State Roundup, August 16, 2018

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KIRWIN PANEL WRESTLES WITH OVERSIGHT: As the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education moved closer to recommending billion-dollar increases in K-12 funding along with major structural changes, commission Chairman Brit Kirwan again stressed his repeated calls for accountability, write Len Lazarick and Michael Jefferson for MarylandReporter. “This accountability has to be real and it has to have teeth,” said Kirwan, former chancellor of the university system.

JEALOUS’s MISSTEPS: David Lublin writes in the Seventh State blog that Ben Jealous is the latest in a long line of national political figures with little to no experience running for office who try to parachute into Maryland politics and find the landing rocky. Lublin goes through a long list of problems that Jealous has as basically an outsider candidate who tries to claim insider ties.

ZIRKIN AS HOGAN’s NEW BEST DEM FRIEND? State Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) better stick closer than ever to the popular governor if he wants to retain his status as Larry Hogan’s best Democratic friend. Because Hogan could have a new one. writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters. That role may be going to state Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), the chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, who accused Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous of attempting to politicize judicial appointments in Maryland – something, according to Zirkin, that has never, ever happened in this state.

INDEPENDENT SENATE HOPEFUL LAUNCHES AD CAMPAIGN: Ramping up his bid to become the first independent candidate ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Maryland, Potomac businessman Neal Simon this month launched a six-figure TV advertising effort to introduce himself to Maryland voters, writes Louis Peck for Bethesda Beat.

MACo FOCUSES ON WATER: Politics and public policy will be on the tongues of county and state officials headed to Ocean City for the annual Maryland Association of Counties summer conference, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. As many as 2,500 state and local officials from across Maryland and exhibitors are registered to attend this year’s conference, whose theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE BAY: Del. Dana Stein, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes that climate change is causing problems across the globe. And it is posing a threat to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, despite the good news that we’re on track to meet goals for reduced phosphorus and sediment pollution. Late July’s storms and flooding caused 45 million gallons of sewage mixed with storm water to flow into the city’s waterways and into the harbor. To state the obvious: This hurts the health of the bay in addition to the city’s streams and harbor. There is also concern about increased pollution from the Susquehanna River as the Conowingo Dam is forced to let more water flow downstream.

CARDIN WARNS ON KAVANAUGH APPOINTMENT: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) warned of the potential for a wide range of public policy setbacks if Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he urged progressive leaders in Maryland to reach out to allies in other states before the Senate votes on his nomination, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.

REBEL MONUMENTS GONE, NOT FORGOTTEN: While Baltimore’s Confederate monuments are away from public view – they were removed by Mayor Catherine Pugh one year ago – issues they raised remain, writes Jean Marbella for the Sun. Historians say the monuments were erected to promote the Lost Cause, the romanticized revision of the Civil War that portrays the Confederacy as fighting honorably to preserve its way of life while downplaying the role of slavery, or even depicting it as a benign institution.

  • In a column for the Sun, art teacher David Anderson writes that “as we mark the one-year anniversary of the removal of four monuments here in Baltimore, I am left with a nagging question: Are we any closer to solving the dilemma of how we recognize important historical figures, one that is different than the pervasive white male, figurative representations that dominate America’s landscape?” He focuses on a Harriet Tubman mural that has failed to find a permanent home.

DSS VENDOR WAS FRIEND OF EX-DIRECTOR: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew continues looking into financial irregularities at the Baltimore Department of Social Services that were uncovered by a state audit. Among its findings, the Office of Legislative Audits reported that an “out-of-state vendor” had received $1.3 million under an agreement struck by then-DSS director Molly McGrath Tierney with the Family League. Payments to the vendor went undetected for eight years, according to the audit and two sources with knowledge of the arrangement. So who was the recipient of this hidden largess, which is now under review by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt?

GOUCHER CUTS 9 MAJORS: Math majors at Goucher College will soon be a thing of the past. Gone, too, will be physics majors, music majors and students in a range of subjects the school is eliminating from its offerings as part of a cost-cutting “academic revitalization” announced Wednesday. “A small college can’t just keep adding majors,” president Jose Bowen said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun, writes Christina Tkacik. “Sometimes we need to move resources from one to another and subtract too.”

NEWSROOM MURDER SUSPECT PONDERS INSANITY PLEA: The man charged in the death of five people in the Capital Gazette newsroom may be considering a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity, according to court records requesting more time to consider that defense, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports. Jarrod Ramos’ attorney has filed a motion Monday claiming there is “good cause” to extend the plea deadline. Maryland law requires a defendant enter a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity when the defendant enters his or her official plea. A judge can allow an extension if there is good cause.

OUTDOORS EDITOR RETIRING: After a career of 39 years and seven months with the Cumberland Times-News, outdoors editor Mike Sawyers will retire Aug. 31. Note from Roundup editor Cynthia Prairie: He’s one of the few reporters in Maryland who keeps up with legislation out of Annapolis that specifically affects Maryland’s outdoorsmen and women.

WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY: Instigated by the Boston Globe, many U.S. newspapers have written editorials running today defending a free press. One of those writing was Sue Cross, executive director of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a group of 170 independent, nonprofit news organizations that includes MarylandReporter.com, Maryland Matters and Baltimore Brew. “The press belongs to you, not the president,” is the headline on Cross’s article. It’s a reminder that freedom of the press is not a right reserved to reporters and editors, it is a right of the people. ” ‘The press’ is just journalists who work as your eyes and ears in places you can’t be,” Cross writes. “The press is the people you send into rooms to witness what your government is doing and tell you about it.”