State Roundup: Homicides down in Baltimore city, county; lawmakers say public safety, education and transportation will be top priorities in Annapolis

State Roundup: Homicides down in Baltimore city, county; lawmakers say public safety, education and transportation will be top priorities in Annapolis

BMORE CO.’S HOMICIDES IN 2023 CONTINUE DOWNWARD TREND: Baltimore County saw a decline in homicides and non-fatal shootings in 2023, according to county officials. The county recorded 29 homicides in 2023, which was down nearly 15% from the year prior and down 47% compared to 2021. The county also had a more than 14% decrease in non-fatal shootings. Robert Sobus/WBAL-FM/AM

MAYOR SCOTT LAUDS 20% DROP IN BMORE’S HOMICIDES: Hours before a vigil was held Wednesday night to remember the 263 people killed in Baltimore last year, Mayor Brandon Scott announced that the city’s violence prevention efforts are working, slowly but surely. He pledged that the city would keep up its current efforts. The drop in homicides in 2023 was dramatic: 20%. Baltimore hasn’t seen a number lower than 300 homicides since 2014. Emily Hofstaedter/WYPR-FM

PUBLIC SAFETY, EDUCATION AND TRANSPORTATION ARE AMONG STATE LAWMAKERS’ TOP PRIORITIES: Mounting financial pressures on Maryland’s ambitious education, transportation and climate plans are set to loom large in the coming months as the Maryland General Assembly returns to Annapolis to begin its annual legislative session Wednesday. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say addressing rising concerns about public safety is their top policy priority heading into the 90-day lawmaking sprint. Passing legislation to address vacancies in elected office, as well as how terminally ill people could end their own lives, are on the agenda for some Democrats, who control supermajorities of both chambers. Sam Janesch/Baltimore Sun

EX-CAPITOL COP RUNNING FOR SARBANES’ SEAT IN CONGRESS: A former U.S. Capitol Police officer who bloodied his fists in hand-to-hand combat and endured pepper spray and racist vitriol defending the American seat of government against insurrectionists on Jan. 6, 2021, is now seeking to return to the building as an elected representative. Harry Dunn, 40, announced Friday morning that he is running for the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), joining a growing field of candidates in what is expected to be a competitive primary. Joe Heim/The Washington Post

  • Dunn, 40, who grew up in Prince George’s County, told a House committee in July 2021 of being called racial epithets as he sought to protect the Capitol. Dunn told the committee he underwent multiple counseling sessions for the “persistent emotional trauma of that day.” He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Citizens Medal. Jeff Barker/The Baltimore Sun
  • Dunn has been among the most high-profile police officers who battled the unruly mob on Jan. 6, and recently published a book about his life and his experiences during the insurrection, “Standing My Ground: A Capitol Police Officer’s Fight for Accountability and Good Trouble After January 6th.” He resigned last month after 15 years on the force. Josh Kurtz & William J. Ford/Maryland Matters
  • As soon as U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes announced in late October that he wouldn’t seek reelection, cellphones in the political world lit up with texts and calls. Politicians and aspiring politicians began assessing whether a run to succeed Sarbanes would make sense. The list of candidates and contenders continues to grow. Here’s a look at the current lineup. Pamela Wood/Baltimore Banner

SHEILA  DIXON SAYS SHE TRIED TO GET BMORE MAYOR TO HIRE HER: Baltimore’s former mayor Sheila Dixon said she put herself forward to join the Scott administration as City Administrator when Christopher Shorter left the job at the end of 2022. “I said I would love to be part of your administration… and really get these agencies running properly,” the current mayoral candidate told WYPR’s Tom Hall on a Wednesday episode of Midday. But Mayor Brandon Scott tapped Faith Leach (whom Dixon called a “wonderful person”) for the role. Emily Hofstaedter/WYPR-FM

STATE CLOSING IN ON MILESTONE IN EFFORT TO PLANT TREES:  Maryland is closing in on a major milestone toward its 10-year goal of planting 5 million native trees by the year 2031. The 5 Million Trees Initiative has planted nearly half a million trees (497,890 total) since the effort launched in July 2021, with more than 180,000 planted in 2023. The effort is coordinated by the Maryland Department of the Environment. About two out of every three trees planted as part of the initiative has come from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The program began in July 2021, after the General Assembly passed the Tree Solutions Now Act of 2021.  Aliza Worthington/Baltimore Fishbowl

HOW WILL RISING SEA LEVELS AT INNER HARBOR AFFECT THE NEW HARBORPLACE?: Researchers from the University of Maryland estimate that the mean high tides at the Inner Harbor could be nearly a foot and a half higher in 2050 than they were in 2000. What will that change mean for the newly envisioned Harborplace? Emily Hofstaedter/WYPR-FM

MANCHESTER’S TOP PRIORITY IS $1.7M UPGRADE AT WASTEWATER PLANT, MAYOR SAYS: Manchester Mayor Melinda Smith has spent the past seven months getting acclimated to her new position. Smith was elected last May to a four-year term that expires in 2027. In the new year, Smith said planned upgrades to the Carroll County town’s wastewater treatment plant are a top priority for town officials. The mayor was asked to reflect on the past year and look ahead to 2024. Sherry Greenfield/ Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times

ANALYSIS: ARE HIGHER TAXES ON THE WAY TO FUND MD.”S TRANSPORTATION SHORTFALL?: Are we being set up for state tax increases to fund transportation? That’s the question that came to mind after Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld announced that the state would need to cut highway and transit projects by 8%, as well as state aid for county roads to compensate for a projected $3.3 billion deficit in the state Transportation Trust Fund in coming years. Any householder or manager can recognize the stark reality of the situation: Expenses are going up, income is going down. Solution: cut expenses or get more income. Len Lazarick in The Business Monthly/Maryland Reporter

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