State Roundup, October 10, 2019

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HOW PREAKNESS DEAL WOULD WORK: The architects of an ambitious, $375.5 million proposal to renovate Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County are counting on using money from slot machines to pay for the work. Doing so would require multiple changes in state law that are expected to be considered during the 2020 session of the Maryland General Assembly. Pamela Wood of the Sun explains how the proposal would work.

STRONACH FOUNDER WANTS AMENDED DEAL: Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach said Wednesday he believes the deal to keep the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore should be amended ? and he pledged to continue trying to force out his daughter, Belinda Stronach, 53, as president of the international horse racing company he founded. In an email to the Sun, writes reporter Luke Broadwater, Stronach, 87, said he doesn’t necessarily have an issue with the deal his daughter cut with Baltimore but he doesn’t like that he wasn’t consulted, believes his daughter is an illegitimate company president and wants the agreement to do much more for Park Heights.

PITTMAN TO PUSH PREAKNESS DEAL: In the days since the Stronach Group and Baltimore announced a deal to keep running the Preakness Stakes in the city, the fact that Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman Jr. must convince his own constituents of the merits of the deal has gained little attention, writes Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. While the proposal does not bank on funding from Anne Arundel County, Stronach must be able to expand Laurel Park for the deal to work. Enough opposition from neighborhoods around Laurel Park holds the potential to complicate making the expansion proposal a reality.

QUEEN ANNE’S OFFICIAL DEMANDS MTA STOP BAY BRIDGE TRAFFIC PATTERN: WBFF-TV is reporting that Queen Anne’s County Commission Chair Jim Moran is demanding the Maryland Transportation Authority stop running two-way traffic on the westbound side of the Bay Bridge. It’s the very span that already has the right lane closed for construction. Moran said 70% of his residents who work on the western side of the bay bridge are only able to use one lane, creating a traffic nightmare.

HOGAN OKs JACKSON, FORBES FOR HOUSE SEATS: Wilborn Nobles of the Sun reports that Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed Carl Jackson and Cathi Forbes to fill two vacant Baltimore County seats in the House of Delegates vacated by Eric Bromwell of District 8 and Steve Lafferty of District 42A. Both Bromwell and Lafferty resigned from the General Assembly to join Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s administration.

OPINION: GET RID OF THE PLAQUE: The editorial board of the Sun sides with House Speaker Adrienne Jones in her disdain for the Civil War plaque in the State House, opining that if the State House Trust thinks simply altering a Confederate plaque will help resolve issues over its offensiveness, they are sadly mistaken and completely missed the point. Etching off an imprint of the Confederate flag and replacing it with the Maryland banner, doesn’t erase what the plaque symbolizes.

WA CO FIRST RESPONDERS WANT PUBLIC-SAFETY TAX: A public-safety tax was not among the legislative priorities the Washington County Board of Commissioners discussed Tuesday afternoon for the Maryland General Assembly session that starts in January, something that paramedic/firefighter James Ulrich told the board he was concerned about. The county recently learned it isn’t getting a federal grant to help hire full-time firefighters and there’s still a need for more help for fire and EMS, Julie Greene of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.

OPINION: EMBRACING CLEAN ENERGY: In an op-ed for the Sun, state Environmental Secretary Ben Grumbles writes that, while the effects of climate change are growing more severe, and the need for action is more urgent than ever before, there is some good and promising news in Maryland: the Hogan administration is pushing for progress, embracing bold and achievable solutions based on science and common sense. In response to the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which took effect last week, Gov. Larry Hogan issued one of the nation’s most aggressive climate goals: 100% clean electricity by 2040.

MDE CONCERNS SPARK CARROLL TO STUDY PINEY RUN DAM: Carroll County is embarking on what’s expected to be a two-year study to assess any possible deficiencies in Piney Run Dam, provoked by concerns cited by the Maryland Department of the Environment, reports Mary Grace Keller of the Carroll County Times. The water of Piney Run Reservoir, in which locals enjoy fishing and boating, is held back by a 74-foot-tall earthen dam that was built in 1974, according to Chris Heyn, county watershed restoration engineer.

HOGAN ADDRESSES TRUMP IMPEACHMENT PROBE: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he is “very concerned” about the allegations involving President Trump that are fueling the impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives – but he stopped short of backing a vote to remove the president from office, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. Hogan’s first extensive comments since the impeachment probe entered high gear came during an appearance at the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service on Monday night.

BAKER, UM ROLL OUT LEADERSHIP PROGRAM: Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker remembers his first days in elected office as a trial by fire – and flood and earthquake. While he had his mentor Wayne Curry to guide him, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters, what about other local elected officials? “There is no School for New County Executives. It’s on-the-job training,” said Baker. On Tuesday, Baker and the University of Maryland School of Public Policy announced that their newly created Elected Executive Leadership Program will accept its initial batch of trainees this December.

HOWARD COUNCIL ADDRESSES ELLICOTT CITY, DESEGREGATION: The Howard County Council voted on a series of bills and resolutions Monday night, spanning from Ellicott City flooding, to calling on the school system to “desegregate” its schools, to safer streets for bikers and pedestrians, Jess Nocera reports for the Howard County Times. The council voted on two resolutions and a bill focused on strengthening development regulations in historic Ellicott City due to two catastrophic floods that ravaged the area since 2016.

CITY INSPECTOR IDs $1.4M LOST: Phil Davis of the Sun reports that Baltimore’s inspector general said her office has identified about $1.4 million the city has lost due to financial mismanagement in the 2019 fiscal year. In a report released Wednesday, the independent oversight office summarizes the agency’s yearlong efforts showing where the city could save money and troublesome spots where Baltimore wasted taxpayer dollars, which taken together total $1.4 million. The report also shows how the number of complaints to the IG’s office has skyrocketed.

YOUNG, SCOTT FOR OUTRIGHT PLASTIC BAG BAN: Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young and City Council President Brandon Scott both are in favor of a ban on all plastic bags at Baltimore stores, not the partial ban backed by a City Council committee this week. “I support a ban because it ends up in our trees and in our harbor,” Young said Wednesday. “I support a ban: all plastic bags.”

OPINION: WBFF’s ‘TOWN HALL’ POORLY EXECUTED: Sun media columnist David Zurawik blasts Sinclair owned WBFF-TV for its handling of what was billed as a town hall on city issues, writing, “If the goal was to cause confusion and stoke anger among Baltimore voters while trying to tarnish the images of two of the city’s top Democratic leaders, then you would probably call WBFF’s town hall meeting Tuesday a success.”

UM FUNDRAISING FOR BASKETBALL CENTER: The University of Maryland’s athletic department announced Tuesday a new fundraising campaign to construct a 60,000-square-foot, $36 million basketball performance center. The center, which will be entirely funded through private donations, will serve as the home for Maryland’s men’s and women’s basketball programs, Katishi Maake of the Washington Business Journal reports.