John Lee | WYPR

John Lee

Reporter, Baltimore County

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County.

John has worked in news for more than 20 years. He has been a news director, assistant news director, managing editor, assignment editor and reporter at various radio and television news stations. He’s won numerous awards from The Associated Press, including best news operation, best continuing news story, and best news series.

Before coming to WYPR, John spent more than a decade as a stay-at-home dad. During that time he raised a disabled child. He also listened to WYPR every day thinking, “I’d like to work there.”

In 2013, John did just that. He started as “the world’s oldest intern."

John has both a master’s degree in media management and a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Seth Sawyers/flickr

Republican Governor Larry Hogan has asked the General Assembly to approve a plan to spend nearly $2 billion in additional school construction money statewide over the next four years. 


And Baltimore County’s Executive, Democrat Johnny Olszewski, agrees. 


Olszewski painted a dire picture before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Wednesday of what might happen without the money.



John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is remaining mum about whether he will call for tax hikes to deal with a projected $81 million shortfall. But others in county government are making the case that now may be the time to do so.


Let’s start with the county’s income tax rate.


Currently it’s at just over 2.8 percent. A report by the county council’s spending affordability committee lays out the possibility of raising that to 3.2 percent, which is the highest allowed under state law.


John Lee

  A commission that’s been studying Baltimore County’s budget released a preliminary report Friday which says the county should consider raising taxes. The commission is also proposing major changes to the budget process to make the county more fiscally sustainable.



John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today tapped the head of the city’s social services department to be the county’s administrative officer.


Stacy Rodgers will be the first African-American to hold the job and is promising to be open and transparent.



Photo courtesy the Olszewski campaign

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the budget passed by the county school board Tuesday night is not fiscally sustainable. 



Seth Sawyers/flickr


The Baltimore County School Board Tuesday night approved a budget to send to the county executive. It includes a pay raise for teachers and money to extend the school day by 15 minutes WYPR’s John Lee was there and talked about it with Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner.



John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Tuesday released a laundry list of more than 200 objectives for the next four years. But the report from his transition team did not include details on how to pay for any of it.


John Lee

Baltimore County is looking under every sofa cushion for money to help close a projected $80 million budget shortfall next year.


That’s led Republican State Senator Chris West to propose that the state allow the county to charge developers impact fees.



Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation

Dan Torsch’s older brother John remembers. It was about 17 years ago. 


“I can trace his addiction back to one 100 milligram morphine pill,” Torsch said.


They were teenagers, partying in Ocean City. Drinking, smoking weed, snorting cocaine. John offered his brother the morphine pill. The next morning John said he woke up with a hangover. 


“All I wanted to do was lay on the beach, maybe smoke a joint and eat some food,” Torsch said. “What do you think the very first thing Dan asked me when he woke up? ‘You got any more of those pills?’”

John Lee

Hundreds of Baltimore County teachers and their supporters rallied Tuesday night to push the school board to ask County Executive Johnny Olszewski to find the money for teacher pay raises.


They also want smaller classrooms and schools that are not in disrepair. WYPR’s John Lee was there and talked about what happened with Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner.



AP Photo/Patrick Sison

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is considering appointing an Opioid Czar to be the point person as the county grapples with the second-highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses in Maryland. This comes as the county is being criticized for not doing enough to address a problem Olszewski says is ravaging parts of the county.



John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is telling his department heads not to expect any more money in the next fiscal year than they got this year. That’s because the county has a projected $81 million shortfall this coming year.


Meanwhile, constituents are giving the county executive a long list of things they say they need.



John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski last night appeared before the school board to give them a sobering presentation on the county budget. And part of his message to the board was that it will be years before three new high schools can be built in Baltimore County.


WYPR’s John Lee was there and spoke with Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner about what happened.



Photo courtesy BCPS

The Baltimore County School Board is about to try again to find a permanent school superintendent.


This comes as the interim superintendent, Verletta White, said she still wants the job.



John Lee


The social security office in Baltimore County is up and running during the partial government shutdown, but U.S. Senator Ben Cardin said the county is still feeling the effects of the stalemate going on the Washington, D.C. 


Cardin met with the county council Monday, and discussed the shutdown, as well as how Baltimore City’s problem with crime is becoming the county’s problem as well.


John Lee

The Baltimore County Council Monday night unanimously chose First District Councilman Tom Quirk to be its chairman for the coming year. Quirk, who is the chairman of the council’s spending and affordability committee and represents the Catonsville area, takes over as the county finds itself staring down what Quirk has called a budget crisis.



John Lee

With the General Assembly about to get underway, Baltimore County has high hopes of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the state for school construction. And for the first time since his December inauguration, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski spoke with Governor Hogan about the county's schools. WYPR’s John Lee joined Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner in the studio to talk about the need for the money and the prospects of the county getting it.



  When Barbara Johnson, a water quality scientist with Blue Water Baltimore, makes her way down the Jones Falls for her monthly water quality check, she doesn’t see much in the way of trash. That is until she checks Roland Run, a tributary of the Jones Falls, just north of Lake Roland. 


“You see your plastic bottles, plastic bags, and styrofoam,” Johnson said.



Tradepoint Atlantic

The Baltimore County Council is weighing whether to use tax money to help the developer of the old Bethlehem Steel site in Sparrows Point.  At a hearing Tuesday, council members appeared receptive to Tradepoint Atlantic’s request for up to $78 million.



John Lee

Once a month, Barbara Johnson makes her way to the banks of the Jones Falls.


Johnson, a water quality scientist with Blue Water Baltimore, tests the water at more than a dozen sites along the falls and its tributaries, from Stevenson Village near its headwaters in rural Baltimore County, to just where the falls goes into underground tunnels near the Howard Street Bridge in the city.



John Lee

Thousands of people make their way on the Jones Falls Expressway each day. But running beneath the JFX, there’s the other Jones Falls, the waterway people talk about usually only when it floods, or is flooded with raw sewage, or both. Officials are grappling with how to control and improve the Jones Falls as it makes its way from Baltimore County to the Inner Harbor.



Lauren Watley, Baltimore County Government

Johnny Olszewski Jr. was sworn into office Monday as Baltimore County Executive. Now he’s faced with the possibility he may need to raise taxes, cut the county budget or both.


This comes as Olszewski is promising a closer working relationship with the council.



John Lee


Johnny Olszewski Junior becomes Baltimore County’s 14th county executive when he is sworn in Monday morning. 


In a conversation with WYPR’s John Lee, Olszewski said that he will be taking executive action after he is sworn in but did not reveal what that will be.




John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler will step aside on Monday, December 3, to make way for county executive-elect Johnny Olszewski Junior. WYPR reporter John Lee talked with Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner about his interview with Mohler, in which they discussed what is perhaps the biggest challenge that awaits Olszewski as he takes office.  

Olszewski's Baltimore County Transition Begins Today

Nov 7, 2018
John Lee

Baltimore County’s next county executive, Democrat Johnny Olszewski,  will take office in one month, which means he has to put together a transition team quickly, starting the morning after the election.

“We’re going to have to assemble a plan to build a diverse team that reflects the strength of our county and welcome and solicit even more feedback about what people want to see for their neighborhoods,” he said Tuesday night.


Tom Hall checks in with WYPR reporter John Lee, who is with the John Olszewski Jr. campaign tonight, about what the race for Baltimore County Executive means for the state of Maryland. A win for Olszewski could indicate that a blue wave is real, while a victory for Al Redmer, Jr. would signify a Republican stronghold. 

Tom spoke with John earlier this evening.

Mary Rose Madden

Maryland voters flocked to the polls Tuesday, despite the miserable weather, to cast ballots for governor, state representatives and a host of local officials.

But in some ways, the election was as much about national politics as it was local races.

John Lee



The first day of early voting brought out long lines of voters throughout Maryland Thursday. 

It also brought out the political big guns in Baltimore County, where a Democrat and Republican are locked in a tight race for County Executive.


John Lee

In their final debate, the candidates for Baltimore County Executive differed over affordable housing, Pre-Kindergarten, and how to treat people who live in the country illegally. 


The final forum between Republican Al Redmer and Democrat Johnny Olszewski came two weeks before election day.



Tradepoint Atlantic


Officials at Tradepoint Atlantic say a study of a proposed public financing deal with Baltimore County should be made public in the next couple of weeks. WYPR Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner discussed that with reporter John Lee.