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In the Media: BLocal Job Initiative Promises to Invest in Community; Vacants Collapse from Wind

Vacant properties on a block where the Vacants to Value program was working during 2015.
Vacant properties on a block where the Vacants to Value program was working during 2015.

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Hopkins, BGE announce major job initiative with 25 Baltimore companies

"More than two dozen of Baltimore's most prominent businesses, including Johns Hopkins University and Health System, BGE and Under Armour, on Monday morning will announce a $69 million initiative to beef up their investments in the community through more inclusive contracting and hiring.

"The businesses that have signed on to the plan, called BLocal, have pledged to enter into more design and construction contracts with minority and women-owned businesses and to buy more goods from local vendors. They will also hire more residents from the city's most distressed neighborhoods, according to a press release obtained by The Sun.

"Part of the initiative also calls for creating a contractor's college to provide training to local businesses that will help them better compete for work.

"The BLocal effort aims to improve the economic prospects of minority-owned businesses and low-income residents who expressed frustration and hopelessness after the riots sparked by the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody nearly a year ago. The initiative includes a program already underway at Hopkins, called HopkinsLocal, to use local resources for hiring, building and buying. Hopkins also proposed last year that hospitals in Baltimore and around Maryland create 1,000 entry level jobs specifically for residents from the hardest-hit areas, but received approval by the state to raise rates to pay for only about 375. That program is still being formulated.

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From the Baltimore Sun: Several buildings in Baltimore collapse because of heavy winds

"The heavy wind gusts that hit the area this weekend led to the collapse of several vacant and abandoned buildings in Baltimore, housing officials said.

"'We suspect at this time that wind is a principal cause,' said Tania Baker, director of communications for Baltimore Housing. 'When there is extreme weather — like the heavy winds that we saw — there is an impact on aged and abandoned housing stock.'

"The destruction came as winds reached as high as 62 miles per hour in parts of the state Saturday into Sunday causing power outages making bridges dangerous for drivers.

"Workers with the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development demolished buildings at 1609 Mosher and 1701 and 1703 N. Fulton. Four other properties — 1623 N Payson, 1526 Druid Hill, 1523 Retreat and 1036 Arlington — were condemned by city building inspectors, but did not require emergency demolition. These properties will be evaluated in the morning.

"There were no entrapments or injuries at any of the buildings, the Baltimore Fire Department said."

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From the Washington Post: In Maryland, new efforts to fight drug addiction are taking shape

"Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the Democratic-controlled legislature are weighing options for tackling the fast-growing heroin epidemic that has taken root across the state and throughout the country.

"Many of the solutions focus on loosening criminal penalties for drug offenses and shifting more money — including the potential prison savings — to treatment and rehabilitation programs.

"The efforts have drawn praise from experts, including Joshua Sharfstein, the physician who served as state health director under Hogan’s predecessor, Martin O’Malley (D). But they are viewed with skepticism by some advocates, who want the state to immediately and significantly expand long-term residential treatment.

"The debate comes as the White House and Congress are taking steps to address opioid addiction, which has also been a nagging theme on the presidential campaign trail. In March, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to create grants to expand drug-abuse treatment and awareness programs; encourage medical providers to reduce unnecessary prescriptions; and expand access to overdose-reversal drugs. President Obama said last week that he would propose $1.1 billion in his 2017 budget to boost treatment at community health centers."

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