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Westminster Graffiti Classified Hate Crime, Uber In Annapolis, Grand Prix Bills, & Urban Farmers

Christian Alexandersen
Baltimore Sun Media Group

State police are classifying the graffiti spray-painted on the former Army Reserve Center in Westminster as a hate crime. Annapolis has asked ride-sharing company Uber to stop operating in the city until it registers as a taxicab service. Baltimore is still paying bills associated with the Grand Prix. A proposed tax break for Baltimore’s urban farmers. And more...Graffiti Classified Hate Crime: State police are classifying the graffiti spray-painted on the former Army Reserve Center in Westminster as a hate crime. The graffiti consists of the words, "NO ILLEAGLES HERE / NO UNDOCUMENTED DEMOCRATS" The message was spray-painted on the side of the building sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning. Federal officials had considered using the Army Reserve Center to temporarily house some of the children from Central America who’ve been pouring across the US/Mexico border… but decided against doing over the weekend. Police tell the Carroll County times that they don’t have any suspects yet, but note that the investigation is still in its early stages. Hate crimes in Maryland are punishable by up to three years in prison and a $5-thousand fine. The Baltimore Sun has more.

Annapolis Asks Uber To Register As Taxicab Service: The city of Annapolis has asked ride-sharing company Uber to stop operating in the city until it registers as a taxicab service. Uber officials tell the Capital Gazette that they will work with Annapolis to come up with a solution, but maintain that Uber is not a taxi company. In fact, Uber has threatened to leave Maryland if the state’s Public Service Commission decides to classify Uber as a “common carrier” – a move that would make the company subject to taxi regulations. The Baltimore Sun notes that a PSC decision that would do that was issued in April, but is being appealed. Meanwhile, Uber is facing a lawsuit from a group of 30 Maryland taxicab companies, who allege antitrust violations and demand financial damages.

Prince George’s Council Delays Casino Vote: The Prince George's County Council has postponed a vote on what is essentially final approval of the MGM Resorts casino at National Harbor. Yesterday’s scheduled vote on land-use issues was delayed until next Monday because three of the nine council members were not present. Even with the delay, it's expected the council will sign off MGM's application to build a $925-million casino. It would be the sixth and final casino approved by to operate in Maryland; it’s set to open in July 2016. The Washington Post has more.

Baltimore Grand Prix Bills: It’s been nearly a year since the last Baltimore Grand Prix… but the city is still paying for the road work that was done for the Indycar Race. The Baltimore Sun reports that the city will soon authorize a payment of nearly $485-thousand for construction done in advance of the 2011 and 2012 races. City officials say the work would have needed to be done anyway… and say it’s taken so long to pay for the work because of an “administrative error” that delayed the documentation of the cost increase. The Grand Prix was held in Baltimore for three years – 2013 was the event’s last and likely final year.

Tax Breaks Proposed For Baltimore’s Urban Farmers: Baltimore’s urban farmers could be in for a tax break. City Councilman Pete Welch is looking to institute a 90% cut in property taxes for urban farmers who grow and sell at least $5-thousand of fruit and vegetables a year. Councilman Welch tells the Baltimore Sun that the move could help ensure that more city neighborhoods have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Similar legislation was proposed three years ago; that bill would have given urban farmers a 100% property tax break… but the measure was opposed by the Mayor’s office, which said it would set a bad precedent. Welch’s bill is set to be introduced on Thursday.

Solar Conversion Facilities In Carroll County: Farmers in Carroll County will not be allowed to replace their crops with solar panels. The Carroll County Times reports that an ordinance that would allow major solar conversion facilities has been changed, so such facilities cannot go up in agricultural zoning districts. The director of the County’s Department of Land Use, Planning, and Development says there were concerns that some farmers would stop planting crops, and cover their land with solar panels. The county will now form a committee to study the potential effects of allowing large-scale solar facilities in agricultural zoning districts.

NTSB Releases Report On 2012 Ellicott City Train Derailment: The National Transportation Safety Board has released an extensive report the cause of a deadly train derailment in Ellicott City in 2012. The accident in downtown Ellicott City was apparently caused by a small break in the track. Twenty-one rail cars went off the tracks, fatally crushing two 19-year-old women, who were sitting on a railway bridge. WJZ has more here; there’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.

Teen Remains Hospitalized After Sunday Train Accident: An 18-year-old remains hospitalized at Hopkins Bayview after a Sunday afternoon train accident in Harford County. The Sheriff's Office says the teen fell from a train on the CSX rail line near Clayton Road in Joppa. Investigators say, the teen had been riding the train illegally. The Belair Patch reports that the young man is in serious, but stable condition.

Improvements To Route 1 In College Park: Safety improvements are coming to Route 1 near the University of Maryland in College Park. The State Highway Administration says more than $1-million will be spent to end a recent rash of accidents which have injured or killed pedestrians. In the coming weeks and months, the speed limit will be lowered for several blocks, a temporary median fence will be installed, and an overhead pedestrian signal will be installed at the Hartwick Road intersection. The Baltimore Sun has more.

Annapolis Bike Thefts: It’s been a bad couple months for bicycle thefts in Annapolis. In May alone, 21 bikes were stolen in the state capital. Last May, only two bicycle thefts occurred. And the spike in bicycle thefts has continued in June. Annapolis police are beefing up patrols to prevent more thefts. Police are encouraging people to lock their bikes and participate in the city’s "Watch Your Bike" program that records a bicycle's serial number, manufacturer and color. The Baltimore Sun has more.

Foreign Passports Now Valid ID At Frederick County Bars: Foreign passports are now a valid form of identification at bars in Frederick County. The county’s liquor board has voted to permit bars to accept passports as ID as long as they include a seal, photo, and DHS entrance stamp. This is only a temporary change; to make the move permanent, a public hearing will have to be held. The Frederick News Post notes that state law doesn’t require counties to accept passports; there are different policies on the matter on different counties.

Hopkins No Longer #1, Says USN&WR: Johns Hopkins Hospital is no longer the best hospital in the nation… at least, according to the annual US News and World Report ranking. The list puts Hopkins at #3, down from the #1 slot last year. Hopkins officials tell the Baltimore Sun that while the ranking is “interesting,” Hopkins remains one of the very best hospitals in the world… and that they expect to regain the top spot on the list in the coming years. Rochester Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic is now the top ranked hospital in the US.