While North Carolina's egregious House Bill 2—the transphobic "bathroom bill" demanding that public schools and government agencies enforce strict bathroom designations based on gender assigned at birth—and Mississippi's equally gross "religious freedom law"—making it OK for workers to deny service to LGBTQ folks—are bringing out the worst in some government officials, their intolerance brings out the not-so-terribleness of others, including Baltimore's mayor and President Obama. Last week, Mayor SRB banned all government-sponsored travel to both North Carolina and Mississippi. It's a small act, but at times like this, solidarity means everything.
↑ UB Innocence Project Clinic
Malcolm Bryant, who has been in jail since 1998 on a murder conviction, was exonerated last week thanks to eight years of work by Michele Nethercott, director of the University of Baltimore's Innocence Project Clinic, and her slew of hard-working students. Bryant was charged in the murder of high school student Toni Bullock, who was dragged into an alley and stabbed to death while walking home from the drugstore. Nethercott's Innocence Project pushed for new testing of DNA from the victim's fingernails and t-shirt. Turns out, the results did not match Bryant's DNA. Kudos to the Innocence Project Clinic—but what's with the prosecutors who fought re-testing and our clogged courts, which dragged this out so that an innocent man languished in prison for 17 years?
←→ Gov. Larry Hogan
In an epic and bizarre meeting of the State Board of Public Works, the governor, aided by Comptroller Peter Franchot, voted to hold back $15 million in needed school rebuilding funds from Baltimore City and County in order to force the jurisdictions to buy and install portable air conditioners in classrooms immediately. It was a classic populist power-play, cramming-down arguably wasteful spending in a crowd-pleasing show of naked force. The move prompted the resignation of David Lever, executive director of the Interagency Committee on School Construction, the state agency that nominally had controlled such decisions before last Wednesday. Hogan then kicked Lever in his ass on the way out the door, telling a reporter he is "very pleased" with the regulation of the respected, non-partisan, professional planner, who plans to leave in September. "My only regret," the governor told The Sun's Pamela Wood, "is it doesn't take effect immediately."
↓ Baltimore City's Election Board
Voters cast more ballots in Baltimore City's primary election than actually checked-in at the door to vote—which is puzzling. This, and other irregularities, prompted Maryland election administrator Linda Lamone to conduct a precinct-level re-examination of the ballots. "Baltimore City was not able to investigate and resolve these issues to our satisfaction," Lamone said. Which is why Baltimore's Board of Elections, led for a decade by Armstead Jones, gets a down arrow. Why did Jones and his people not investigate? Was the sloppy election—with late-opening polling places, missing data files and a reported 80 provisional ballots found uncounted—good enough for them? Why was this sloppiness OK when, two years ago, the city election board required such exacting accuracy of the 4,000-plus signatures Russell Neverdon's campaign collected in his bid to run in the general election against Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, that hundreds were rejected for missing a middle initial?
↓ City Officials
This year's RECon convention (a national convention of shopping center developers) in Las Vegas will be special: Sagamore Development will send a contingent, and many Baltimore City officials will be there. Those include Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and 12th District City Councilman Carl Stokes, both of whom will not even be returning to government next year—SRB because she did not run for re-election, Stokes because he lost his bid for mayor. Though it's not clear why, Baltimore always drops a chunk of change to send a large contingent of city officials who rarely return home with a major shopping center deal for the city. Three years ago, the mayor officiated the wedding of two top city lobbyists (then-State Senator—now Mayor-in-waiting—Catherine Pugh attended the wedding reception). Taxpayers spent thousands on these junkets yet, weirdly, Baltimore does not seem to get much retail development from it. At least, we don't get retail without shelling out tax breaks. Stokes has railed against these for years; Sagamore's is fast-tracked to get through the Council before the new members take their seats. Stokes promises full public hearings on them.