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News and Commentary from WYPR's award winning newsroom.

    

News Director Joel McCord and Rachel Baye, of the WYPR reporting team, take on the latest chapter in the feud between Gov. Larry Hogan and the General Assembly over transportation funding.

Tom Moore

Saturday marks the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn. Local history lovers call this Battle Week. A few days before and after the actual date of this Revolutionary War battle, August 27th, 1776, they get together to mark the event, with re-enactments, talks, exhibits, neighborhood walks, lots of waving of old flags, music and more.

One event features colonial cocktails and another invites families to join in for lots of trivia and games including a “Brooklyn vs. Britain” scavenger hunt.

But what few of them seem know is that a group of Maryland Continental Army soldiers, known as the Maryland 400, played a key role in the fight.

The chief spokesman for Baltimore police insists that a trial program in which a manned plane with cameras flies over the city and feeds information to law enforcement was not a secret.

John Lee

It was a picture perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, as Loch Raven High School Principal Bonnie Lambert greeted students as they entered the building, wishing them a "happy new year" on the first day of school after the summer break.

Karen Salmon, Maryland’s State Superintendent of Schools, said what’s great about education is that they get to start over every year.

"And we get to do it right," she said "So it’s really just the best." 

Fraser Smith

    

A short stretch of South Arlington Avenue could go a long way toward promoting togetherness and a higher quality of life in the neighborhoods of the Southwest Partnership. The proposed South Arlington Avenue Greenway would pull the seven neighborhoods together. At the same time it would introduce visitors to area attractions – the popular Mobtown Ballroom, the Edgar Allan Poe House and the B&O Railroad Museum. 

Arash Azizzada

The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP announced a new legislative agenda last week, following the release of a U.S. Department of Justice report chronicling a system of discrimination in the Baltimore Police Department. Changing police recruitment practices was on the list.

“We will mandate and oversee the recruitment of officers by the Baltimore Police Department and require Baltimore residents, particularly African Americans and women, to be recruited and hired to fill the more than 3,000 officer positions comprising the agency,” state Del. Jill Carter, a Democrat who represents northwest Baltimore, said at the Black Caucus’ press conference.

But even before the report’s release, the Baltimore Police had begun building efforts to recruit from communities that haven’t historically attracted many applicants.

Aaron Webb / Flickr / Creative Commons

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is pledging at least $1 million in grants to help groups that serve victims of sexual assault in Baltimore after the Justice Department found the police department's responses to sexual assault "grossly inadequate."

The Republican governor said Thursday that the money represents immediate action to improve services to victims.

    

Fraser Smith and Andy Green, editorial page editor of the Baltimore Sun, take up former Mayor/Governor Martin O'Malley's defense of "broken windows" policing that was so sharply criticized in the recent Department of Justice report on the Baltimore police department.

The Department of Justice’s 163 page report describes officers and sergeants acting as if they had a blank check to do whatever they wanted in the inner city neighborhoods; using unreasonable force against people who represented little or no threat, making warrantless arrests without probable cause, conducting illegal strip searches, sometimes in public.

Soon the DOJ, the city, the police department, and community leaders will get to work on the court-ordered mandatory consent decree that’s should be finalized November 1.

City minimum wage bill delayed...possibly dead

Aug 15, 2016
P. Kenneth Burns

The Baltimore City Council sent a bill raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour back to committee Monday. And it looks like it may not come back out before the next city council takes office in December. 

Aaron Webb / Flickr / Creative Commons

Authorities say 12 people have been arrested while protesting a police conference in Baltimore.

Dozens of protesters gathered Sunday outside a hotel, where the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police is holding its biennial conference this week.

Scholars sing to start the day at Play On Purpose's Summer Camp
Jonna McKone

Every parent faces challenges finding constructive opportunities for their children in the summer while school’s out. But that process can be even more difficult for parents who can’t afford day camps.  

On a hot, August morning, about 75 kids play, sing and chat in the cafeteria of ConneXions, a public charter school in the Mondawmin neighborhood of West Baltimore. Play on Purpose (POP) runs a free summer program here that includes curriculum through the Freedom School, a program of the Children’s Defense Fund. Freedom Schools teach culturally relevant reading and local African American history at over 12,000 sites around the nation to, in part, stem the tide of summer learning loss.

Rachel Baye

Representatives of Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP announced Friday a set of policy proposals in response to the scathing Justice Department report on discriminatory practices by the Baltimore Police Department.

Among the legislators’ proposals are hiring practices that bring in more African American and women city residents, protections for police whistle-blowers and opportunities for civilians to review police actions.

Down in the polls

Aug 12, 2016

Mayor: DOJ findings “challenging” to hear

Aug 10, 2016
P. Kenneth Burns

Editor's note: The full DOJ report is posted at the bottom of this story.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday she was committed to implementing police reforms after the U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report on the Baltimore Police Department.

The mayor said “the findings are challenging to hear” but that her administration did not wait around for the Justice Department to issue its 163-page report.

“The city has taken first steps in a long path to reform and we’ve begun to see real benefits,” she said.

Minimum support for new minimum wage

Aug 10, 2016

    

A proposal to increase the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour squeaked past a preliminary vote Monday. But will it have enough votes for final passage? Fraser Smith and Kenneth Burns, of the WYPR reporting team, assess the chances.

P. Kenneth Burns

Baltimore City is one step closer to raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.  But it’s not clear if there will be enough votes next week to make it final.  City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke’s proposal squeaked by in a preliminary vote Monday.

But that vote, 7-4 with three abstentions, was one short of the number needed for final passage.

Rising tides make life difficult for scientists

Aug 9, 2016
Pamela D'Angelo

  Chesapeake Bay shorelines are gradually disappearing as sea level rises and higher high tides eat away at beaches and fragile, sandy cliffs. And while that causes anxiety for some waterfront property-owners, it also creates a dilemma for archeologists and paleontologists.

They’re gradually losing important sites and artifacts to the water.

Tom Chalkley

WYPR's senior news analyst suggests there's something other than the continuing controversy over Donald Trump's insensitive comments about a Gold Star family that could undo his run for the White House.

Jonna McKone

The standard picture of a debate team looks something like this: white students in jackets and rep ties from schools like Dartmouth and Princeton. But that’s changing, especially in Baltimore, which has developed a reputation for producing some of the most accomplished high school and college debaters in the country.

Take rising 10th grader at Baltimore City College, Nicolas Broaddus, who stands in front of the  judges at the Eddie Conway Liberation Institute’s debate competition. Clad in a dashiki he’s talking about things that "...constitute the domestic aspect of the US transnational network of secret prisons and black sites..."

Zoe Mitchell

Last May, a three-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and was picked up by Harambe, a rare, endangered silverback gorilla. Out of fear for the boy’s life, zoo officials made the tough call to kill Harambe.

The next morning, Don Hutchinson, CEO and president of The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, sent his staff out to double-check their own security measures to make sure animals and visitors are protected.

Rachel Baye

  The governor’s office said Wednesday it will not release nearly $80 million the legislature had set aside to pay for a range of items including teacher pensions, the rehabilitation of aging schools, the demolition of the Baltimore City Detention Center and Baltimore’s Safe Streets initiative.

Baltimore County police say they asked Facebook to suspend a woman's Facebook and Instagram accounts during a standoff because people commenting on videos of the law enforcement operation were encouraging her not to comply with orders from officers.

Looking past November

Aug 3, 2016

Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler, of the WYPR reporting team, say Maryland politicians are looking past this year's presidential race and setting their sites on the next run for the governor's mansion in 2018.

In the aftermath of the storm

Aug 1, 2016
P. Kenneth Burns

Torrential storms pushed swollen streams over their banks in the Baltimore region over the weekend, causing two deaths and major damage in Ellicott City and tearing up businesses in the Woodberry section of Baltimore.

Early Monday the clean-up efforts were well underway as trucks with heavy equipment and police cruisers streamed down Ellicott Mills Drive onto Ellicott City’s historic Main Street, each vehicle followed by a cloud of dirt.

Mayor says Port Covington not a rush job

Aug 1, 2016
Sagamore Development

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake took issue Monday with those who say the city is rushing to approve the $5.5 billion Port Covington project. The mayor disagreed with critics who charge the proposal has not been thoroughly studied.

Conventional wisdom

Jul 29, 2016

    

Fraser Smith and John Fritze, of the Baltimore Sun's Washington Bureau, compare and contrast the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Blue Water Baltimore

Baltimore City asked the U.S. District Court last month to extend its deadline for making critical improvements to the city sewer system by 17 years, from January 2016 to the year 2033.

The deadline stems from a 2002 lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed against the city for allowing raw sewage to leak into public waterways, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

P. Kenneth Burns

Prosecutors defended Thursday their investigation and strategy in the case of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered in police custody. 

Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said in a news conference they believed in the case and were prepared to continue with the trials.  But State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby determined that they had to be realistic.

“Mrs. Mosby correctly determined that we had to face the reality [that] defendants would select judge trials,” he said.  “And that this judge made determinations and that he had seen the significant portions of the evidence that he was going to see.”

Schatzow added he “obviously” disagrees with Williams’ view and that “there should have been guilty verdicts.”

BPD's new use of force policy: What's changed?

Jul 28, 2016
Baltimore Sun

    

In her news conference Wednesday, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby blamed the legal system for her inability to convict any of the six police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case.

"Without real substantive reforms to the current criminal justice system, we could try this case 100 times and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result," she said.

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