May 11, 2015

State Roundup, May 11, 2015

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PURPLE LINE DILEMMA: As Gov. Larry Hogan weighs whether to build the Purple Line or scrap the multibillion-dollar project, he will need to consider how a new light-rail line benefiting the D.C. suburbs would play in rural areas where he promised voters key to his election more money for roads and bridges, political observers say. Katherine Shaver of the Post writes that the decision, which is expected any day, will force Hogan to navigate long-running political tensions of urban vs. rural and transit vs. roads. 

HOGAN GETS ON (CARD) BOARD FOR PURPLE LINE: “I’m driving the governor around right now,” said Greg Sanders of Purple Line Now, from his cell phone Friday afternoon. “We showed him some economic possibilities on the way to Bethesda.” Well, it wasn’t exactly Gov. Larry Hogan. Instead it was a 5’10”, flat-as-a-pancake version.  Erin Cox of the Sun writes that if the state’s governor didn’t have time to hear Sanders’ plea for a rail line in person, why not tote around a life-sized cardboard cutout of Hogan instead?

HOGAN-RAWLINGS-BLAKE TENSION: As Baltimore was consumed with its worst outburst of unrest since 1968, Gov. Larry Hogan, a white Republican, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a black Democrat, found themselves forced into an unlikely partnership, write Paul Schwartzman, Ovetta Wiggins and Cheryl W. Thompson of the Post.  With the city unraveling, frustration between the two leaders was building, according to interviews with advisers from both sides. The governor felt the mayor was uncommunicative and slow to act. Rawlings-Blake bristled over Hogan’s gibes, which she saw as evidence of his inexperience as a recently elected governor.

HIGH COST OF TUITION: The editorial board for the Sun opines that the news that University System of Maryland schools will increase tuition by 5% next academic year — and in some cases by more than that — is doubtless unwelcome for students and their parents.  But the increase has to be considered in context, as it comes after a long period in which tuition remained flat or increased only slightly. According to figures from the College Board, average tuition and fees in the system’s schools increased by just 7%t during the last decade when adjusted for inflation, a time when the national average increased by 42%. But now where will tuition go?

SEN. ECKARDT’S FIRST YEAR: Addie Eckardt has just completed her first legislative session as the Mid-Shore’s senator. Eckardt had been a Mid-Shore delegate since winning the District 37B election in 1994, and last year challenged longtime Mid-Shore Sen. Richard Colburn in the Republican primary, which she won, before going on to win the general election by a wide margin. Moving from a House body of 141 delegates to the 47-member Senate took some adjusting, she said. She talks with Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star Democrat about the change.

THE HOGAN DIFFERENCE: Political prognosticator Barry Rascovar writes in MarylandReporter.com that Larry Hogan is proving to be an unusual governor for Maryland, in many ways the polar opposite of his predecessors, Martin O’Malley and Bob Ehrlich. Both Democrat O’Malley and Republican Ehrlich love publicity and making a PR splash. Republican Hogan wants none of that.

HOGAN’S CHOICE: Columnist Dan Rodricks writes in the Sun that Gov. Larry Hogan has an opportunity to not only reverse the fortunes of Baltimore, but to give the entire metropolitan area a boost while charting a new course for the Republican Party — right through the heart of a city that represents all that’s wrong with racial separatism, neglected social problems and partisan politics.

POLICE SEEK CASE DISMISSAL: The Associated Press, in an article in the Daily Record, reports that attorneys for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of a man who died of a spinal injury he received while in custody asked a judge Friday to dismiss the case or assign it to someone other than the city’s top prosecutor, who they say has too many conflicts of interest to remain objective.

SANDTOWN-WINCHESTER REVITALIZATION: When local leaders announced an “extraordinary partnership” to revitalize Baltimore’s depressed Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in 1989, they said the construction and rehabilitation of hundreds of houses would serve as the foundation for a community-wide transformation unlike any before. From 1989 to 1999, at least $130 million in public and private money was spent to build or renovate about 1,000 houses. Millions more went to develop specialized curriculum for Sandtown schools, to ensure that babies were born healthy and to provide job training for residents. But those who have examined the revitalization effort say it’s impossible to measure the impact because there was little accounting at the time and less follow-up afterward, Yvonne Wenger writes in the Sun.

CUMMINGS SUPPORTS JUSTICE PROBE: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings said Friday he supports the U.S. Justice Department investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, writes Jessica Anderson for the Sun. “It’s something we need to do. I think this is what must be a transformative moment,” he said.

LACKING SEAT BELTS: Two Baltimore-area police departments say they’re reviewing their practices for the transport of prisoners in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death from an injury that prosecutors say he suffered in the back of a police van, Alison Knezevich and Pamela Wood report for the Sun. The reviews by the Howard and Baltimore County police departments come as a survey by the Sun found that prisoner transport vans used by county law enforcement agencies generally are not equipped with seat belts.

ARRESTED & INJURED: Records obtained by the Sun show that Baltimore City police often disregard or are oblivious to injuries and illnesses among people they apprehend — in fact, such cases occur by the thousands. Mark Puente and Meredith Cohn report that from June 2012 through April 2015, correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center have refused to admit nearly 2,600 detainees who were in police custody, according to state records obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

COUNTY EXECS VISIT BALTIMORE: Montgomery and Prince George’s county executives planned to share lunch in Baltimore last Friday to offer their support to the city in the aftermath of last week’s rioting and to encourage residents of the Washington region to visit there, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. Ike Leggett of Montgomery and Rushern  Baker of Prince George’s said they were to  travel to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture for lunch to show their support for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake — a fellow Democrat and frequent political ally.

ABOUT MOSBY: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew writes a fascinating bio of Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney who is prosecuting six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

BLACK POLITICAL POWER: What makes the Baltimore uprising different from an earlier era is that the vicious attacks on African-Americans have unfolded at a time of unprecedented black political power, writes Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor for In These Times. There are 43 black members of Congress and two senators—the highest number of black Congress members in American history. And just as the westside of Baltimore was erupting against the police killing of Freddie Gray, Loretta Lynch became the first black woman appointed Attorney General.