Baltimore City Power Rankings: Chase Brexton workers, waterways, BPD, more

↑ Bloomberg Businessweek

Last week, we found out that Baltimore City Police have been watching us from above—via a plane mounted with surveillance cameras—for months. It would still be a secret today if not for the piece Monte Reel wrote for Bloomberg Businessweek. Not gonna lie: we sometimes feel…well…a bit defensive when out of town outlets try to write about our city (and when they scoop us on our own turf), but Reel not only brought facts—he delivered compelling images and video to boot. His story continues a conversation about crime, race, and policing—and has the power to effect real change. Well done.

↑ Chase Brexton workers

Last week the workers at Chase Brexton Health Care voted 87-9 to join the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East labor union. Employees are spending nights and weekends catching up on paperwork because they have more and more clients, thanks to the increased access to insurance from the Affordable Care Act. The vote came after reports that management at the health care provider had come out very strongly against its employees unionizing and fired five managers, a move workers said was linked to the organizing efforts. Given Chase Brexton's mission to serve low-income and LGBTQ patients, the anti-organizing efforts did not go over well with the health care provider's base, drawing a protest of several hundred. Props to the workers for voting so overwhelmingly to unionize in the face of strong opposition from management. Hopefully, the changes that come about from collective bargaining can help Chase Brexton continue to uphold its mission.

↓ Waterways

Bad news, guys. Not only is meth getting into our local waterways—it could have lasting negative consequences for the animals and plants that call those waterways home. That news comes courtesy of a team of scientists who have spent the last 18 years studying the Gwynns Falls. They say that when sewage leaks, meth (along with lots of other nasty stuff) can get into streams, and that could have an impact on bacteria in the water, algae levels. Add sewage leaks to the already long list of structural problems we need to fix in this city as soon as possible.

↓ George A. Nilson

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sacked the long-time City Solicitor on Aug. 19, a day after news broke that he had hired a long-time lawyer with secret ties to neo-Nazi organizations. Nilson carried Rawlings-Blake's water faithfully for years, even when it was full of stink: he called a secret $659,000 mayoral phone purchase "neither out of the ordinary nor in violation of the law" and a city council bill to mandate police body cameras "illegal." In one of his rare disagreements with the mayor, he said he disagreed with her decision to fire him.

↓ Baltimore Police

Assuming the BPD has the best intentions in employing a private surveillance plane to give investigators "Google Earth with TiVo capability," it made little sense for Commissioner Kevin Davis to not tell the mayor and other public officials he had done so. On its face, Persistent Surveillance Systems appears to have great potential to solve daytime gun murders and other serious crimes. But it's far from certain that its use is constitutional—and since the BPD kept the program on the down-low, such things are impossible to monitor. The department's scant detailing of the system—Who owns the footage? Who can access it? How is it used? —hardly inspires the confidence and trust the department says it is working to build.

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