State Roundup, November 4, 2019

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MFUME EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE FOR CUMMINGS’ SEAT: Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume is widely expected to announce Monday he is running for his former 7th District seat in Congress to replace the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings — a move that should further energize the contest while renewing scrutiny over Mfume’s record leading the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

HOGAN WAITING FOR FED TRANSIT AID: As he travels the state with top administrators from the Maryland Department of Transportation, Secretary Pete Rahn hears a frequent plea from business leaders, environmentalists and the public — expand bus and rail options, so travelers don’t have to be so dependent on their cars, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. While Rahn touts the amount Gov. Larry Hogan has been spending on transit, he also says, “I think for us realistically — if we’re going to take on some of these larger projects that remain — it’s going to take a healthy federal program.”

HOGAN STEPS INTO MO CO FLAG CONTROVERSY: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) stepped into a dispute in Montgomery County, calling Sunday for the county to allow police to display a donated “thin blue line” flag that is meant to show support for law enforcement, but also is associated by some with white nationalists, Laura Meckler of the Post reports.

  • Kate Masters of Bethesda Beat reports that during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., some white nationalists carried the symbol as a sign of protest. However, Thin Blue Line USA, an online shop that carries multiple products with the image, criticized its use by protesters at the rally. That appropriation, and the flag’s use by the Blue Lives Matter movement — a direct counter to the Black Lives Matter movement that formed after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown — have transformed it into a politicized symbol not suitable for display on county property, Elrich said in a phone interview on Sunday.

OPINION: HOLD ED DEPT ACCOUNTABLE: In an op-ed for the Sun Kirwan Commission member Kalman R. Hettleman opines that the elephant in the room in the clamor over the recommendations of the commission is the imperative of accountability. So far, Gov. Larry Hogan and the General Assembly have done far too little to assure taxpayers that the proposed increase in school funding of about $4 billion over 10 years will be spent effectively and efficiently. Taxpayers and political officials have reason to be skeptical that school systems will be held sufficiently accountable.

PELOSI ADDRESSES MARYLAND DEMS: Maryland Democrats must unite to help keep or bring back party control at all levels of government at a time when democracy is under attack, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told state Democrats gathered in Middle River on Saturday night, Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun reports. The keynote speaker at the Maryland Democratic Party’s annual fundraising gala, the Baltimore-born Pelosi, who represents San Francisco in the House, said she was glad to be back in her hometown and reunited with party leaders.

MARYLAND REPORTER CELEBRATES 10th BIRTHDAY: Happy 10th Birthday to MarylandReporter.com. Ten years ago Saturday, on November 2, 2009, MarylandReporter.com launched the original nonprofit news website in Maryland covering our state government and politics. We hope you’ll send us a 10th birthday gift to keep us going for another year – and have your gift doubled by four national foundations.

OPINION: AN AWKWARD TRANSITION: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports that the transition we’re about to witness in the Maryland Senate will be something completely different than the state of Maryland has ever seen. For one thing, it’s the first in a mind-blowing 33 years. Equally fascinating, the outgoing Senate president, Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), plans to stick around. Most likely, he’ll sit just a few feet below the rostrum in the Senate chamber, where the new guy, Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), will preside. It’s hard to conjure up this tableau and not think, “awkward.”

DISAPPEARANCE OF AN ISLAND: The Sun’s Scott Dance reports that Larry Laird of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will soon be making his last visit to Great Fox Island. The bay foundation welcomed its last group of students to the island last month, started packing up the lodge, and put Fox Island up for sale. At least, what’s left of Fox Island.

CHANGES TO JUDGE SUSPENSIONS: When Maryland’s judicial discipline panel recommended an immediate suspension last year for a controversial Baltimore judge, she didn’t stop working right away. Instead, District Judge Devy Patterson Russell continued to hear cases for seven months while she waited for a decision on her fate from the state’s highest court. Now, the top court is expected to consider a change that would allow it to quickly get such judges off the bench and on administrative leave pending its final decision on their discipline, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.

HOGAN NAMES TITUS TO CARROLL CIRCUIT COURT: Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed Richard Roger Titus to the Carroll County Circuit Court, The Carroll County Times is reporting. The appointment fills a vacancy left by Judge J. Barry Hughes, who retired March 29 after turning 70 years old — the mandatory retirement age for Maryland’s judges.

  • Titus was appointed in 2016 to the Carroll County Circuit Court but lost his seat last November to challenger Maria Oesterreicher, who with 53.1% of the vote became the first female circuit court judge in the county’s history. The county’s judicial nominating commission sent Titus’ name to the governor along with those of attorneys Samantha Z. Smith and Laura Guadalupe Morton-Coleman, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.

HOGAN TAPS ROCKVILLE LAWYER FOR JUDGESHIP: Andrew Schotz of Bethesda Beat writes that a lawyer with a Rockville firm has been appointed Montgomery County District Court judge. Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he chose Victor Del Pino for the judicial seat. Del Pino has been a partner with McGann, Del Pino and Hughes LLC since 2010, according to a press release from Hogan’s office. Previously, he was a Montgomery County prosecutor for five years, the press release said.

NEGRO MOUNTAIN CONTROVERSY CONTINUES: While the state has removed the signs to Negro Mountain, the controversy over its name continues, Teresa McMinn of the Cumberland Times-News reports. Kenneth Lloyd wants to buy the Negro Mountain signs and install them in his front yard. And historians are debating the origin of the name.

BLACKS MOSTLY AFFECTED BY BA CO TRAFFIC STOPS: The majority of traffic stops in Baltimore County last year involved a black driver, according to statewide traffic stop data, even though black residents make up less than a third of the county’s population, a disparity county officials plan to review. African Americans are 30% of Baltimore County’s population, but were involved in nearly 57% of all vehicle stops in 2018, according to data released Friday. And minority drivers were more likely to receive a citation after being stopped than white drivers, Wilborn P. Nobles III reports in the Sun.

SCOTT OPENS B’MORE MAYOR CAMPAIGN OFFICE: Brandon Scott opened his mayoral campaign office at a Cathedral Street storefront Sunday afternoon, calling for generational change in Baltimore city government, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports. “Let’s be clear: The status quo train does not want us to win,” the 35-year-old City Council president told about 75 boisterous supporters. “They’re going to do everything in their power to stop us. But we know that their money, their approval, their influence is diminishing.”

EMPTY ALLEGANY ED BOARD SEAT WAITS ON HOGAN: Gov. Larry Hogan has some candidates to fill the empty Allegany County Board of Education seat, but his office won’t say who, how many or when they will be considered, Teresa McMinn of the Cumberland Times-News reports. The Maryland State Board of Education last month removed school board member Wayne Foote on charges of misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.

HO CO COLLECTS RECORD AMOUNT OF DUMPED DRUGS: On National Drug Take Back Day late last month, Howard County collected 1,262 pounds of unwanted and expired over-the-counter and prescription medicines, a “record-breaking” amount, according to the organization in charge of the event, Jess Nocera of the Howard County Times reports. HC DrugFree, a nonprofit providing resources and education on prevention, treatment, recovery and health and wellness to county residents, collected the medicine — along with needles, syringes and EpiPens.

ELLICOTT CITY STORM WARNINGS SILENT: Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports that storms packing heavy downpours that blew through the area on Halloween night triggered some new safety measures intended to prevent deaths and damage from flooding in historic Ellicott City, but some residents were left wondering why other warnings stayed silent.

CARROLL UPDATES ZONING, CUTS RX POT DISTANCE: After citizens objected to some of the proposed changes to Carroll County’s zoning code, the county commissioners made changes to the rezoning proposal, including a decreased separation requirement for medical cannabis dispensaries, Mary Grace Keller of the Carroll County Times reports. Carroll County is in the process of updating its nearly 40-year-old zoning code. The proposed changes have been posted online and, on Oct. 3, the county held two public hearings to hear comments from citizens.

STATE BOARD NIXES NEW MO CO VOTE SITE: After more than two hours of debate and discussion Thursday, a majority of the state board of elections voted against an additional voting site in Montgomery County. State board members expressed disappointment that the local board earlier couldn’t come to a unified decision, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. “It’s your job to make a decision, and you passed the buck to us,” Malcolm Funn, a Democratic member of the state board, said.

ROCKVILLE VOTE-BY-MAIL UNDER WAY: Maryland’s first vote-by-mail election is underway in the state’s third-largest city, and the pros and cons are on full display in what some lawmakers hope could be a prototype for a future statewide system, Glynis Kazanjian of Maryland Matters reports. “We welcome information gained by the City of Rockville in the conduct of this election that would benefit a future vote by mail process,” said Donna Duncan, assistant deputy administrator for election administration at the Maryland State Board of Elections.

HARRIS ON IMPEACHMENT: WBAL-AM’s C4 talks with U.S. Rep. Andy Harris on the on-going impeachment inquiry. The discussion starts at 51:20.

REBURIAL OF HISTORIC FIGURE: Erin Cox of the Post reports that Janice Hayes-Williams was just starting out as an amateur local historian two decades ago when she found out a prominent black man had been deeply disrespected. On Friday, she stood in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis and ran her hand along a pair of custom wooden caskets. “At last,” she said, “they’re home.”