State Roundup October 18, 2019

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REST IN POWER: STATE MOURNS CUMMINGS: Many Baltimore residents have their own stories about the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the civil rights advocate and towering presence in Maryland and national politics whose devotion to his city and its people endured until this death Thursday, reports Colin Campbell for the Sun. His constituents mourned his death after awaking to the news — some calling into radio stations in tears, while others reflected on the loss his death represents to the city, state and country.

  • As this city has endured a litany of political and police corruption scandals in recent years, Cummings, 68, distinguished himself as the rare local leader whom many residents felt they could still trust, reports Paul Schwartzman for the Post. During crises, he had the capacity to express the city’s anguish with eloquence and passion, his presence a measure of reassurance to many who worried that chaos was overwhelming Baltimore.
  • As tributes poured in for Cummings, many of them made mention of what could be Cummings’ most lasting legacy: not of congressman or House Oversight chairman or inquisitor to President Donald Trump, but of mentor and guide, reports Kevin Rector in the Sun.
  • Cummings was a “fighter” and a “true hero,” whose loyalty and visibility in his district areas did not go unnoticed by Howard County elected officials, reports Jess Nocera for the Howard County Times. On Friday evening, county leaders will gather for a vigil to honor Cummings in Ellicott City.
  • The Baltimore Democrat had a penchant for cutting through the mealy-mouthed equivocating of Washington and unleashing fiery blasts of plain-spoken condemnation, reports Fern Shen in Baltimore Brew.
  • Baltimore broadcaster Mark Steiner remembers Cummings as a man of the community, and shares a story about how he must have met him in 1962 when Steiner, then 16, demonstrated to protect African American children integrating a Baltimore city pool. Cummings was one of the children at the pool. They became friendly when they met years later in the 1980s.
  • Cummings was born, lived and died a Baltimorean, writes Micha Green in the Afro, where Cummings wrote a regular column. The night before he died, the Afro attended the National Coalition of Black Civil Participation Spirit of Democracy Awards, where he was to be honored.
  • U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes speak with WYPR-FM’s Tom Hall live from Capitol Hill to reflect on Cummings’ his life and work.
  • And far from his district, Western Marylanders fondly remembered Cummings on Thursday as a kind lawmaker who was influential on both sides of the political aisle, reports the Cumberland Times-News.
  • Funeral plans were incomplete Thursday, but Bishop Walter Thomas said he expects services to be held in New Psalmist Baptist Church’s 4,000-seat sanctuary, report the Sun’s Jonathan M. Pitts and Pamela Wood. Cummings attended the church for nearly 40 years. Thomas predicted the church would be overflowing.
  • Cummings clashed with President Donald Trump, but on Thursday Trump called him a “highly respected political leader,” in a tweet offering condolences, reports Lillian Reed for the Sun.
  • In addition to his political legacy, Cummings helped open up more opportunities for both black lawyers and judges in Maryland, reports Louis Krauss in The Daily Record.

OPINION: CUMMINGS LEGACY, FUTURE OF SEAT: Cummings used his verve and influential words to defend his native Baltimore and crusade for the less advantaged, writes the Sun’s editorial board. He was a conscientious lawmaker well-versed on pressing issues and, most recently, a lead thorn in Donald J. Trump’s side.

  • While he imagines many will be eyeing this rare and sad vacancy, blogger David Lublin on Seventh State suspects that Cummings’s widow and current Maryland Democratic Party Chair Maya Rockymore Cummings would be a lock for the seat if she seeks it.

GAINES GUILTY PLEA IN CORRUPTION CASE: Former Maryland Del. Tawanna Gaines pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge that she illegally used campaign funds for her personal benefit, reports Michael Kunzelman for the AP.  Gaines faces a sentence of up to 20 years after her plea to one count of wire fraud.

BALTIMORE VACANT HOUSES REMAIN DESPITE RAZING: Despite demolition crews working at an unprecedented pace in recent months to tear down Baltimore’s vacant houses, the number of abandoned buildings in the city has barely budged, reports Ian Duncan and Christine Zhang for the Sun. Even as long rows of empty houses are being razed, other homes are going vacant much faster than officials had expected — for reasons they’re all but at a loss to explain.

UNIVERSITY FUNDING PLEDGE: Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones pledged to the leaders of the state’s public universities Thursday that they would not face significant funding cuts from the General Assembly, reports Tim Curtis for The Daily Record.

ENROLLMENT DECLINES AT MD UNIVERSITIES: University of Maryland Global Campus is one of six Maryland colleges to grow enrollment over the five-year period — compared to 15 schools that saw student enrollment shrink, reports Carley Milligan for the Baltimore Business Journal.

LOBBYING ON PIMLICO: Lobbying firms with major firepower will be called upon to get the Pimlico racetrack deal across the finish line, reports Josh Kurtz with Maryland Matters. Most of Annapolis’ top lobbyists represent interests that want to see the deal done, and they’ll be working their magic and calling in their chits for the multimillion-dollar proposal to improve Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park and guarantee that the Preakness Stakes remains in Baltimore.

CECIL FORMING OPIOID PARTNERSHIP: Law and order leaders in Cecil County met with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to discuss the ongoing opioid litigation and other potential public health collaborations for substance use disorder, reports B. Rae Perryman for the Cecil Whig. County Executive Alan J. McCarthy attended.

CITY GETS CYBER INSURANCE: Baltimore City agreements this week with the insurance giants Chubb and AXA will provide $20 million in covering against the kind of virtual assault that took place last May, which knocked out Baltimore government computers for weeks on end and paralyzed the water billing system for three months, reports Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew.

MACo KIRWAN ESTIMATES RISE: The Maryland Association of Counties now estimates a state education panel’s recommendation would cost counties $1.9 billion in 2030 dollars, reports Michael Sanderson in Conduit Street, MACo’s blog. That is greater than the $1.2 billion typically discussed for the county share of payments due to the Kirwan commission recommendations.

OPINION: POST POLL SPELLS TROUBLE FOR KIRWAN ADVOCATES: The same group of people who have no idea what the Kirwan Commission is both support its recommendations to increase spending by 22% and oppose raising income taxes by $400 a year to pay for it, opines Red Maryland’s Brian Griffiths on a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll released this week. He adds, if Marylanders oppose the idea of an extra $400 in taxes every year, just wait until they learn how much they’re really going to have to pay to fund Kirwan, which will cost well more than $6,000 per family each year.