanned, over 1000 more votes were erroneously cast than were checked in, and boxes of ballots were missing only to be found at a later date.

6. His current actions have now breached the public trust in the proper and accurate execution of the voting process and his continued tenure also serves as an act of voter suppression.

7. Reasons supporting the termination of Mr. Jones’ tenure clearly outweigh reasons to retain him, as indicated by his recent performance in the service of Baltimore City Voters.

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There is Still Time to Move to District 20 or 40

vacancy

Eighth Congressional District Democratic Nominee Jamie Raskin will presumably vacate his State Senate seat some time after the November elections. A number of people’s names are already being bandied about to fill the seat, including Heather Mizeur who  represented D20 in the House of Delegates until 2015 but now lives on the Eastern Shore.

Good news for Mizeur and any other potential Senate aspirants. There is still time to establish residency in D20 because Article III, Section 9 of Maryland’s Constitution requires that legislators live in a district for only six months in advance of the election. May 9th is six months before the day after Election Day.

Sen. Raskin could wait until being sworn into Congress to resign his seat, which would delay the appointment process. As the General Assembly session begins in January, I imagine he would want to start the ball rolling earlier, so that someone could be in the seat from the beginning of the session.

Of course, all of the above also applies to District 40, which can expect with equal certainty that now Sen. Catherine Pugh will become Mayor of the City of Baltimore after the general election. So watch for any moving trucks in these districts!

 

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MoCo Delegation Protests Hogan’s Effort to Shift Money from Higher Ed to Corrections

The following is an excerpt from a letter sent by the Montgomery County legislative delegation to Governor Larry Hogan. Emphasis added.

Dear Governor Hogan:

As you know, your unilateral decision to spend $480 million on a new jail will result in unreasonable delays in funding for major projects at numerous universities. One of the projects that will be delayed by your decision to redirect funding from higher education to the Baltimore City jail is a long-planned expansion of the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Montgomery County. . . .

It is a sad, unfortunate and startling fact that Maryland spends more on corrections than it does on higher education. This is exacerbated by your decision to fund the Baltimore City jail over higher education. Again, we understand there is a clear need for a new correctional facility in Baltimore. However, there is a capital improvement plan already in place for such a new facility. Note that many of us would support expediting the plan given the deplorable conditions of the facility. But, expediting the entirety of the new jail facility at the expense of higher education is pure folly. Respectfully, if Maryland is “open for business,” then we must invest in higher education for many reasons, including providing an educated workforce for current and future Maryland businesses.

You can download the full letter here:

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Awaiting the Verdict from Del. Mary Washington

Today, I received the following from Del. Mary Washington (D-43):

Like most of you, I have followed the trial of Officer William Porter with a passion for justice and a deep concern for our city’s future. Now, as we await the jury’s verdict, my thoughts are not only with the family of Freddie Gray but with the thousands of diverse and dedicated people across our city who are working hard to stem the violence that chokes so many of our communities – from the advocates fighting to stop police violence, to those police officers who are struggling to keep our streets safe, to the activists trying to reclaim streets blighted by drugs, decay, and decades of disinvestment.

There is no doubt that this case, and the ones to follow, are historic. But the work and dedication of our city’s citizens are more long-standing than the verdict in any of these cases. Because if and when the jury reaches a verdict for this case, that verdict will represent its judgment on the facts presented in the case against Officer Porter. It will not be a verdict on the character of our city or the justice of our cause or the value of our work.

Whatever the jury finds, we will continue to work to stop racial profiling and excessive force by law enforcement officers– to see to it that our police serve the communities they are sworn to protect and to hold them accountable when they behave more like an aggressive occupation force than the public servants our communities need.

Whatever the jury finds, we will continue to work to make clear that Black Lives Matter – and to stand up to judicial systems, public officials, and entrenched institutions that fail to value the lives and needs of too many of our citizens.

Whatever the jury finds, we will continue to work to change a system of mass incarceration that often warehouses the poor and homeless in terrible jails – and leaves too many city residents trapped in a downward spiral of addiction and incarceration.

Whatever the jury finds, we will work to make the kind of investments in our schools, in drug treatment, in alternatives to incarceration, in job training, in affordable housing, and in community development that can lift neighborhoods decimated by drugs, despair and violence toward a brighter future.

As your State Delegate I will work with city and state leaders during the upcoming session and beyond to make sure that we not only hold law enforcement accountable when they cross the line into violence but hold all our institutions to higher standards in working to bring hope and possibility to our most vulnerable residents.

Whatever the jury finds this week, that unfinished work will continue.

In Partnership,

Mary L. Washington, Member
Maryland House of Delegates, 43rd Legislative District, Baltimore City

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More Giraffes Than Black People

UPDATE: Visit Maryland has now removed the video from YouTube. Twitter reports that it is also gone from Baltimore’s Penn Station. @visitmaryland is so far quiet on the subject.

Visit Maryland has air-brushed African Americans out of Baltimore. If the above official tourism promotion video, playing on an endless loop in Baltimore’s Penn Station, is to be believed, more giraffes live in Baltimore than African Americans.

Black people should not be deemed too scary to feature in videos touting any part of Maryland. Nevertheless, their absence is especially glaring–and I imagine galling–in a video about majority-black Baltimore City.

Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) noticed the video during a visit to Charm City and has written the Commerce Secretary to demand its removal from public circulation:

Letter to Secretary GillBeyond the blatant racism, the video is also economically foolish. African Americans have a lot of tourism dollars to spend. As Del. Waldstreicher points out, there is enormous cultural and historical richness in Baltimore black history. Don’t we want African-American tourists to think of Baltimore as a potential destination?

Whitewashing Baltimore is not going to make Baltimore more appealing or its well-known problems go away.

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Analysis: Democrats Must Address Baltimore or Drown Politically in the Undertow

Much debate swirls around police brutality in Baltimore and the peaceful protests then riots following Freddie Gray’s death but little discussion has taken place about the political impact of these events. Today’s post focuses on that question.

Put bluntly, it puts the squeeze on Democrats.

In the struggle over public opinion regarding police actions, many voters tend to give the police the benefit of the doubt as they value law and order and respect that it’s a tough and often dangerous job. That bias can be overcome, as in New York, if protests stay peaceful and the police overplay their hand.

In Maryland, however, the Baltimore riots are likely to hurt the Democrats among the swingy white voters who elected Gov. Larry Hogan and helped the Republicans to take the Senate nationally. Remember that the events in Ferguson were in the spotlight just before the 2014 elections.

And the effect may not be limited to whites. There is no guarantee that Maryland’s Latino and Asian voters will not be more concerned about public safety than police brutality. People of color are not a political or social monolith.

Messages that Won’t Work

Unsurprisingly, people have strong views on the police, race, and many related issues. However, some of these viewpoints have the potential to harm Democrats greatly. Critically, I emphasize that the point here is not whether the views are right or wrong but that seem likely to me to have a sharp negative political impact.

Arguments that these problems all stem from racism will only exacerbate Democratic political problems. Nobody likes being accused of being a racist–an excellent way to alienate voters appalled by the riots. Moreover, they know some of the police involved in Freddie Gray’s death are African American, as is the police chief and mayor.

Similarly, efforts to label the riots an “uprising” will strike the same voters as hopelessly out of touch (read: insane). Quotes from Democrats that appear to justify violence, like Del. Maricé Morales’ Facebook post, will be used against Democrats.

The sharp spike in the murder rate in the wake of the riots will only increase the demand for law and order. Many of the victims are African American. Charnice Milton, a promising young journalist with a moving personal story, was shot to death just a few days ago in Washington, DC when she got caught in gang crossfire responsible for many recent killings in Baltimore.

Blaming chronic neglect of the poorest parts of Baltimore won’t work either. After sixteen years of William Donald Schaefer and Martin O’Malley as Governor, it’s a hard sell that the State has not sent sufficient cash Baltimore’s way.

It doesn’t matter whether these points are correct so much as this is how many swing voters will perceive it. It’s their views that shape their votes–not how you think they should see events.

Crafting a Democratic Message

Getting a grip on this tough issue politically is going to require a clear message that doesn’t sound hedging yet addresses the very legitimate concerns of the party’s oft-divided constituencies. Borrowing a version of Tony Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” slogan from the 1990s might fit the bill.

Criminal behavior is unacceptable. Full stop. The recent riots stole jobs from working people and burned down housing being built by local leaders for the elderly. Violence eats at the fabric of already struggling communities.

For exactly these reasons, we need stronger policing policies that protect the rights and dignity of citizens as well as the police. We need to do it not only because it’s right but because our communities will be safer for it. Mutual lack of trust and hostility between the police and the community is a direct threat to public safety.

Crises provide opportunities for leaders. These are tough problems but addressing them can advance the party’s strong commitment to justice and to public safety. Articulating a strong message supporting both is critical to preserving public trust.

It’s more complicated that straightforward condemnations of either criminal behavior or police brutality. Fortunately, there are signs of some Democrats leading the way. See the Facebook comments by Del. Brooke Lierman (and the other legislators from D46) as well as Del. David Moon’s call to end the damaging drug war.

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South Baltimore Showdown

Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake has appointed 11th District City Councilman Bill Cole to be CEO of the Baltimore City Economic Development Corporation. Through a needlessly arcane appointment process, adjacent city council members and various community members selected by the City Council President recommend a nominee to the City Council as a whole for an up or down vote.

The Baltimore Sun has the list (which I’ve cut and pasted below).

  • Melanie A. Ambridge, a former board member of the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association
  • Darroll Cribb, CEO of The Humanitarian, Inc.
  • Eric T. Costello, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association
  • Julie K. Dunham Howie, a development director at Payne Theological Seminary
  • Shannon Laurie Keeny, a board member of the Locust Point Civic Association
  • John Kucskar, a deputy legal counsel to Gov. Martin O’Malley
  • Rob LaPin, a former teacher and House of Delegates candidate
  • Arthur McGreevy, a lawyer at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin, and White LLC
  • Harry F. Preston, V, a teacher of the year at Edmondson Westside High
  • William Romani, founding board member of non-profit One House at a Time and former House of Delegates candidate
  • Gregory Sileo, Locust Point Civic Association President
  • Benjamin R. Smith, student body president at University of Maryland School of Law and a field director on the Brian Frosh campaign for attorney general
  • David Stone, vice chairman of the Baltimore City school board
  • Shannon Sullivan, board member of the Riverside community association
  • Anthony F. Vittoria, a lawyer at the Ober|Kaler firm

It appears to me that, as outgoing Delegate Kieffer Mitchell is taking a pass, that it’s finally Bill Romani’s turn. After being bested by Del. Luke Clippinger in 2010 and Democratic Delegate Nominee Brooke Lierman in 2014, it looks like Mr. Romani is the far-and-away leader for the appointment in my opinion.

The only real danger in the appointment process that I see for Mr Romani is that there may be a push for an African-American appointee in this downtown Council District which stretches from trendy, white Federal Hill far into West Baltimore.

However, while he has not confirmed this to me, I envision Baltimore City Young Gun Ben Smith giving Bill Romani a hell of a fight in the 2016 Democratic Primary for this seat.

Ben is wicked smart and charming to a fault. While the insider appointment processes of Maryland doesn’t favor a young idealistic law student, the electorate in a competitive Democratic presidential primary does. My spidey sense tells me this will be a marquee Democratic primary in 2016.

Appointment Rating: Likely Romani

2016 Democratic Primary Election: To Early to Say. 
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/blog/bal-15-apply-for-vacant-city-council-seat-20140918,0,5037544.story#ixzz3DpFFQ0Lo

 

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Top Eight Young Guns of Baltimore City

1. Cory McCray – As far as I’m concerned, there is not a single person in Baltimore (or Maryland) who doesn’t think Cory McCray will win a seat in the legislature on June 24th. One incumbent actually dropped out to avoid facing him in the primary–and I don’t think anyone blames her. Cory has been a recognized leader in the IBEW for years. He’s also infectiously charming. Future Mayor?

Anonymous: Cory is a graduate of a five-year apprenticeship program with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 24. For the past four years before becoming a candidate in Baltimore’s  District 45 you could not say union organizing in Baltimore without mentioning Cory’s name. Corey also is the co creator of the B.E.S.T. Democratic Club.

2. Dy Reed – The eternally savvy in-house lobbyist for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Currently in law school at the University of Baltimore, she attended Columbia University for undergrad. Incredible potential.

Anonymous: When Dy isn’t lobbying in Annapolis in her official capacity as government relations rep for the Maryland HR, she is one of the most active members of the Baltimore City Young Dems. Dy was also recently recognized for her work in Baltimore by the B.E.S.T. Democratic Club.

3. Brian Hammock – I’m reasonably certain that Brian was the youngest statewide field director in the country in 2006 when he oversaw the ground game for O’Malley’s first statewide run. After a stint in the Governor’s office, he’s practicing law with Mid-Atlantic powerhouse Venable LLP. He’ll be an insider from city hall to the statehouse until the day he dies.

4. Matt Stegman – The nicest, funniest dude in Maryland politics. With a resume that includes lots of real races both in Maryland (O’Malley and Kratovil) and in more competitive states (Ohio and Pennsylvania). he currently works for House Environmental Matters Committee Chair (and contender for the Speaker’s Chair) Maggie McIntosh. At night, he goes to the University of Baltimore Law School (a.k.a. finishing school for lobbyists).

Anonymous: Like his boss – smart, progressive, & has the best sense of humor in Annapolis.

5. Liz Richards – Liz is a former DSCC independent expenditures staffer who is currently managing Brooke Lierman’s surefire delegate campaign in District 46. I fail to see how they lose that race, and Liz should be well positioned to capitalize on the victory.

6. Benjamin Smith – The Student Government President at UMD Law School is already a published author (the book was about community agriculture). He has 2018 written all over him. Kentucky native but looking to move up in Charm City.

Anonymous: Ben recently moved to Maryland to attend law school, and he has quickly asserted himself in the political community. Ben makes no secret that he holds deep political ambitions in the state of Maryland, and in Baltimore, in particular. Look for him to make a run for elected office shortly after he graduates law school and passes the bar.

7. Anthony Jones – This Baltimore City native and Martha McKenna protege previously worked for US Senator Ben Cardin and Comptroller Peter Franchot. Someone to have on your side in the upcoming 2016 municipal elections.

8. Tashea Brodgins – Currently, she works at the Department of State and was previously with the Executive Office of The President. Tashea was the President of the Baltimore City Young Democrats for five or six years–A remarkable run for an organization known for high turn over–and remains tied in locally as a member of the City Central Committee.

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