Thu January 23, 2014
School Delays & Closures, O'Malley's State Of The State Speech, and A Secret Speed Camera Audit
Schools in Central Maryland are on 2-hour delays; many schools on the Eastern Shore are closed. We round up the schedule changes, preview Governor Martin O'Malley's "State Of The State" speech, and look at a secret audit of Baltimore's speed camera system showing a 10% error rate in 2012. And much more.
Baltimore City schools and Baltimore County schools are opening two hours late, due to the bitter cold and the still-snowy streets. Also on a two-hour delay: schools in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Washington counties.
Baltimore Code Blue Extended: Temperatures aren’t expected to get above freezing until the weekend. And here in Baltimore, officials are taking the deep chill very seriously. The city’s health department has extended its Code Blue alert through Saturday in an effort to keep the homeless and other vulnerable residents safe. A 60-bed, city-run shelter on Fallsway is now taking in folks who need to warm up or a hot meal. Private shelters are being asked to extend their hours.
O’Malley To Deliver “State Of The State” Speech: Governor Martin O’Malley is set to deliver his final State of the State address today. The Baltimore Sun reports that O’Malley will use the occasion to urge the General Assembly to raise Maryland’s minimum wage – the governor’s made doing so a policy priority for this year’s session, and is backing a bill that would up the rate to $10.10 an hour by the year 2016, and index it to inflation thereafter. The Washington Post reports that O’Malley’s also expected to use the speech to look back at his last seven years as governor and talk up what he sees at his top achievements.
Audit Reveals 10% Error Rate For Baltimore Speed Cameras: Baltimore’s troubled speed camera system appears to have been more troubled than many had thought. The Baltimore Sun has obtained data from the secret audit, conducted for the city last year. It shows that the cameras had an error rate of more than 10 percent, while the system was run by Xerox State and Local Solutions in 2012. That 10 percent error rate is 40 times higher than officials had claimed. City Councilmembers had been calling for a release of the audit since it was produced in April of 2013. The audit itself still has not been released, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration says it does not intend to do so. Problems with the camera system prompted it to go offline last year. While Mayor Rawlings-Blake says she wants the cameras to go back online, there’s no timeline yet.
Ruppersberger Decides Not To Run For Governor: 2nd District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger has ended his flirtation with the governor’s race. The six-term Democrat had said as recently as this month that he was considering mounting a bid for the state’s top job, but the Annapolis Capital reports that yesterday, Ruppersberger announced that he’ll run for re-election to Congress. The Democratic gubernatorial field is already crowded and competitive, including Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur. Congressman Ruppersberger has not endorsed any of the candidates. The gubernatorial primary is in June. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Message To Hogan: Think More Like The Pros Another GOP candidate for governor – Larry Hogan -- has stepped up to take on Maryland’s dominant Democrats. WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith comments in his weekly essay.
Retroactive Health Insurance Bill Moves Forward: A committee in the House of Delegates is making changes to a piece of legislation aimed at offering an emergency fix for the state's problem-ridden health care exchange. The measure would allow retroactive coverage for residents who tried - but failed - to buy insurance through the state exchange. The State Senate passed the bill earlier this week. The Baltimore Sun reports that the House’s Health and Government Operations Committee has amended the measure to require that the General Assembly get monthly reports on how many people have used the program. The measure now moves to the House floor, where it could be amended further. The Annapolis Capital reports that if the changes are approved by the Senate, the measure would go to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk.
Raises Approved For Baltimore County Lawmakers: If Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and the seven members of the Baltimore County Council are re-elected this year, they’ll get paid higher salaries. Yesterday, the council voted unanimously to give the County Executive’s post a $25-thousand raise – setting the annual salary at $175-thousand. The legislation also sets council member salaries at $62,500, and the council chair’s salary at $70-thousand. The Baltimore Sun notes that the council hasn’t had a raise in 8 years. The new salaries were recommended by an advisory panel, and will take effect when the new term starts.
Mikulski Unveils School Safety Grant Program: Senator Barbara Mikulski was in Baltimore County yesterday – to announce the creation of $50-million in school safety grants. Mikulski said that school districts nationwide will be able to apply for the grants to develop or update their school safety plans. The funds will enable schools to buy technology, hire personnel and provide training to carry out safety plans. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Jones Falls Trail Expansion: Construction on the next phase of the Jones Falls Trail is expected to begin in the fall. The Baltimore Sun reports that the city's Board of Estimates agreed to spend two-million-dollars to extend the bicycle and pedestrian trail from Cylburn Arboretum to the Mount Washington Light Rail station. Phase one of the trail opened in 2005, running from Penn Station to Wyman Park. Phase two runs through Druid Hill Park, past the zoo to Woodberry.