Governor Martin O’Malley is set to brief the media today on the status of Maryland’s online health insurance exchange. State Attorney General Doug Gansler proposes apprenticeship expansion. Baltimore’s “Safe Streets” program. A Baltimore City Council hearing on the death of Tyrone West. And more.
O’Malley To Address Online Insurance Exchange Issues: Governor Martin O’Malley is set to brief the media today on the status of Maryland’s online health insurance exchange, according to the Washington Post. Last month, O’Malley had said that major problems with the marylandhealthconnection.org website would be fixed by the middle of December; at a press conference earlier this week, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown wouldn’t say whether that target would be met. Only about 52-hundred Marylanders have signed up for private health insurance through the exchange since it opened in October – that’s a little more than 3 percent of the state’s goal of enrolling 150-thousand uninsured Marylanders by the end of March.
Brown's Opponents Have A Point On Health Care: WYPR Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith says the Affordable Care Act looked like a winner for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown… that is, until the rollout. Fraser comments in his weekly essay.
Gansler Calls For Apprenticeship Expansion: State Attorney General Doug Gansler is calling for an expansion of apprenticeship programs in Maryland; he wants to encourage private sector businesses to provide hands-on skills training for kids as young as 16 – training that could get them high-school credit. The Washington Post reports that program is designed to provide a path for students not inclined to attend four-year colleges to get training in a broad array of fields. The apprenticeship program is one of several policy initiatives Gansler has unveiled as he campaigns to be Maryland’s next governor; also vying for the democratic nomination are Lieutenant Governor Brown and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur.
Baltimore City Council Holds Hearing On The Death Of Tyrone West: The family of Tyrone West, who died in police custody last July, called for justice last night during an emotionally charged hearing at Baltimore City Hall. WYPR's Kenneth Burns reports that while the state medical examiner failed to show up, two candidates for statewide office were there. Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts also appeared at last night’s hearing… and he says he’s planning to form a commission to investigate West’s death. This commission would be comprised of experts from outside the city police department… and that’s drawn criticism from the head of the city’s police union. The President of Baltimore’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, Robert Cherry, tells the Baltimore Sun that the move will undermine public confidence in police investigations.
“Safe Streets” Program Suspended: Baltimore has suspended its "Safe Streets" initiative at its West Baltimore location following the arrest of a staff member over the weekend. The “Safe Streets” program hires former offenders to help mediate disputes and is part of the city's strategy to reduce homicides and gun violence. The Baltimore News Journal reports that the suspension of the program was sparked by the Sunday arrest of an outreach worker who was on parole after serving time on a murder charge; he’s alleged to have been selling drugs and carrying a stolen handgun. Less than two weeks earlier, another outreach worker was indicted on federal drug charges. The suspension of the “Safe Streets” program in West Baltimore will likely continue for two weeks, while staff are “retrained;” the Baltimore Sun notes that other “Safe Streets” programs in Baltimore will continue to operate.
Commission Makes Recommendations For Baltimore City Detention Center: A state legislative commission is calling for inmates to be tested to see if they're likely to get violent behind bars before they're put in the Baltimore City Detention Center. The risk assessment tests are one of several recommendations from the panel, aimed at solving problems at the Detention Center – where revelations of corruption surfaced earlier this year. The Baltimore Sun reports that another recommendation is that the Baltimore jail be knocked down and rebuilt; doing so would cost a little more than half a billion dollars. The recommendations will be sent to the General Assembly next month.
Giant, Safeway Workers To Vote On Contract: Thousands of union employees who work for grocery stores around the region will be voting on a new contract next week. Giant and Safeway have reached a tentative agreement with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, and workers will vote on December 17th on whether to approve the deal. A spokesman for Local 27 of the union would not disclose details of the pact to the Baltimore Sun. Workers are currently on a contract that’s been extended twice, since its original expiration at the end of October.
BOE Approves Cash For Razing Vacants: Baltimore’s Board of Estimates has approved $2.5-million to pay for demolishing vacant houses in East Baltimore, north of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Daily Record reports that the money comes from a state revitalization grant the city received in 2011.
Drinking Water In Frederick: The city of Frederick has failed to meet new water quality requirements under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act. The Frederick News Post reports that the levels of chlorine byproducts found in several water samples taken in the city were higher than the standard. Until this year, Frederick only had to report citywide averages to the EPA… new rules mean that the Agency gets to see levels reported at 8 different sites around the city, and three of those sites reported violations. Frederick officials say they realized that city water wasn’t meeting requirements back in October, and has since modified some chlorination procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen again. And city officials say that the water system is back in compliance, but that hasn’t yet been verified by the state. A Frederick water quality supervisor for says that city water has been and is safe to drink and use.
MD Not Meeting CDC Recommendations For Anti-Tobacco Campaign Spending: A new report says Maryland and most other states aren't spending recommended amounts on anti-tobacco campaigns. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says states are getting 25-billion dollars in this fiscal year from a 1998 settlement with the largest tobacco companies. But the report says they'll spend less than two-percent of that on programs to stop smoking. According to the report Maryland will spend less than 14-percent of the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Only North Dakota and Alaska are spending what the CDC recommends. More online here.
Baltimore’s Mitten Tree: Baltimore's 40th annual Mitten Tree campaign kicks off today with festivities at the Abel Wolman Building downtown. As the Baltimore News Journal reports, residents and city employees are encouraged to decorate the tree with mittens, caps, gloves and scarves, which will be distributed to the less fortunate by the Salvation Army's Franklin Square Boys and Girls Club. Donations are being accepted through December 20th.