Gov. Larry Hogan proposed a $480 million demolition and rebuild of the city's medieval jail/prison complex. The expense would delay work on several state universities to demolish 16 buildings around Madison Street east of the Fallsway to make way for a six-level "Justice Center" comprising 800,000 square feet with 2,720 beds—a smaller complex than originally proposed, to be completed in five years instead of 13. The governor did not consult the city's legislative delegation or Mayor $RB; a spokesperson told The Baltimore Sun that Boss Hög asked no one's permission because "it's the right thing to do."
As Comptroller Peter Franchot's office announced a virtual shutdown of several tax franchises for suspected fraud, Franchot was proclaiming that lack of window air conditioning in Baltimore city and county schools was "our Flint." But the comparison to the devastating water crisis in Michigan did not play well with some in the legislature, where Senate President Mike Miller said the state's school construction decisions should be made to serve the people, "and not the ego of elected officials." House Speaker Michael E. Busch told The Sun that Flint "hardly compares to initiatives of air conditioning in schools that we will try to alleviate in the budget process." Calling attention to a lack of A/C in Baltimore schools is important but comparing it to a crisis of catastrophic proportions and public health scandal is just unwise.
When the snow finally stopped falling last Sunday, everyone in Baltimore, for one day, seemed to be full of giddy joy to see the blizzard's results and revel in the snow day. Alas, the inconvenience of 20-plus inches of snow quickly took its toll on the city's goodwill. Drivers were angry that their streets weren't immediately plowed, even though the city said it was clearing 144,000 cubic yards of snow per day. The fight over cleared parking spots, and whether folks can "reserve" them with chairs—or vacuum cleaners or bookshelves or fans—got heated. Many sidewalks were left unshoveled, creating dangerous conditions for pedestrians, but city councilmembers still fought against SRB's plan to enforce a sidewalk-clearing ordinance. And even those that did shovel their sidewalks watched snow plows undo their work as the plows in multiple neighborhoods pushed the snow from the streets back onto the sidewalks. Thank god the snow is melting so people can quit being assholes about the storm.
The Fraternal Order of Police, the Baltimore Police Department, and Commissioner Kevin Davis condemned tweets by police lieutenant and union Vice President Victor Gearhart last week. This came after a blog post by activist Makayla Gilliam-Price called attention to Gearhart's controversial tweets (@SDGhostRider). Among other things, Gearhart incorrectly claimed that 17-year-old Gilliam-Price was the "Radical daughter of Convicted Murderer who killed Irv&Rose Bronstein..." She is not. Gearhart also called protesters "unbathed parasites & THUGS," confirming activists' worst fears about cop attitudes. Soon after, Gearhart was reassigned from overnight patrol in the Southern to overnight building security. Then a U.K. hacker posted nearly three gigabytes of private files from the FOP, including contracts and the names and addresses of officers. Another rough week for the embattled FOP.
Already facing budget cuts from Annapolis, Baltimore City Public Schools were dealt another blow after The Sun published a story on the number of "ghost students" kept on the rolls. Schools CEO Gregory Thornton conducted an internal investigation and found that many students were no longer in classrooms despite their names still being in the system. Who's to blame? Leaders for both the teachers and principals unions say they were encouraged to keep inflated enrollments under previous administrations, but there's also an attendance system in the city that defaults to "present" and teachers may not have been taking roll consistently. Regardless, funding is determined, in part, by student population, and now that the actual number is known, and lower than before, it seems the school system is in for some serious belt-tightening.