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In the Media: City Council Threatens Shutdown Over Youth Funding; Goodson Elects Bench Trial

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Wally Gobetz /
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Baltimore City Hall.

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore city council threatens government shutdown unless Rawlings-Blake increases youth funding

"Leaders on the Baltimore City Council are threatening a government shutdown unless Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake restores more than $4 million in funding for youth programs.

"As about 200 students and activists rallied for more funding Monday outside City Hall, council President Bernard C. 'Jack' Young and the council's budget chairwoman, Helen Holton, said they will refuse to approve the mayor's $2.6 billion spending plan — leaving the city without authorized funding for the next fiscal year — unless the mayor restores millions for youth programs.

"'Does the mayor and her administration want to shut government down?' Young asked. 'For kids, I'll shut this whole city down.'

"At issue is $4.2 million the city allocated last year to pay for 2,500 children to participate in after-school programs. The money was also used to operate six community schools. Many of the programs help youths near the site of rioting in West Baltimore last year.

"Council members also are concerned about a $167,000 reduction in funding for day-care programs at Waverly and Northwood schools.

"Activists, including teachers and parents with after-school provider Child First Authority and clergy with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, or BUILD, have advocated for the funding for weeks but have yet to reach an agreement with the Rawlings-Blake administration.

"Administration officials say they are cutting the funding because of fiscal restraints.

"Holton, chairwoman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, said she will not allow a budget vote by the panel unless the mayor changes her stance. The budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 must be approved by the end of this month to avert a government shutdown, Holton and Young said. By law, the City Council must approve a balanced budget by June 26.

"'If I'm going to take on a fight, I'm willing to take on a fight for children,' Holton said. She said a government shutdown could mean furloughs for city employees and could halt city tax collection.

"A spokesman for the mayor stressed that there is still time to negotiate a resolution to the dispute. Spokesman Anthony McCarthy said the administration was in discussions with the council about 'this and several other issues with regards to the budget.'

"'The mayor is committed to ensuring our children remain one of the most important priorities in this process,' he said. He noted that City Councilman Brandon Scott has proposed holding a hearing on the mayor's plan to sell four parking garages to raise up to $60 million to fund youth programs.

"Outside City Hall, activists led about 200 elementary school students in a chant to put pressure on the mayor."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Officer Goodson elects bench trial in Freddie Gray case, to begin Thursday

"Baltimore police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the van in which Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury, will go to trial Thursday before a judge rather than a jury.

"And, under a ruling Monday by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, prosecutors won't be able to present key evidence that Gray allegedly told officers 'I can't breathe' during his transport.

"Goodson, 46, is the second officer to elect a bench trial in the case. Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges by Williams last month.

"Legal experts said Goodson's decision, which came during a pretrial motions hearing in a downtown courthouse Monday, may have been made easier by Nero's acquittal, but they also noted the two officers' cases are distinct and that a bench trial comes with its own risks.

"'On the one hand, Officer Goodson is putting all of his eggs in one basket in having Judge Williams making the decision,' said Warren Alperstein, a Baltimore defense attorney who is not involved in the case. 'On the other hand, Judge Williams certainly has demonstrated in Nero's trial that he is able to hear the evidence, apply the law and ultimately make a decision that may not be popular.'

"Douglas Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor who has been following the case, added, 'It's always surprising when an accused person opts to be judged by the court and not by the community of jurors.'

"'And yet, in the relatively rare instances where police officers are defendants, they have consistently opted for judge trials — with very good results for the defendants,' he said.

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From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore council to hold hearing on labeling of sugary beverages

"Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen will be joined by Councilman Nick Mosby and former NFL player Aaron Maybin today to urge the City Council to pass legislation that would require warning labels about sugary beverages on advertisements and restaurant menus.

"The City Council’s health committee will hold a hearing at 12:30 p.m. on the bill that would also require labels on any point of sale in the city where these products are sold. 

"Health professionals and community leaders from across the city will also join Wen.

"Sugar-sweetened beverages contain added caloric sweetener. Examples include soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, most juices, sweetened coffee drinks and sweetened teas.

"Baltimore would become the second jurisdiction in the country, and the first on the East Coast, to require warning labels for sugar-sweetened beverages.

"Research has shown that sugary beverages can lead to obesity and other long-term health problems."

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