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In the Media: Hogan's Blight Program Meets Skepticism; Elections Officials Address Primary Problems


A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Hogan’s blight program meets skepticism in Sandtown

"As Gov. Larry Hogan played tag with kids in West Baltimore Tuesday, Nneka Nnamdi watched from the sidewalk and muttered curse words under her breath.

"Hogan had returned to the Sandtown-Winchester block he'd visited six months ago, when he announced a multimillion-dollar plan to tear down the city's vacant houses and replace them with green space or new development. On Tuesday, he came to tout that program and others that he says will help the city.

"But as Hogan played with schoolchildren in a new block-long park in the 1000 block of N. Stricker St. with benches and freshly planted flowers, Nnamdi, 39, and other West Baltimore residents were skeptical. The other side of the street was still vacant home after vacant home. There was already another park around the corner.

"'It's too little, and it's too late,' Nnamdi said of the state program, and gestured to the remaining block of vacants. 'You can't possibly love a community and let it come to this.

"'You can't do this and make me think that you're showing love to the community, because you're not,' she said. 'If you really love the people of Baltimore, this would have never been this way.'

"Hogan shrugged off her criticism.

"'I understand concerns — things are changing — but certainly a place for kids to play is a lot better than abandoned, dangerous buildings that are collapsing and falling down and could potentially kill some of the kids in the neighborhood,' he said.

"Terrance Scott, 38, saw it as state-sponsored gentrification of his neighborhood.

"'This is temporary,' Scott said. 'They're going to build bigger houses for people, houses that we can't afford to buy.'

"Hogan sees it as the start of a 'major' wave of demolition projects to create a 'rapid' transformation. His plan has the backing of the city's mayor, its delegation of state lawmakers and community leaders.

"Marcy Gill, 59, said she'd probably sit on that park's benches, but she asked whether building it should be a priority.

"'It's nice, don't get me wrong,' Gill said. 'But there are other things they could focus on. Everybody needs housing.'

"Hogan, a former real estate developer, said that when he tours Baltimore neighborhoods, the No. 1 concern is blight.

"'Many of these houses have looked this way for 20 or 30 or 40 years, and [residents] said, 'When is someone going to do something about it?' I decided to do something about it,' Hogan said.

"The General Assembly approved the governor's plan to spend about $9 million this year and about $18 million in each of the next few years to tear down blocks of vacant houses owned by the city.

"The Maryland Stadium Authority, which is overseeing the work, is negotiating contracts to demolish 463 properties in more than 70 locations across the city. Hogan said he expects demolition to accelerate rapidly in late August or early September.

"Officials have prioritized work near schools that are being rebuilt under a deal that will funnel $1 billion into replacing or renovating about two dozen buildings over the next few years."

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From the Washington Post: Md elections officials address Baltimore primary problems

"Maryland and Baltimore elections officials told a state Senate committee on Tuesday that they’re working through the staffing, training and logistical problems that led last month to temporary decertification of the city’s primary results.

"Baltimore Board of Elections Director Armstead B.C. Jones Sr. said he wants to recruit 800 more election judges so his jurisdiction doesn’t experience the type of shortages that forced him to scramble for replacements just days before the April 26 election and caused some polling stations to open late.

"Jones said only about 1,700 of the 2,100 judges that trained for the primary actually showed up on election day. He said he wants 800 more to help meet his target of 2,100 and to provide a cushion in case hundreds once again don’t report for work. He said the number of missing judges was higher than usual this year.

"Jones and state Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone attributed the increase in no-shows to the state’s switch to paper ballots that are tallied by scanners, a new system they said was unfamiliar and perhaps daunting to some of the trainers and recruits.

"Jones and Lamone, both of whom testified before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, said they would work to improve training, including with more hands-on instruction, by extending the sessions and by seeking recommendations for how to improve the system from veteran Baltimore election judges.

"Lamone said she also created a panel of elections directors from around the state to share best practices for handling provisional ballots.

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From City Paper: In light of Orlando, thinking about how Baltimore can be better for the LGBT community

By Kelly Cross, president of the Old Goucher Community Association and recent candidate for City Council, 12th District, in the Democratic Primary.

"We who live in Baltimore City have become accustomed to the idea of random gun violence. If we're lucky, it's something that we mostly experience through the news. If we're unlucky, it is something we know personally. In 2014, I myself was robbed at gunpoint—in front of my home. Yet today I feel more unsafe than ever before because of a mass shooting in Orlando, nearly a thousand miles from my stoop.

"Maryland has come a long way in providing legal protections for LGBT people. But those laws can't protect me and my husband from the hatred of our neighbors. Nor can they protect any member of the LGBT community from the sort of violence that is specifically targeted at us.

"Most days I am afraid to hold my husband's hand on our block, or to kiss his cheek while on our sidewalk. I worry that some passerby with a special disdain for us will decide to do more than just call us 'faggots.' And I sometimes wonder if a stranger will kill me for the brazen act of having a public role in my community.

"During my campaign for City Council, I learned that homophobia is still widespread in Baltimore and that my fears are shared by others. I met people in many communities where I campaigned who felt they should not live openly as an LGBT person. This was despite the leadership roles they held in their neighborhoods—and often because of them. I witnessed the prevalence of homophobia communicated with soft slurs and with "polite avoidance" in both rich communities and poor.

"As we are all focused on the horrors that unfolded in Orlando, we cannot be distracted by the hard bigotry of those who expressed no outrage at this massacre. We must also recognize that there is no such thing as nonviolent homophobia. Every attitude that dehumanizes LGBT people undermines our personal safety, because those who feel no sympathy for LGBT people have no compunctions about killing us.

"If Baltimore wishes to be a great city, it must foster and sustain the values of tolerance and acceptance. To lead this effort, our politicians must fulfill their moral duty to combat all forms of homophobia. They must every day push the conversations that create mutual respect among the city's residents. And they must speak out in places where these conversations are seldom convenient or comfortable.

"We should not accept politicians whose support for the LGBT community consists of nothing more than an appearance at Pride, a few photos with gay friends, and the ability to avoid using anti-gay slurs. If Baltimore's elected politicians truly want to combat violence against LGBT people, they must work to end the HIV epidemic which continues to heavily affect Baltimore's communities of color. They must assure LGBT youth are safe in schools—places to be educated, not harassed. And they must fight the prejudices that deny trans women employment while forcing them to survive on the streets.

"I believe Baltimore has the capacity to be a place where I can kiss my husband on the sidewalk; and I believe that we can find some good in this terrible event if we use it as a moment to make our own city a better place for all LGBT people."

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