State Roundup, July 16, 2019

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AUDIT: STATE FAILED TO MONITOR TREATMENT FUNDING: A Maryland state agency failed to adequately monitor groups to which it provided funding to treat opioid and gambling addictions and care for severely disabled children, according to a state audit released last week, raising questions about whether clients received proper treatment and how millions of taxpayer dollars were spent. Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

BSO SCRIPTS MESSAGE FOR HOGAN: Even as he sought more state funding, the CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra asked Gov. Larry Hogan to deliver the money with a scripted message calling on BSO management to quickly take steps to fix the orchestra’s finances, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. With the BSO in dire fiscal straits, CEO Peter Kjome had proposed cutting musicians’ salaries roughly 20% and the length of the season from a year to 40 weeks. The management locked out the 75 players on June 17 as both sides attempt to negotiate a new contract.

  • The BSO said on Monday that it has the results of an audit looking into the organization’s finances, and there is “substantial uncertainty about the BSO’s ability to continue as a going concern.” Two days before management and the musicians are due for another round of federally mediated bargaining, BSO leadership said the review of financial statements ending in August 2018 shows it will be difficult for the orchestra to meet its forecasts for contributed revenue and earned revenue, Brandon Weigel of Baltimore Fishbowl reports.
  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and management will be back at the bargaining table again this week, Melody Simmons of the Baltimore Business Journal reports. The two sides are scheduled to meet Wednesday at 11 a.m. to continue negotiations on a new contract. Prior negotiations were held in June.

BIZ PARK OWNERS CRITICIZE MIA DECISION: Owners of Montgomery Park in south Baltimore are fighting a decision to stop the Maryland Insurance Administration from moving from downtown to their property, and one stakeholder criticized a prominent local attorney’s role in the saga. Baltimore-based developer David Tufaro, who owns a part of Montgomery Park, said the decision not to relocate MIA offices to Montgomery Park stemmed from political pressure that tainted the procurement process, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports.

STUDY: CHARTER SCHOOL KIDS MONTH AHEAD OF OTHERS: A new study has found that students at Maryland charter schools, especially those who are black or Hispanic, have on average made greater academic progress than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Jean Marbella of the Sun is reporting that while the study noted deficiencies in about a third of charter schools, the student gains were the equivalent of them getting about an extra month of learning over the typical 180-day school year, according to Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

TRUMP TARIFFS COSTLY TO MD COMPANY: Steel tariffs have cost a Maryland manufacturer millions of dollars and forced it to cut dozens of jobs, the company’s CEO said. Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports that the Independent Can Co. says the tariffs cost it $1 million last year and, along with lost business, will account for another $2 million hit this year. The Trump administration last year imposed tariffs of 25% on steel imported from foreign countries, steel that is essential to the Belcamp-company’s finished products.

HARRIS DEFENSE OF TRUMP FALLS FLAT: As Rep. Andy Harris tried to defend President Donald Trump’s tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen of color, the Eastern Shore congressman learned the hard way that only the president speaks for president, Phil Davis of the Sun reports.

HARRIS VOTES NO ON 9/11 HEALTH FUNDING: An uncredited story in the Easton Star-Democrat reports that U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, said a measure to pay for the health needs of 9/11 first responders is “fiscally irresponsible” and went “far beyond” taking care of the health needs of first responders. Harris was one of 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote Friday against H.R. 1327. It passed the House on a vote of 402-12, with 19 congressmen not voting.

SCHMOKE PROPOSES NYC-STYLE BALTIMORE COLLEGE: University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke is proposing three of the city’s institutions of higher education be restructured in a style similar to the City University of New York, an idea he acknowledged is politically divisive but believes could strengthen the schools and benefit students. Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

GROWING DIVERSITY IN ARUNDEL: Two public meetings speak volumes about the changes under way in Anne Arundel County – one of the fastest growing and most politically diverse and volatile jurisdictions in the state. Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that political change took place across Maryland in 2018, and Democrats made gains in all the major jurisdictions. But nowhere was the change more profound than it was in Anne Arundel County – a conservative county with a few liberal enclaves that had been trending Republican for several election cycles.

HOWARD SEEKS HEALTHY VENDING MACHINES: Howard County government is trying to bring more nutrition to nibbling by staff members and guests, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. The county is seeking bids now for healthy vending machines in county buildings. In line with a law passed by the county council in 2015, the new vending machines on Howard County government property will include at least 75% healthy snacks and drinks.

HOWARD SCHOOL AUDIT SCOPE NARROWED: Jess Nocera of the Howard County Times reports that Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced a more narrow scope of his request for a performance audit of the school system. The narrowed scope, to be completed by the Maryland State Department of Education, would look into the Howard County Public School System’s health and dental fund; budgeting and actual expenditure variance; personnel cost development; and supplemental income and non-salary benefits.

CARROLL’s 1st RX POT DISPENSARY OPENS: The long-awaited first day of business for Westminster’s Herbology medical marijuana dispensary was marked with a ribbon-cutting before registered patients formed a line that snaked out the door. Dispensary officials, Commissioner Dennis Frazier and representatives from the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and Del. Haven Shoemaker’s office were among those in attendance, reports Leah Brennan of the Carroll County Times.

STATE HERITAGE GRANTS TO AID PATAPSCO AREA: The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority announced on Monday matching grants of more than $216,000 for three regional nonprofits, Cody Boteler reports in the Catonsville Times. The grants fund three projects in the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area. And Patapsco Heritage Greenway also received a $100,000 management grant, a $25,000 block grant and a $17,500 marketing grant.