A New Baltimore Agenda?

The Sun today has the word on plans by House Speaker Mike Busch and others for extensive new spending for Baltimore City.

Leading Democrats in the House of Delegates plan to push at least a dozen legislative proposals aimed at addressing persistent problems highlighted by Baltimore’s unrest last spring.

The sprawling package of bills would invest millions more to demolish vacant buildings, extend the school day in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods and make it easier for public universities to hire city residents.

The proposals would pump state cash into construction projects as minor as putting roofs on community centers and as dramatic as installing turf fields and lights at Druid Hill and Herring Run parks to support a state-backed recreation league.

“When something like what happened in Baltimore trains a national spotlight on the city, you say to yourself, ‘We’re better than that,'” House Speaker Michael E. Busch said. “There’s a responsibility on everyone to come together.”

Whether Larry “What Did Baltimore Ever Do For Me?” Hogan will go along with these ideas, which Busch acknowledged would cost “tens of millions of dollars,” is uncertain at best. And the Sun also notes that the rest of the state may not feel great about devoting substantial funds to Baltimore, too. As usual, Todd Eberly has an opinion that misses the point - it’s not just about the rural areas that voted for Hogan but also Montgomery County. Our school population is growing by 2,500 students every year, we watched Baltimore get $1 billion in school construction funding commitments, we’ve waited fruitlessly thus far for our turn to come around (it’s an annual rite of spring, the calls for more state funding, the bus trips to Annapolis, and the same result - come back next year).

No offense to Baltimore but the Sun is wrong - the economic engine of Maryland is not Baltimore, it’s Montgomery County. I’m all for working together but at some point the street has to run in both directions. Lately it’s been all one way. Some way must be found to begin addressing the infrastructure needs of the entire state. How that happens with Larry Hogan on the second floor is unclear, but standing aside and simply allowing Baltimore to get “tens of millions of millions of dollars” in infrastructure spending is not a productive exercise.

BREAKING: NAACP, ACLU File Suit Over Red Line Cancellation

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a coalition led by the NAACP and the ACLU has filed suit over Governor Larry Hogan’s cancellation of the Baltimore Red Line, claiming racial discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

A coalition of civil rights groups and city residents filed a federal complaint against the Hogan administration Monday, claiming its cancellation of Baltimore’s Red Line light rail project was racially discriminatory.

The coalition, which includes the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the ACLU of Maryland, said they are asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to launch an investigation into Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision in June to scuttle the $2.9 billion transit project.

In a conference call, lawyers for the coalition said they will take the action on behalf of the Baltimore City Chapter of the NAACP, the Baltimore Regional Initiative Developing Genuine Equality (BRIDGE) and African-American city residents.

The complaint contends that Hogan’s decision to cancel the Red Line and shift hundreds of millions of dollars that had been slated for the rail line into highway projects around the state had a discriminatory effect on African-American Baltimoreans.

The lawyer in me says that this should make for an interesting lawsuit. The politico says that getting ahold of some of th internal communications of the Hogan (non)deliberations should be highly entertaining.

Anti-Dixon Ad In Baltimore

A new ad is out in the Baltimore mayoral race. I spent some time trying to track down the people behind it, and it got so interesting I think I need a separate post for that. The group behind it is Clean Slate Baltimore, a federally registered PAC with a PO box for an address.

Here’s the video. My opinion is that while it’s a negative ad, it’s one of the cutest and sweetest negative ads you’ll ever see. It’s also high quality and almost assuredly didn’t come cheap. I very much doubt we’ve heard the last of Clean Slate.

Mistrial In First Freddie Gray Case

The jury only deliberated for two days, but it remained deadlocked. The Sun:

A mistrial was declared Wednesday in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter, after jurors told a judge it could not reach a verdict on any of the four charges against him.

“I do declare a mistrial,” Judge Barry G. Williams announced in a downtown courtroom.

Porter, 26, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He is the first of six city police officers to stand trial in the death of Freddie Gray.

Attorneys are expected to appear in court Thursday morning in front of an administrative judge to pick a retrial date. Porter is not scheduled to attend.

It’s unclear whether Porter’s retrial will affect the trial dates for the other five officers, who are scheduled to be tried separately and consecutively beginning Jan. 6.

Here’s what I want to know. What was the split of the jury? If it was hung 11-1 foot conviction, that’s one thing. But it’s totally different if it was 11-1 for acquittal. Hopefully we’ll find out soon. 

More Baltimore Pols For Van Hollen

It’s becoming more clear that Elijah Cummings is not running for Senate. If we need more evidence on this front, John Fritze in the Sun brings it to us.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Monday that he has spoken with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and was assured that the popular Democrat is not running for Senate.

Young joined with other prominent Baltimore African American elected officials in Mount Vernon to endorse Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s campaign to succeed Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who will retire in 2017. State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden and Del. Talmadge Branch, the House Majority Whip, were among those also backing Van Hollen on Monday.
* * *

“I personally spoke to the congressman, and he told me he was not running,” Young said during the press conference Monday when he was asked about Cummings.

“He and I are very close, but he’s not in this race,” said McFadden, adding that he did speak with Cummings before coming out in support of Van Hollen.

McFadden, Branch and Young are key Baltimore leaders in the Democratic machine. They’re not going to endorse Chris Van Hollen if there’s even a chance Elijah Cummings is getting in the race. That’s the big story, and the secondary story - which will become bigger moving forward - is that every big Baltimore pol who has endorsed in the Senate race has gone for Van Hollen. The wind is blowing only one way in Charm City, hon.

Edwards Responds

Think of the Senate race as an old-fashioned artillery duel. Chris Van Hollen opened with a massive salvo of artillery, bringing down withering fire on Edwards’ flanks in Baltimore. As the smoke cleared from the advertising onslaught, with the accompanying poll results, the big question was this: how damaged was the Edwards artillery? Were her troops dispirited, her will to press on in battle broken?

Well, today brings the answer. Edwards’ guns have not been silenced - in fact they’ve been reinforced and are getting ready to level a blast of grapeshot right back at Van Hollen’s infantry. Courtesy of EMILY’s List.

Game on. Civil War artillery metaphor over - for now.

A powerful political group that helped elect Barbara A. Mikulski to the Senate nearly 30 years ago will spend $1 million in advertising for Rep. Donna F. Edwards’ campaign to be her successor, helping to close an advertising gap with her better-funded opponent.

Emily’s List, the Washington-based group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, will begin the Baltimore-focused campaign on Tuesday, a week after a poll for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore showed Rep. Chris Van Hollen with a double-digit lead in the race.
The investment is significant in part because it signals Emily’s List plans to be a factor in the contest, helping Edwards raise her profile and compete for television air time. Van Hollen, who has more than 10 times the cash on hand, has already run three broadcast ads in Baltimore.
The group will spend $875,000 on cable and broadcast ads alone, plus another $146,000 on radio and digital spots. The ads will run over six weeks and will target African American women. The ad campaign is paid for through WOMEN VOTE!, the group’s super PAC, which spent more than $12 million in the 2014 election cycle.

Conveniently enough, here’s the proof of what $1 million gets you in an IE buy in Baltimore.

Dixon Leads For Baltimore Mayor

Sunday is apparently poll day at the Sun. Another new poll shows former mayor Sheila Dixon with a sizable lead in the mayoral primary race.

Dixon 24
Pugh 13
Stokes 11
Mosby 10
Embry 7
Warnock 5

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon is the clear early front-runner in a crowded field to become Baltimore’s next mayor, a new poll for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore shows.

Dixon, who was favored by nearly a quarter of the respondents, leads the Democratic primary race by 11 points over her closest rival, state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh.

City Councilmen Carl Stokes and Nick J. Mosby are close behind in third and fourth place, trailed by lawyer Elizabeth Embry and businessman David L. Warnock.

“Sheila Dixon has almost a 2-to-1 lead, and not only that, but her support is the firmest by far,” said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, the Annapolis-based firm that conducted the poll. Dixon has a wide lead among older voters and African-Americans, the poll shows.

But many Democrats have not made up their minds about how to vote in the April 26 primary, the poll shows, with more than a quarter of respondents undecided. For decades, the contest among the city’s Democrats, who outnumber Republicans by a 10-1 margin, has decided the mayor’s race.

Battle For Baltimore II

Back in June, I wrote about an article by John Fritze about Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards both focusing a significant amount of attention and time on Baltimore, which does not (at the moment) have a candidate in the race.

Five months later, the battle rages on, and Fritze has returned to chart its progress.

Reps. Donna F. Edwards of Prince George’s County and Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County have appeared more frequently in the Democrat-rich Baltimore region in recent weeks than in any other part of the state — underscoring its battleground status in one of the nation’s most closely watched primary contests.

Both candidates are better known in their own communities on the other side of Route 32, and so Baltimore is wide-open political territory.

“It’s important for Baltimore to enjoy success because that defines success for the entire state,” Edwards, 57, said between campaign stops in the city recently. “I’m spending a lot of time in Baltimore because I’m not from Baltimore, and so I want to learn its neighborhoods and communities — its leaders.”

Van Hollen echoed the sentiment during a recent visit: “My view has always been that the state of Maryland is only going to be strong and vibrant if the city of Baltimore is strong and vibrant.”

While Baltimore’s political influence in the state has diminished with the growth of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the region remains fertile ground for Democratic candidates. Together, Baltimore City and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties accounted for more than a third of the 2012 Democratic primary turnout, about 115,000 voters.

Edwards and Van Hollen are running to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Highlandtown native and former city councilwoman who has championed the state’s largest city throughout her career. The state’s other senator, Democrat Ben Cardin, grew up in Ashburton.

Hoganomics: The Floating Train Lives!

Back in June, Senator Roger Manno mocked Larry Hogan’s fascination with the “floating train” also known as maglev.

Well, Maryland has now received $28 million in federal funding to study the the floating train.

The U.S. Transportation Department has awarded nearly $28 million to conduct studies on building a high-speed rail line that would carry passengers between Washington and Baltimore in about 15 minutes, according to Maryland officials.

The money will support ­private-sector efforts to bring magnetic-levitation trains to the region as part of a larger vision for building a maglev system along the Northeast Corridor.

Maryland’s Department of Transportation and the state’s Economic Development Corporation applied for the federal funds in April, with an understanding that the Japanese government and Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, a private group, would provide significant investments for the project.

“The ability to travel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in only 15 minutes will be absolutely transformative, not just for these two cities, but for our entire state,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a statement. 

Current travel time from DC to Baltimore - 1-1 1/2 hours

Maglev travel time from DC to Baltimore - 15 minutes, plus 1 hour to get anywhere in Baltimore because LARRY HOGAN CANCELLED THE RED LINE.

Net savings - $2.9 billion for Red Line. 

Net cost: $5 billion for Maglev.

So the idea is to spend $2.1 billion more for the Maglev than the Red Line for no appreciable benefit to Baltimore or Maryland residents. Hmmmmmm.

But hey, that train is VERY COOL. And it goes VERY FAST. And it FLOATS.

I guess this is Hoganomics at work.

Warnock Running For Mayor

While we rightly focus on the outcome of today’s municipal elections in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park and elsewhere around the state, there is now another candidate for Baltimore mayor in the primary next April.

David L. Warnock, the Baltimore venture capitalist and philanthropist, is entering the mayor’s race — arguing that his business background and political inexperience are positives for a city in desperate need of job growth and a fresh start.

“We are going to have another uprising if we can’t figure out how to create jobs and economic opportunity for the people who are the least fortunate among us,” said Warnock, a partner in one of Baltimore’s largest private equity firms whose charitable work includes helping ex-offenders.
“I’m the one guy that’s been in the business of creating jobs over the last 15 or 20 years. I really think that can distinguish me.”
Warnock, 57, said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun that he plans to formally file to run for mayor Tuesday. He will join a crowded field seeking to replace Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is not seeking re-election.
With his wealth and business connections, Warnock’s entrance could put pressure on the field to ramp up fundraising efforts. He also represents an outsider among politicians.

There are four top-tier candidates already in the race: former mayor Sheila Dixon, councilmen Nick Mosby and Carl Stokes, and state senator Catherine Pugh. Whether Warnock will make it five remains to be seen, but his resume and deep pockets certainly make him an intriguing candidate right from the start.