Baltimore City Power Rankings: the homicide rate, stoners, transportation, more

A down for Baltimore, transportation, government transparency, and Bethel AME in this week's Power Rankings

Stoners

Medical marijuana is already bringing money to the state—which can't keep up. When 882 businesses applied (by the Nov. 6 deadline) to grow, sell, or process medical marijuana, they brought more than a million bucks worth of fees to the slowly-getting-Free State. But now the Maryland Medical Cannibis Commission says the crush of applicants means a delay in rewarding licenses—and opening dispensaries, which were set to be ready by the end of 2016. Let's just remember, we're talking about getting medicine for sick people here, making the delay not only unacceptable, but insulting. People joke about stoners being slack, but the medical-pot people got their paperwork in order and met their deadline, while the bureaucrats seem to be sitting on their hands eating potato chips and watching "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

Government Transparency

On the heels of an Abell Foundation report detailing the researcher's frustrated attempts to track the simplest elements of city contracts, and just before another Abell Report detailed squishy-but-hidden numbers in the city's Vacants to Values program, the Center for Public Integrity released its report card grading state government transparency. Maryland got a D. "Maryland scored 64 out of 100 points, putting it 23rd among the states on the center's transparency scale," The Sun's Michael Dresser reported. "Maryland received its worst grades in the categories of internal auditing, public access to information, state pension fund management and ethics enforcement — each rated an F." The kicker? This report card was an improvement over the last.

Bethel AME

Decades ago, the NAACP dubbed an old rowhouse in Upton "Freedom House" to commemorate the importance of the building in the civil rights movement. It was the home of the city's first African-American city councilman, Harry Sythe Cummings, and it later became the home of the local chapter of the NAACP—which is why community members and local civil rights activists were shocked and appalled when Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which had owned the building since the 1980s, had it torn down without consulting the neighborhood. Civil rights leader Helena Hicks told The Sun that she was unhappy the church's senior pastor Rev. Frank M. Reid III didn't come out to talk to protesters last Thursday. Hicks decried the demolition and disregard for civil rights history: "This has been a disgrace."

Transportation

Boss Hög's new bus plan, CitiLink, faced criticism from a key group this week: actual bus riders. The Sun's Michael Dresser reported that many MTA riders are not happy with the changes, particularly the decision to stop running buses on Greenmount Avenue south of 39th Street. Also on the chopping block: the dreaded 27 bus' north-south service on Falls Road in Hampden and north-south service on Charles Street between University Parkway and Northern Parkway. There are other changes too—service in O'Donnell Heights, which currently goes until 3 a.m., would be cut off at 11 p.m. MTA administrator Paul Comfort says nothing in the plan is final and that the department is seeking community feedback. Still, the crux of the plan is to eliminate and streamline routes, and it seems that means some people will get left out. The city received a D grade from the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance last week, and it doesn't sound like that will be improving soon.

Baltimore

On Saturday, Baltimore reached murder No. 300. The victim was a 27-year-old West Baltimore man who was stabbed and died later at the hospital. That same day, a 22-year-old shot in Westport became homicide victim No. 301—the fourth killing that day. This is the first time Baltimore has hit 300 murders since 1999 (last year the city saw 211 homicides). The spike is horrifying and baffling. Although a series of explanations have been floated—from an increase in drugs on the street following April 27's looting and rioting, to police declining to pursue "discretionary" street and traffic stops when they suspect criminal activity, to a random crime wave —none seem to quite explain what is going on here. We are a city deeply frustrated and saddened by the carnage.

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