The Accountability Index is our monthly series of conversations with reporters from Baltimore Brew, in which we examine issues of fiscal and policy accountability in state and local government. Last month, we talked about construction delays and budget overages on some local road projects.
This morning, Baltimore Brew's senior writer, Mark Reutter, joins Tom to talk about the city’s broken audit process. Reutter has been reporting in the Baltimore area since 1970, when he started as police reporter at the old Evening Sun. He worked a variety of urban beats for the Baltimore Sun papers before joining the Brew.
It took thirteen months for video to surface of Laquan McDonald, a 17 year old black teenager, being gunned down by a policeman in Chicago. Why did it take so long, and how will authorities in Chicago be held accountable? MacDonald's killing is putting into sharp focus issues of transparency in city police departments as well as how police handle suspects who are on drugs. Tom speaks with Jamie Kalven, a Chicago writer and the executive director of the Invisible Institute, which has been instrumental in making internal police documents about police misconduct cases available to the public, including the police dash-cam video and the autopsy report in the McDonald case.
Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore police officer, also joins us by phone from San Francisco. He is the executive director of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He was undercover in the early 1980s and was also the commanding officer of Drug and Criminal Enforcement on the Eastern Shore. He grew up in Reservoir Hill, and worked in Baltimore City as the head of training for the Baltimore City Police Department.
They are part of the city landscape that we almost never pay attention to. Bronze figures on horseback; austere men gazing over the horizon of history; monuments in parks and on thoroughfares that reflect the particular prism through which certain generations viewed the American story. Here in Baltimore, a commission established by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is considering what, if anything, should be done with four monuments that celebrate Confederate history.
Later this month, the commission will be holding a public hearing about the fate of these monuments, and this morning, Tom is joined by Aaron Bryant, a social and political historian who studies political history and visual culture. He is the chair of the commission. Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead is here as well. She’s a scholar of African American history who serves on the faculty of Loyola University of Maryland. Her latest book is called Letters to My Black Sons.
Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, 26 years old, a three-year veteran of the force, goes on trial this morning in The Clarence Mitchell Courthouse on Calvert Street in Baltimore. His is the first of six trials of officers charged in the death in police custody of Freddie Gray last April. Mr. Gray died of a severed spine one week after his arrest in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood on April 12. Following his funeral, peaceful protests gave way to rioting and looting across Baltimore City.
Officer Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter and second degree assault, as well as misconduct in office. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges. The other five officers have been charged separately; all have pleaded not guilty. Their trials will be held in succession.
Joining me this morning to talk about what we might expect in the trial of Officer Porter -- a trial that is being closely watched in Baltimore and well beyond -- are two experienced lawyers. Edward Smith is an attorney in private practice here in Baltimore. He has served in the office of the State’s Attorney, and he has argued cases in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. David Jaros is an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, whose scholarly focus is on Criminal Law.
This morning we talk about some of the reactions over the past week by politicians in this country to recent terror attacks by ISIS, the self-styled “Islamic State” group responsible for the November 13th Paris killings, among other atrocities, and their reactions also to the resettlement of Syrian refugees who are fleeing ISIS and the ongoing carnage of the Syrian civil war. The two subjects have become intertwined, and some say confused, in the public debate. Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat joins us this morning to discuss how the Muslim community here in Baltimore is reacting to the growing chorus of anti-Syrian-refugee and anti-Muslim rhetoric by U.S. governors, members of Congress and presidential candidates. Imam Arafat is a native of Syria, serving in the 1980s as an imam in Damascus. But he has been living in the US for 26 years. He was Imam of the Islamic Society in Baltimore from 1989 to 1993. He is also president and founder of the Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation and currently serves as president of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland.
More than 4 million refugees have fled the bloody civil war in Syria over the past five years – that's about 10% of all the world’s refugees and displaced people, and a fifth of Syria’s population -- and many of them are still waiting, after arduous escapes and dangerous journeys, to find safe haven in Europe and the United States. But in the wake of the ISIS attacks in Paris November 13th and growing fears of further terrorism, the welcome mat for Syrian refugees is being pulled away in some places. Joining us in the studio to talk about the situation facing those refugees, the resettlement process and the balance between national security concerns and civil liberties, is David Rocah, Senior Staff Attorney, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, and on the phone with us is Ruben Chandresakar, Executive Director of the Baltimore branch of the International Rescue Committee, one of nine non-profit agencies that manage refugee resettlement in the United States.
We take a look at public education in Baltimore City, with Dr. David Stone. He is a longtime educator who served on the Baltimore City School Board from 2002 until 2004. He then resigned from the board to become Director of Charter Schools for Baltimore City Public Schools. In 2008, Mayor Sheila Dixon reappointed him to the school board where he served until September of this year. Stone was vice chairman of the school board for three years.
Since 2007 he has also been assistant vice president for Special Education at Kennedy Krieger Institute here in Baltimore. Today, Tom and Dr. Stone are talking about public charter schools in Baltimore City, equity for all public school students and the lack of transparency of the Baltimore City Public Schools budget.
This Saturday, Nov. 21, members of Baltimore City's delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates will hold a public hearing on education. Among the agenda items: Public charter schools, public schools recommended for closure and school police. The meeting will be held at Morgan State University's Murphy Fine Arts Center from 10 am until 1 pm. Click here for more information.
The debate last night in Milwaukee comes just two weeks after the heated Republican debate in Boulder. During and after that debate, the candidates and other Republicans criticized some of the debate questions, calling them politically biased and needlessly confrontational. Do the media outlets that sponsor the debates have too much power, too much influence in deciding the format of the debate, what the questions should be, and even which candidates get to participate?
Joining Tom in the studio to discuss the most recent debate are Dr. Sheri Parks, the Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming in the College of Arts and Humanities, and Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland; E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and associate professor at the School of Journalism at Morgan State University; and Richard Cross, a former press secretary and speech writer for Bob Erhlich when he was in Congress and when he served as Governor of Maryland. Now he blogs at Cross Purposes.
Tom talks with investigative reporter Mark Reutter from BaltimoreBrew -- an on-line news source that focuses on local issues -- in the first of a series of occasional conversations with Brew reporters here on Maryland Morning that we're calling The Accountability Index. Much of Brew’s coverage has to do with holding local and state officials accountable for a variety of taxpayer expenditures, and our hope is to zero in on certain projects, and explore how public funds are being spent; to find out, simply, if we’re getting our money’s worth. Today, Tom and Mark talk about a couple of controversial Baltimore city road projects.