Wandering Eye: Maryland has budget surplus, Hogan wields executive privilege, and more

The City Explainer has a new cache of emails from Gov. Larry Hogan's administration obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request. Like the Mayor SRB emails, they cover the critical time between the peaceful demonstrations and the riot and curfew that followed. But they're not all they could be: "Unfortunately, there is not much insight in these emails as to how our top state government officials conducted state business," blog administrator (and former Sun reporter) Gus Sentementes writes, "because the governor's office claimed executive privilege and certain Maryland Public Information Act exemptions in withholding other emails from public view." Now, "executive privilege" is, unfortunatety, considered valid grounds for a denial under the MPIA. But it's supposed to be a narrow exception. Regarding "confidential opinions, deliberations, advice or recommendations made to a public employee." It's not a blanket "fuck off" to nosy citizens. But Hogan and his people made their position on the clause clear last February—months before the Freddie Gray incident—with a memo to pretty much everyone in state government. "If the email from Gov. Larry Hogan's chief legal counsel advising officials at various state agencies and departments to routinely label all written communications as 'CONFIDENTIAL, FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY – PROTECTED BY EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE' was really no big deal and not to be taken seriously, as the governor's spokesman claims, then the administration needs to rescind it," The Sun's editorial board wrote then. "Otherwise, it is likely to have a chilling effect on the openness of government regardless of its legal effect." Well, it wasn't rescinded. And so it goes. "We're not even sure there is more than one email in this entire batch that was sent by Gov. Hogan," Sentementes writes. "Same goes with the batch of Baltimore city emails and the city's mayor. If you spot anymore in the batch, please drop a note in the comments and let us know." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

In a recent NYT Magazine piece, writer Anna Holmes talks about how "diversity" in businesses has turned into an empty word. "It has become both euphemism and cliché, a convenient shorthand that gestures at inclusivity and representation without actually taking them seriously," she writes, adding that those few "diverse" folks that are welcomed into certain circles wind up as "ambassadors . . . representing the minority identity while conforming to the majority one." She cites several examples, including Matt Damon's "striking example not just of mansplaining but also of whitesplaining" to Effie Brown about diversity in Hollywood (that emphasis should be placed on more diverse casting, and less so on diverse writers/directors/etc.). Flesh out your understanding of Holmes' piece with Sofia Samatar's complex essay "Skin Feeling" over at the New Inquiry, where she talks about some of the pressures that come with being an academic of color, especially this notion of visibility. "In the logic of diversity work," she writes, "bodies of color form a material that must accumulate until it reaches a certain mass." The essay is kind of devastating, and beautiful, and you should definitely read it—especially if you are a member of one of those companies/organizations that are constantly talking about "diversity" and/or bemoaning your lack of it (City Paper included there). Samatar continues: "Diversity work is slow and yet it's always in a rush. It can't relax. It can't afford the informal gesture, the improvised note, the tangential question that moves off script, away from representation into some weird territory of you and me talking in this room right now." (Rebekah Kirkman)

 

Maryland is rolling in the dough! The state will have a half-billion bucks lying around at the end of the fiscal year, and Democratic legislative leaders "also foresee another $215 million surplus for next fiscal year," according to a report in The Sun. It's not hard to figure out what happened next: partisan bickering. Democrats urged Gov. Larry Hogan to spend the money on schools, saying the government's structural deficit has been closed. However, The Sun's Erin Cox writes, "Hogan campaigned against those taxes and for putting the state's financial house in order. He disagreed that today's surpluses meant an end to structural deficits in the future." A spokesperson for the governor also said Maryland's debt payments could present a $1 billion deficit over the next five years. (Brandon Weigel)

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