June 29, 2015

State Roundup, June 29, 2015

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THE RED LINE: WHAT HAPPENS NOW? With Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to pull the plug on Baltimore’s Red Line, $288 million appears to be down the drain.  Michael Dresser of the Sun writes that that’s how much the Maryland Transit Administration has spent over a dozen years on planning, design, engineering and land acquisition for what was to have been an almost $3 billion light rail project between Woodlawn and Bayview, said Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman Erin Henson. Hogan announced Thursday that he would not move forward with construction. He said the project was too expensive and “made no sense whatsoever.”

PURPLE OVER RED: Key moments in Gov. Larry Hogan’s first term took place last week, but it is unclear how his cancer and much anticipated decisions on transit projects will define his term as governor. Those decisions left many unanswered questions about the financing of the Purple Line and what would be “the best way” to help Baltimore if the Red Line wasn’t it,  writes Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com.

Cory McCray Mike Busch

Freshman Del. Cory McCray of Baltimore was joined by House Speaker Michael Busch for his fundraiser Thursday night. The heavily union crowd was unhappy with Gov. Hogan’s decision to kill the Red Line.

HOGAN’S TRUE COLORS: Larry Hogan never has had an affinity for Baltimore. He’s never lived in a big city. He’s a suburban Washington, suburban Annapolis kind of guy, writes Barry Rascovar in a scathing column for MarylandReporter.com. Hogan has embraced a staunch right-wing mindset. Thus, it was easy for him to kill more than a decade worth of work, more than a quarter-billion dollars already spent and to forfeit $900 million in federal funds that would have gone toward building a pivotal rail-transit line for Baltimore, the Red Line.

‘JUST LARRY:’ Gov. Larry Hogan’s blunt and open style, which was evident in his gubernatorial campaign, will benefit those who are also being treated for cancer, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. Wiggins talks with other politicians about Hogan’s “Just Larry” style, how it served him in the past and will also serve him in the future.

EX-COMMISSIONER HIRE UNDER FIRE: Environmental advocates are questioning the hiring of a former Maryland utilities commissioner by an industry-backed nonprofit group days after she cast the deciding vote in the controversial Pepco-Exelon merger, reports Josh Hicks in the Post.  The Alliance to Save Energy offered then-Public Service Commission member Kelly Speakes-Backman a $200,000-a-year job as a senior vice president on May 18, three days after she voted in favor of an acquisition that would make Chicago-based Exelon one of the largest utilities in the nation.

COP-WATCHING: Nationwide, more and more people have taken up “cop watching,” the act of videotaping police officers as they perform their duties in public. Among those who have signed on is Kevin Moore, who gained nationwide attention in April for capturing the arrest of Freddie Gray on a cellphone video. In the aftermath of Gray’s death, Moore created WeCopwatch Baltimore and has accumulated dozens of hours of police footage and begun “Know your Rights” discussions with fellow residents of West Baltimore, Catherine Rentz and Doug Donovan report in the Sun.

LOST OPPORTUNITIES: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes, “So much for opportunity born of diversity — that is, the idea that the Republican governor of Maryland could form a partnership with the Democratic mayor of Baltimore in the smoky aftermath of April’s riot to address the long-festering problems that shackle the city and make it a drag on the entire region. It’s not going to happen, and both Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are to blame. It’s a shame. Those two had a chance to reject the super-partisanship that afflicts the country and achieve some real progress.”

CONFEDERATE FLAGS: Tim Prudente of the Annapolis Capital writes about how in some corners of Anne Arundel County, residents cling to their Confederate battle flags even as the rest of the country is moving away from the symbol.

  • U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings applauded leaders in South Carolina for taking steps toward removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol but said Sunday that doing away with that “symbol of racial hatred” was only a first step, John Fritze reports in the Sun. “Now we must begin to address racial disparities and inequalities themselves,” Cummings said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “It’s good to take the flag down, but now we have to move beyond that.”

SLAVE QUARTERS: An 18th century plantation in Crownsville, now owned by the Rockbridge Academy, a private Christian school, had been occupied by a cross section of people over the last 300 years — the landed gentry, indentured servants, slaves, free blacks and soldiers from the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Pat Furgurson of the Annapolis Capital is writing about the archaeological dig that is taking place on the site.

MARYLAND GOES FOR SOLAR: In the last 10 years, Maryland’s solar energy output has grown rapidly because of easier access for homeowners and organizations, writes Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital. The state recently set a record by increasing new solar capacity by 174% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report issued by the Solar Energy Industries Association. This pushes the state closer to its goal of having 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2022, including 2% from solar.

MO CO BUDGET CUTS: Montgomery County, faced with lower-than-expected revenue and millions in tax refunds triggered by a Supreme Court decision, is preparing to cut the 2016 operating budget that council members approved just five weeks ago, reports Bill Turque in the Post.

THORNTON’S FIRST YEAR: Erica Green of the Sun writes that reflecting on Gregory Thornton’s first year as Baltimore schools CEO, many agree that he’s an affable administrator who has faced enormous challenges on the job. Many disagree, however, on whether he’s the right man for the job.

MOVING THE PREAKNESS: Del. Pat McDonough said Friday he has pre-filed legislation that would allow the Preakness to move to any track in Baltimore, reports Sara Salinas for the Baltimore Business Journal. State law prohibits the race from moving out of Pimlico, though racing officials have discussed the possibility in light of Pimlico’s aging facilities. The current law, passed in 1978, states the Preakness can move out of Pimlico “only as a result of a disaster or emergency.”

3 IN RACE FOR HOYER’S SEAT: One Democrat and two Republicans have filed to run in the 2016 for the office now held by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, Jason Babcock reports in the St. Mary’s Enterprise. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) is serving in his 18th term in Congress and as the Democratic whip is the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. Kristin Beck of Prince George’s County is challenging Hoyer in the Democratic primary next April. Mark Arness of Port Republic and Charles Sam Faddis of Davidsonville are the Republican challengers thus far.

O’MALLEY HIRES CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Nearly a month after announcing his presidential bid, Democratic hopeful Martin O’Malley has hired a campaign manager: Dave Hamrick, who advised Barack Obama’s 2008 election team, reports John Wagner for the Post. Hamrick served as a grass-roots and voter-turnout strategist for Obama during the 2008 primaries and was a senior adviser in the battleground states of Michigan and Pennsylvania during the general election, according to a biography on his consulting firm’s Web site.

ODD RACE FOR WHITE HOUSE: In a column for the Daily Record, Fraser Smith writes about the odd race for the White House — especially in the Republican field — and how it could affect Maryland voters, who for the first time in years voted in a Republican governor.