Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts agrees with the ACLU that more oversight is needed of so-called “stop and frisk” searches. Plus: Thanksgiving travel projections, casino projections, ICC use, paper ballots, MD’s ban on handheld cell phone use while driving, and more.
Batts Agrees With ACLU On “Stop And Frisk” Oversight: Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts is agreeing with the American Civil Liberties Union – that so-called “stop and frisk” searches conducted by his department need more oversight. Data provided the police departments showed that officers stopped people 123-thousand times last year, but found only nine handguns during those stops… the ACLU called that figure “implausible” earlier this week… and yesterday, Commissioner Batts agreed. Batts tells the Baltimore Sun that he has “longstanding concerns regarding the data collection methods” the department has used. Batts took the helm of the city police department a little more than a year ago, in 2012. The Department says that "long-needed" recordkeeping reforms are now being put in place.
Baltimore Casino To Take Business From Other MD Casinos: New projections show that the new Horseshoe Baltimore casino, set to open next year, could siphon off nearly a quarter of the revenues currently going to Maryland’s largest casino – the Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County. The data comes from two studies commissioned by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. Those studies show that Maryland Live!’s business could take a hit of about 23 percent. The Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County would also be affected, potentially losing 19 percent of its revenues. The state’s two other casinos – in Allegany and Worcester counties – would see negligible declines in business. The Baltimore Sun notes that the studies didn’t examine the impact that a casino coming to Prince George’s County would have on the state’s casino gambling program; state officials will award the contract for that facility next month.
Kamenetz Criticizes Vote On Rosedale Housing Project: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is speaking out against a decision by the County Council earlier this week to reject more than one-million-dollars in state funding for a low income housing project in Rosedale. That decision effectively killed the development. Kamenetz tells the Baltimore Sun that he wants more affordable housing throughout the county… and says his administration is looking at ways to create it. He also says that he might consider banning housing discrimination against people using Section 8 vouchers – if the General Assembly doesn’t pass a statewide ban in next year’s session.
Camelot: The Memory That Never Was President John F Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago tomorrow. The nation is taking time to pause and mark the anniversary. WYPR Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith says that, today, JFK seems to be enshrined as a kind of dreamlike figure. Fraser comments in his weekly essay.
Thanksgiving Travel Projections: The Thanksgiving holiday travel season is less than a week away – starting next Tuesday and running through the Sunday after the holiday. AAA is predicting that fewer Americans will hit the roads this year than last… the travel club tells the Baltimore Sun that it expects travel to decline about 1 and a half percent nationwide. AAA won’t release its Maryland travel predictions ‘till tomorrow – but state officials say they think our state’s roads will be more crowded than they were last year. The Maryland Transportation Authority says it expects more than 2.7 million travelers to use the state's toll highways, bridges and tunnels – that’s a one percent increase over last year's holiday. The MdTA is encouraging drivers to travel during off-peak hours, with the busiest day being next Wednesday.
Handheld Cell Phone Ban: Some of the folks traveling through Maryland over the holiday will likely be pulled over by police if they’re caught talking on handheld cell phones while driving. Since the cell phone ban went into effect at the beginning of October, the Maryland State Police have issued more than 1650 electronic citations, and more than 12-hundred warnings. Officials tell the Frederick News Post that they expect more people will comply with the law the longer it’s in effect and the more awareness grows. Thanksgiving travelers from out of state are warned about the cell phone ban by signs posted at Maryland’s borders.
ICC Use Increases: Some of the Thanksgiving travelers will be using Maryland's Intercounty Connector – the toll highway connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. It's been about two years since the ICC extended to I-95 and officials say the traffic volume is increasing. WJLA reports that work continues on the next segment of the ICC which will link I-95 to U.S. Route 1. That part of the roadway is expected to open to traffic in the spring of 2014. The MdTA has more here.
Preparing For The Return Of Paper Ballots: Paper ballots are coming back to Maryland – they’re set to replace touchscreen voting machines for the 2016 presidential elections. Before that happens, the state has to choose a ballot form – and roll out the shift to voters. Linda Lamone, Administrator of the state Board of Elections, tells WJZ that outreach is important. The General Assembly passed legislation to return the state’s voting system to paper back in 2007, but marylandreporter.com notes that the switch has been delayed by a lack of funding. The initial implementation is expected to cost more than $35-million.
Frederick Elections Chief Steps Down: The head of the City of Frederick’s Board of Supervisors of Elections has resigned. Anne Leffler stepped down from the post yesterday, after more than four years at the post. Leffler led the charge to have Frederick plan and run its own elections this year; previously, the city’s elections had been managed by the county. Leffler tells the Frederick News Post that she’s leaving to attend to personal health issues and spend more time with her family.
DPW Talks Up Proper Grease Disposal: Baltimore City’s Public Works Department is launching a program to educate residents about proper grease disposal. Officials say that when fats, oils and grease are poured down drains, they can clog sewers and lead to public health-threatening sewage overflows. A general rule when handling grease after cooking is to let it cool, scrape it into a plastic container and throw it out in the trash. More on DPW outreach is here from the Baltimore News Journal.
Attempt To Smuggle Contraband Into Baltimore Jail Foiled: Baltimore’s CitiWatch surveillance cameras are being credited with leading police to suspects who tried to smuggle contraband into the Baltimore City Detention Center. Two people were caught in the act as they allegedly tried to pass a package into the jail using a makeshift rope sent down by a detainee. The two have been charged with nine counts, including possession and attempt to deliver a controlled dangerous substance. Police tell the Baltimore Sun the package they tried to deliver contained marijuana, tobacco and a cell phone.
BPW Approves Millions For BWI Runway Work: More runway improvements will soon be made at BWI airport. Yesterday, the state’s Board of Public Works approved a $5.5-million contract to pay for the work. BWI is in the middle of a 350-million dollar airfield improvement program… and runway improvements are part of it. The Capital Gazette notes that such upgrades have been required by the Federal Aviation Administration, and need to be in place by the end of 2015.
Navy Blimp Still In Baltimore Skies – For Now: The white US Navy blimp that’s been circling the region’s skies for the past couple months will still be here for a few more days. The Navy tells WJZ that the 180-foot MZ-3A airship set to depart the Baltimore region on Monday. It’s in the air to test experimental avionics systems, which could be used to protect troops around the world in the future.
Warning System Test At Morgan State: Folks who live near Morgan State University in Baltimore may hear the sounds of sirens or klaxons later this morning. MSU officials say that there’s no reason to be alarmed – it’s just a test of the University’s warning system. The test is set for 11 o’clock this morning.