June 15, 2015

State Roundup, June 15, 2015

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DECISION TIME ON THE LINE: Gov. Larry Hogan’s imminent choice about the Purple Line will play a large role in defining whether his first year in office steers his Maryland Republican Party toward the middle or gives Democrats a cudgel to beat him as an anti-spending ideologue, reports the Post’s Robert McCartney.

  • Decision time is nearing on the future of Baltimore’s planned Red Line rail route. Will Gov. Larry Hogan be celebrated as a hero or lambasted as a goat? That question has hovered over the Republican governor ever since he won election last November, writes columnist Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. Will he appease his conservative followers and live up to his campaign pledge to kill both the Red Line and the Purple Line in suburban Washington?

URGENT NEED ON I-81: Federal and state lawmakers say that driving conditions along Interstate 81 have deteriorated to the point that widening the interstate and extending access ramps should be one of the state’s top transportation priorities. Legislators have adopted an “all hands on deck” approach, and it’s going to take state and federal support to make improvements to what has become known by many as the “Valley of Death,” reports CJ Lovelace for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

PROBING POLICE MISCONDUCT: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post is urging the state panel of lawmakers to address an issue that has come up locally: outside investigations of police misconduct cases. The panel, made up of 10 senators and 10 delegates, began work Monday on ways to improve police-community relations. They have their work cut out for them, the board writes.

SUPPORT COMMUNITY COLLEGES: OneMain Financial CEO Mary McDowell, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes that “Our economic future is tied just as much to the state’s 16 low-cost community colleges where 500,000 students — about 50 percent of all state students enrolled in higher education — are served. In Maryland, we rely on community colleges to address some of our state’s biggest challenges. At a time when costs of college continue to rise and we need to upgrade the skills of our workforce, these open-access institutions keep college affordable, prepare workers for high-growth jobs and educate the majority of first-generation college students and future workers.”

BIZ OMBUDSMAN: Roger Campos was made for his new position as the state’s business ombudsman, writes Ed Waters for the Frederick News Post. The former CEO of the Minority Business Roundtable, Campos has helped small, minority- and woman-owned businesses find resources to succeed and grow during his years at the roundtable.

HAFT NAMED TO HEALTH: A Waldorf doctor has been named as the new deputy secretary of public health at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday. Dr. Howard Haft will join the department currently being led by Secretary Van Mitchell, also a Charles County resident, according to the Charles County Independent.

KOREAN BUSINESSES STRUGGLE: Many Korean businesses in Sandtown-Winchester, closed by the riots in Baltimore City, have reopened and most owners want to rebuild despite having sustained as much as $500,000 damage. But some owners are struggling to come up with the money to restock shelves; others are considering whether to simply close their doors. For 23 liquor stores, rebuilding comes with added hurdles. Although the state has adjusted its policy to provide interest-free loans to those businesses, city officials have taken a harder line. Jean Marbella reports the story for the Sun.

BUSCH BACKS BARVE FOR CONGRESS: Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch is endorsing Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery) in the 8th District Congressional race, Barve’s campaign announced Thursday. Bill Turque of the Post is reporting that Busch is scheduled to appear with other state lawmakers who are behind Barve at the Rockville Memorial Library today.

SARBANES WON’T RUN FOR SENATE: After weeks of consideration, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes said Friday that he will not run for the seat being left vacant by retiring Sen. Barbara  Mikulski, writes John Fritze in the Sun. “After giving careful consideration to the open race for Senate, I have decided to pursue re-election to my seat in the House of Representatives,” Sarbanes said in a statement. “I am particularly excited to be leading efforts in the House of Representatives to reform our broken campaign finance system so that we can restore the public’s faith in our democracy.”

TEAMSTERS SPLIT OVER VAN HOLLEN, EDWARDS: Arelis Hernandez of the Post is reporting that U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Chris Van Hollen  announced Friday that he has won the endorsement of the Washington-area Joint Council of Teamsters — not to be confused with Teamsters Local 639, which endorsed his rival, Rep. Donna Edwards, on Wednesday. Van Hollen and Edwards are competing for the Democratic nomination to fill the seat of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who announced earlier this year that she would retire in 2016.

CUMMINGS DIDN’T FILE PAPERWORK: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings failed to file required paperwork with city and state authorities for a rental unit he has owned in West Baltimore for years. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, failed to list the property in the 2000 block of W. Madison Ave. on the state’s lead registry. He also did not register the three-story brick rowhouse with the city housing department until this month, reports the Sun’s John Fritze.

DELANEY BACKS PACIFIC RIM DEAL: U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the former financier and two-term lawmaker from Montgomery County, was one of 28 House Democrats on Friday to support granting fast-track authority for the controversial Pacific Rim trade deal — a vote fraught with politics for members of both parties. John Fritze reports in the Sun.

O’MALLEY’S ABS RUN FOR PRESIDENT: Paul Schwartzman of the Post takes a different look at the presidential contenders, writing that Martin O’Malley is not the best-known Democrat running for president (Hello, Hillary!). Nor is he the fire-breathing socialist talking of tearing up Wall Street (Bernie Sanders, come on down!). Yet, depending on one’s taste, O’Malley may command at least one category: the swimsuit  competition. O’Malley in all his shirtless glory is alive and well-toned in photos snapped when he was Maryland’s governor, and those images are circulating with renewed vigor as he seeks the White House.

SCHUH BLAME DEMS: Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital writes that Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh lacks the key in Anne Arundel County: The fourth vote. With a Republican-led County Council, the GOP county exec might have expected support from enough of his seven legislative counterparts to pass key policy changes, especially during a laborious budget process. But when Schuh talks about how his fiscal policies were debated and decided this year, it sounds as if he’s back on the primary campaign trail running against an opponent he thinks bleeds blue.

ARUNDEL ENDS JUDGE’S INSURANCE: Three different Anne Arundel county executives continued health insurance for an elected court official even though multiple opinions from lawyers suggested it was not legal. Tuesday, after five years and about $69,000, the county finally ended the only health insurance benefits being awarded to an Orphans’ Court judge — Chief Judge Nancy Phelps, reports Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital.

MO CO CONSIDERS CULTIVATING BIKE CULTURE: As streets choke on automobile and truck traffic and environmental concerns continue to grow, Montgomery officials are wrestling with whether they can develop the kind of robust bike culture that has taken hold in Arlington, the District and cities such as Portland, Ore., writes Bill Turque of the Post.

PESTICIDE BILL: A controversial bill to restrict pesticide use on private lawns and public land in Montgomery County could be headed for significant changes before it goes before the County Council for a final vote, most likely in September. Council President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large), the bill’s sponsor, and council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), who chairs the committee reviewing the measure, are at odds over its scope, reports Bill Turque for the Post.

FUNDRAISER ‘FIRED’ MAYOR SRB: Sources say that it was fundraiser Colleen Martin-Lauer who decided to end a nearly decade-long relationship with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, reports Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew. The reason? The mayor’s alleged mishandling of the Baltimore riot. “The fundraiser fired the mayor,” said an official who asked not to be identified.

CITY SCHOOL BUDGET RELUCTANTLY OK’D: Members of the Baltimore City Council’s budget committee told Baltimore schools CEO Gregory Thornton on Friday how unhappy they are about layoffs, but ultimately approved the city’s portion of the system’s $1.3 billion budget for next year. Michael Dresser reports for the Sun that the committee had grilled lower-level school officials Tuesday about why 59 school-based employees were losing their jobs when panel members had been told the reduction of 159 positions would affect only headquarters personnel.

COUNCILMAN TO RUN FOR JUDGE: Baltimore City Councilman James  Kraft said Sunday he plans to run for a judgeship on Baltimore’s Circuit Court in 2016. Six Baltimore Circuit Court judges are up for election next year. Kraft, 65, has represented southeast Baltimore on the City Council since 2004, considered the most conservative part of the city. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, carried the district last year, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

JOHN CARROLL DIES: John S. Carroll, who guided the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky to Pulitzer Prizes and who was considered one of the most distinguished and inspiring newspaper editors of his time, died June 14 at his home in Lexington, Ky. He was 73. Matt Schudel writes the story for the Post.

  • In the obituary for the Sun, Frederick Rasmussen writes that Carroll first joined The Sun as a reporter and covered the Vietnam war. During his tenure as editor, The Sun won two Pulitzer Prizes for an investigation into the dangers of shipbreaking and a series about a major league umpire’s children who were dying of a genetic disease. He also deployed reporters to Africa, where they reported on slavery in Sudan.
  • Elaine Woo of the Los Angeles Times leads off her obituary with this anecdote: Barely a week before the 2003 recall election that targeted California’s governor, a team of Los Angeles Times journalists led by editor John S. Carroll put the finishing touches on a story that they knew could be a tinderbox. When the paper reported — five days before voters went to the polls — that actor-turned-GOP gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger had groped women, conservative commentators accused the paper of timing the story to help Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

GAZETTES CLOSE: The Gazette is reporting that Post Community Media announced June 12 that The Gazette newspapers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will publish their final editions June 17 and June 18, respectively. The Gazette, which is part of Post Community Media LLC, has served Maryland communities for more than 55 years.

WHIG PARENT BUYS OTHER POST MEDIA: The Cecil Whig is announcing that its parent company announced Friday that it has acquired a group of southern Maryland and Washington, D.C.-area newspapers. Effective July 1, Adams Publishing Group will acquire The Post Community Media Group’s Southern Maryland Newspapers and Comprint Military Publications. This acquisition includes 13 newspapers and their associated digital assets, including SoMDNews.com and DCMilitary.com.

TIME FOR MONTGOMERYREPORTER.COM: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes about the future of news in Montgomery County, now that the Gazettes are closing, leaving this county of 1 million people high and dry in a news desert. On Friday night, Lazarick bought the domain name MontgomeryReporter.com. Could a nonprofit news model work?