January 8-14, 2018 – Edition 2
Baltimore City Schools Lack Heat; Politicians Create Fire and Fury
For the 2nd week in a row, the top news story in Baltimore was the fallout from the city schools’ frozen first week of classes after the Christmas break. Outraged parents descended on the Baltimore City School Board meeting last week to demand accountability for the dilapidated conditions in one-third of the approximately 180 school buildings—no heat; in some cases, no electricity; and floors buckled from burst pipes after a week of Arctic cold temperatures in the city.
The longstanding fractious relationship between city and state government (“fire and fury”), which is at the root of the problem, took center stage.
First, there was Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s ire, as he “magnanimously” decided to give the city additional funds to solve the heating problems [http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-hogan-education-20180108-story.html].
That we even have a Republican governor in a traditionally blue state—with a predominantly Democratic State House—is, in part, the result of the backlash by conservatives unleashed by the rise of Donald Trump in the 2016 elections. But Hogan is not the first Republican governor who has felt free to treat his mostly Democratic constituents like wayward children.
[The last such governor was Robert Erlich, who served from 2003 to 2007. While his biography on Wikipedia lists a surprisingly moderate list of goals and achievements, I only remember two things about his term: first, his selection of Michael Steele, a Black Republican, as his lieutenant governor; and his takeover of the Baltimore Zoo, a 200-year-old landmark, which he renamed “The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore”; this decision was reminiscent of several peremptory acts by Hogan, first in handling the Freddie Gray murders in 2015, and more recently his decisions regarding the Baltimore School System.]
Still, there was immediate pushback against his stance in the media. From baltimorebrew.com: https://baltimorebrew.com/2018/01/08/cold-hard-truths-about-baltimores-crumbling-city-schools/; and from The Baltimore Sun, fact checks on Governor Hogan’s statements about mismanagement of Baltimore schools: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0112-hogan-schools-20180110-story.html.
Even the national news weighed in. From CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/04/us/baltimore-schools-cold/index.html.
In response to this article, my friend Bert Shayte wrote: “Baltimore is once again making national news for all the wrong reasons. The school system infrastructure has gotten much worse since I attended 40+ years ago…. due to a lack of funding and mismanagement of funds. Those responsible for the dire situation continue to point fingers at others rather than fix the problem. When it comes to getting major problems solved in general…Baltimore is usually behind the curve.” This is a widely held view among Baltimoreans, although what constitutes “mismanagement” is a topic of heated debate.
But, as in every major municipality in America, the roots of Baltimore’s problems are much deeper. They lie in systemic problems: lack of leadership by the local and state government, or, alternatively, narrow-minded leadership, favoring money-generating enterprises while neglecting poor, struggling citizens whose lives and circumstances don’t fit the narrative that the money-makers want to portray.
Which leads me to the next top story in Baltimore.
Changing the Negative Narrative of Baltimore
This was the title of my letter to the editor that appeared in last Saturday’s Baltimore Sun [http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-rr-narrative-letter-20180110-story.html]. After bending myself into a knot over a columnist’s January 7th jaded assessment of Baltimore’s current leadership and its attempts to balance the overwhelmingly negative reputation of the city with a more positive one, I spent the next the 3 days writing a rebuttal editorial that was rejected in its original form but made it, at the end of the week, as this letter to the editor. As it turns out, my stance was reflected in a first page news story detailing our current leadership’s official efforts to… change the narrative!
Good News! Straight Outta Baltimore
Five Baltimore high school students have earned internships at the National Security Agency [https://technical.ly/baltimore/2018/01/11/5-baltimore-city-high-school-students-got-top-secret-clearances-interning-nsa/]. This is a great story, because these students were chosen from an “unlikely” Black high school, and their access to the program came not from the System, but by on-the-ground communication with other young people already involved in it.
Baltimore News Flash – This Week in Baltimore provides brief recaps (with commentary) of important news stories of the past week in Baltimore, with follow-ups as they are available. Please leave a comment!