Rascovar: Hogan’s Holt Problem

Rascovar: Hogan’s Holt Problem

Housing Secretary Ken Holt, left, addresses MACo session, with Economic Development Secretary Mike Gill, right, and Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, moderator.

By Barry Rascovar

For MarylandReporter.com

Maryland Housing Secretary Ken Holt may be a nice guy, a financial expert, a former member of the House of Delegates from Baltimore County, a cattle rancher and a breeder of thoroughbred race horses, but he has turned himself into a giant liability for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr.

Holt’s stunningly ignorant claim made at the Maryland Association of Counties gathering in Ocean City — that some low-income mothers poison their children with lead weights to get free housing — was so far afield from reality that both Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford disassociated themselves from his assertions.

The governor then had some choice words for Holt in private about his “unfortunate and inappropriate statement” — but is keeping him on as housing secretary.

Holt’s comments were far more than “unfortunate and inappropriate.”

They had no basis in fact and showed an abysmal understanding of Maryland’s lead paint law — an area that Holt’s department deals with.

Lacking evidence

Even worse, it turns out Holt has no evidence to back up his claim that low-income moms intentionally poison their kids to receive free, long-term government housing. It was an anecdotal story, he said, that came from a housing developer.

Holt told the MACO attendees that he wanted to submit legislation to ease the legal burden on landlords if their rental properties contain lead paint that harms children.

That proposal is now DOA — dead on arrival.

Indeed, Holt’s credibility with Democratic legislators has been destroyed by his hideous comments and intentions. Easing landlords’ liability for lead-paint poisoning is a terrible idea.

Who’s responsible for not taking steps to encapsulate or remove the lead paint in these rental units? Holt’s proposal would turn those who are poisoned, and their parents, into the culprits while freeing landlords from their clear responsibility.

It’s idiotic and gives the appearance that Holt is pandering to the whims and desires of business interests while ignoring health dangers.

Reductions in lead poisoning

Over the past 20 years, Maryland’s lead-paint laws have resulted in a steep, dramatic drop in poisoning cases, from 14,546 in 1993 to just 371 cases in 2013.

The law is working and the children living in low-income rental housing are being protected. Why in the world would Holt move to weaken this law without even researching the topic?

It raises major questions about Holt’s fitness for the cabinet-level post. He had no low-income housing expertise when he took the job. It shows.

What an embarrassment for Hogan and his administration. Is this the sort of pro-business “reform” the governor has in mind?

Holt’s blunder pretty much closes the door on legislative changes coming from his department. Indeed, it puts a bull’s eye on just about anything Hogan proposes in the next legislative session that would weaken existing laws designed to protect the public.

The Holt fiasco adds to the impression that Hogan’s administration is anti-city and anti-black. At the least, it gives weight to the notion that the governor and his staff are insensitive and uncaring — and not well informed — when it comes to urban problems.

The best thing Holt could do to help the governor is make a quiet exit from state government later this year.

He’s become Enemy No. 1 to a large number of Democratic legislators. Everything he says and does from now on will be put under a microscope. He’s dragging the governor down.

Hogan, meanwhile, has yet to take any major step that shows he understands the state has a significant role to play in uplifting and improving life and economic opportunity in Baltimore.

Fortunately, it is still early in the governor’s tenure.

The situation in Maryland’s only urban center cries out for strong leadership and assistance from Annapolis. That is Hogan’s most complex and perplexing challenge, one he has yet to confront.

Barry Rascovar’s blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com


  1. lenlazarick

    I have deleted two posts from Notarrogant321 not because they were offensive; they were actually quite on point, but the writer used a phony email address, which only I, the editor, can see. He/she is welcome to comment again using any kind of alias, but you must use a valid email address, especially for a critical posting. Our rules are very loose and simple. Just annoying when people don’t follow them.

  2. abby_adams

    So “foot in mouth” disease is a reason to jettison Holt? No more than remarks made recently by other government officials that added fuel to the fires of protestors.

  3. Dale McNamee


    I wouldn’t put it past “mothers” to do such…

    How many advise their kids to act “crazy” so that SSI, SSDI, and other benefits can be received ?

    How about mothers who make their children sick and keep them sick (Munchausen’s, anyone ? ) for benefits or a settlement ?

    50 years ago, such things would have been unthinkable… But, quite thinkable today…

    ” St.Freddy Gray ” was known to try and injure himself in “Crash for Cash” scheme against the Baltimore Police Department…

    Can they do it ?

    Yes, they can !

  4. Adam Meister

    So when will landlords be able to refuse to rent to people with kids or pregnant women so they can avoid this mess? Oh wait they can’t do that. A lawyer will sue them for “discrimination” which of course is only a business person trying to limit potential liability. In the end of the day the lawyers win. The lawyers are the ones who send out unsolicited mailings to tenants all over Baltimore city who have lived in “lead paint houses” at some point over the last 30 years looking for CASH COWS. They don’t care about the kids, they care about the game and how they can get as much money as possible out of it. Bankrupting some 90 year old in diapers who owned a house in West Baltimore in 1984 is an honorable thing to these so-called people. These scum know every trick in the book and I have no doubt they tell mother’s to do everything and anything to make sure they all get paid. So keep on faking your moral outrage at what Holt had to say. The lead poison industry is the lowest of the low and it is about time that somebody called it out for what it is and pointed out that the emperor is naked.

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