I didn’t have that much time to put this post together but I thought I’d write about something rather than have a gaping hole of over five days. So here’s some of the recent stuff that’s happened in Baltimore, thanks to the Baltimore Brew.
SUING A SLUMLORD [link]
“As she’s watched the block across the street from her East Baltimore home go downhill over the decades, Jeanine Jones long ago gave up on getting help from the city. Trash continually piles up outside the nine vacant, boarded-up row-houses on the north side of her block, the 700 block of East 21st Street. Tall grass and weeds grow in patches in front of the buildings. But Jones, whose home is on the south side – the side with the owner-occupied homes and flowerpots with freshly-planted hostas – says the city ignores her requests for help cleaning up the blight that greets her when she steps out her front door…Jones had a mixed reaction to news this week that one of the nine blighted units – 714 East 21st Street – is part of the Community Law Center’s lawsuit against its owner, the Texas-based company that the group says is possibly the city’s largest out-of-town “slumlord.”…The $8 million lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, challenges the practice of buying properties at tax sale and “leaving them for dead with unaddressed city code violations,”…Wizig was targeted because he appeared to be the biggest single offending property owner in the city…Grace Willis, of the Greater Greenmount Community Association, says city redevelopment efforts such as the $85 million Telesis Barclay project on the west side of Greenmount Avenue are a positive step – but that residents are still faced with nuisance properties on the east side of Greenmount…Carol Ott, meanwhile, who runs the blog Baltimore Slumlord Watch, points the finger squarely at political leaders like the mayor and city council….The lawsuit provoked no apparent interest among top officials assembled at the Board of Estimates’ weekly meeting yesterday…City Solicitor George Nilson, asked about the lawsuit, said he had not been aware of its existence until he read about it in the morning newspaper…Dunkerton noted that the Wizig suit will be a test of a state law revised last year in Annapolis that “lets communities step into the shoes of code enforcement.”…The strengthened law makes it easier to sue property owners for the damage that blighted properties cause in a community.”
Catonsville 9 still revered [link]
“Are the Catonsville Nine a little blurry and Insta-gram-hued for you, decades after those Catholic activists burned draft files in a parking lot behind the Knights of Columbus Hall out on Frederick Road? A new documentary, “Hit & Stay,” premiering locally at the Maryland Film Festival next week, brings that bold act and those dire times into sharp focus. We go down the rabbit hole via shaky black-and-white footage shot that day, May 17, 1968…But the Catonsville action had the narrative hook of the dashing priest-brothers Philip and Daniel Berrigan, defying the pro-war Catholic Church hierarchy, an angle the activists knew would prove irresistible media bait…The filmmakers tell the story using old footage, recent interviews with surviving members of the group and their supporters, explicit images of war horrors, like the ravaged flesh of Vietnamese children burned by napalm, and the reflections of eminences of the Left such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Bill Ayers and Amy Goodman…That the draft was stopped by the bold actions of regular folk, not heroic saints, is just one of the insights that emerged for Tropea from the six-year process of making the documentary, a project he undertook after writing on the subject for his masters thesis at University of Maryland Baltimore County…Baltimoreans will recognize many of the people and places in the film. The massive march downtown for the trial, for example, started at the Wyman Park Dell and flowed down Howard Street…Had the government’s case – which was “really insubstantial” – prevailed, Tropea said, they could have faced serious prison time. Finally, he said, he was struck by the way the U.S. government had continued to pursue deadly military adventurism abroad but with less resistance from a disengaged mainstream culture.”
“The Rawlings-Blake administration won approval to pay $27 million to three consulting companies to help manage city sewer projects, as the head of the agency that sought the contracts broke a tie vote at today’s Board of Estimates meeting. The “yes” vote by Alfred H. Foxx, whose Public Works Department supervises the city’s sewer operations, allowed the contracts to pass, 3-2, over the opposition of City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and City Comptroller Joan Pratt. Foxx said the contracts are essential for the city to meet a federally-imposed deadline to fix its aging sewer system. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Solicitor George Nilson also voted in favor of the contracts…The Brew disclosed the terms of the three contracts yesterday and noted that the fees would greatly exceed the city’s maximum fee for consultants. This fact was seized upon by Pratt today, who said that each $9 million contract would exceed the city’s “upset limit,” or maximum fee, by 18 times. But by winning a waiver from this limit today, the contracts will go into effect for three years without further board action…Pratt called the arrangement further evidence that the city depends too much on consultants to do often routine work…Given the extent of the rebuilding program required by EPA – with estimates of total costs exceeding $1 billion – Foxx said his department’s Wastewater Construction Management Division needs the consultants to supplement its staff.”