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In the Media: Training Evidence Barred from Rice Trial; MTA Revises Baltimore Bus Route Proposal


A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Freddie Gray case: Training evidence barred from Rice trial, which starts Thursday

"Prosecutors in the next trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray were dealt a blow Tuesday when a judge ruled they could not present evidence of his training since becoming an officer.

"During a pretrial hearing, Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams ruled that prosecutors committed another discovery violation when — just days ago — they turned over to the defense 4,000 pages of documents related to the training of Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking of the six officers charged in the Gray case.

"The trial of Rice, 42, will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Like two co-defendants before him, he has opted for a bench trial, leaving his fate in the hands of the judge rather than a 12-person jury of city residents.

"Officers' training has been a key component of the Baltimore state's attorney's office's case against the officers. Prosecutors allege that the officers knowingly acted against Police Department guidelines in their arrest and transport of Gray, who in April 2015 suffered a severe injury in the back of a police van and died a week later.

"The prosecution will be allowed to cite the agency's general orders and Rice's police academy training.

"Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow said prosecutors obtained the documents from city officials only last Tuesday after 'months and months and months' of seeking them from the city."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: MTA releases revised Baltimore bus route proposal

"The Maryland Transit Administration released significant revisions Tuesday to its draft plan for a new system of Baltimore bus routes, with 86 percent of the initially proposed routes revised based on more than 1,280 suggestions.

"This second draft restored several bus routes that drew outcry when the first version eliminated them, including routes on Greenmount Avenue, Harford Road, Garrison Boulevard and Edmondson Avenue, as well as an express bus from White Marsh to downtown.

"The MTA's $135 million overhaul known as BaltimoreLink is designed to eliminate inefficiency and long waits in the bus system, and reduce a bottleneck of bus routes converging downtown by shortening and consolidating them into 12 shorter, high-frequency lines known as CityLink.

"When first announced last fall, the project faced criticism from those who complained that their routes had been cut short or canceled altogether.

"Kevin Quinn, the transit administration's director of planning, said riders have complained that the system is broken, disconnected, crowded, unclean and unreliable. The MTA's goal, he said, is to give the bus system 'a haircut to reduce these super-long routes.'

"The MTA held the first of 20 work group meetings Tuesday — this one at State Center — to collect feedback on the second draft, which will be revised again before being finalized and implemented in June 2017. Other meetings will be held elsewhere over the next three months.

"The new routes will come with new buses and bus stop signs, branded in the state's colors."

Full Article

From City Paper: Black writers in Baltimore look to connect with local kids like never before

by Baltimore poet and writer Tariq Touré

"In 1987, at his inaugural address, then-Mayor Kurt Schmoke called our beloved hometown 'Baltimore, the city that reads,' soon enough placing the statement across park benches, above corner stores, and just about anywhere within 50 feet of a school. As catchy as it seemed, the slogan received loads of criticism by residents who knew that it ignored a diseased public school system, backed by decades of unequal distribution of educational resources. When Schmoke's mayoral career ended, 36 percent of Baltimore's adult population needed basic literacy training.

"A culture of reading and the results expected were still waiting to manifest. 'To get a job as a cook or a mechanic, a person, generally, needs to read at an eighth-grade level,' Elizabeth Holden, director of the Greater Homewood Adult Literacy Program, wrote in a 1999 op-ed in The Sun. 'A ninth-grade reading level is required to comprehend a guide to Social Security benefits.'

"Meanwhile, parents, recreation center staff, and little-league coaches believed Baltimore was doing anything but reading.

"But the city has a storied literary tradition. The Enoch Pratt Library system was kicked off with a $1 million check in 1882 from Enoch Pratt himself, who guaranteed that the library 'shall be for all, rich and poor without distinction of race or color, who, when properly accredited, can take out the books if they will handle them carefully and return them.' Pratt libraries are a demure safe-haven and staple in many communities shackled by era upon era of failed policy, punctuated by the gargantuan main library on Cathedral Street—which was the first branch to open. Soon after, branches opened up on Canton, Calhoun, Pitcher, and Light streets.

"In 2016, I've found new hope in Baltimore for children like Troy and so many others denied the pleasure and power of reading. According to last year's test scores, an average of only 15 percent of students tested between grades three through 10 met English language arts and literacy expectations on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. And there's a disparity between black and white students: 31 percent of white students met those expectations, but only 13 percent of black students did. But, it seems, reading books is hot now. Not fisticuffs-over-a-pair-of-crisp-leather-Jordans hot, but popular enough to spark the interest of kids like Troy forever. A bubbling scene of black writers has emerged, budding a representative archive of stories, poems, and memoirs that have made the love of literacy an admirable trait in the home of the O's. People such as D. Watkins (a CP contributor), Bilphena Yahwon, Kaye Wise Whitehead, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bobby Marvin Holmes, Sharea Harris, Lester Spence, Celeste Doaks, Erica Caine, Nakia Brown, Derick Ebert, Cija Jefferson, Sadiq Ali, Upile Chisala, Candice Abd'al-Rahim, MK Asante, Lawrence Burney (a CP contributor), and countless others are human hard-drives for words, emotions, and moments that happen to end up organized into literature. Their recent releases and publications represent a commitment to Baltimore becoming a literary powerhouse in the world. Moreover, these writers are spearheading a movement that encourages literacy that meets young readers halfway and counters so many of the problems that have marred past attempts at engaging black folk.

"The people are reading—about themselves."

Full Article