On The Record | WYPR

On The Record

Weekdays, 9:30 to 10:00 am

Catch On the Record, hosted by Sheilah Kast, weekdays from 9:30 to 10:00 am, following NPR’s Morning Edition. We’ll discuss the issues that affect your life and bring you thoughtful and lively conversations with the people who shape those issues -- business people, public officials, scholars, artists, authors, and journalists who can take us inside the story. If you want to share a comment, question, or an idea for an interview you’d like to hear, email us at ontherecord@wypr.org.

Theme music created by Jon Ehrens.  Logo designed by Louis Umerlik.

Ways to Connect

What are Marylanders thinking? The latest Goucher College poll measures attitudes about sports betting and taxes, fears about coronavirus, and how well Gov. Hogan and President Trump are doing their jobs. Even though a big majority in the state told pollsters they’ve read nothing about the Kirwan Commission and its proposals for improving the state’s schools -- the poll shows strong support for some of what Kirwan calls for, like higher teacher pay and more vocation and job training. Poll director Mileah Kromer joins us to discuss the poll’s highlights.


You can make the case that Baltimore won’t solve any of its challenges--crime, schools, jobs--unless it gets its public transportation system right. The nonprofit Bikemore has invited candidates for mayor to a transit-focused forum, and they plan to ask tough questions. We talk with Liz Cornish, Bikemore’s director and  Taffy Gwitira, a dedicated public transportation advocate and the Public advisory committee vice chair for the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board of the Baltimore Metropolitan council.   

For information about the mayoral candidate forum, visit this link.

To see how candidates responded to Bikemore's advance questions about transportation, visit this link.

To submit a question to the candidates online, visit this link.


What’s the best way to combat the staggering number of murders in Baltimore? One approach supported by Police Commissioner Harrison is a test of aerial surveillance. What could it accomplish? What are its limitations? What privacy concerns does it raise? We speak with Baltimore Beat news editor Brandon Soderberg, who has reported on the technology and with University of Baltimore law professor Colin Starger, who looks at privacy issues kindled by citywide aerial surveillance.

We will post information on public meetings hosted by Baltimore Police Department about the upcoming aerial surveillance as it becomes available.

For information on Legal Hackers meet up where Soderberg is speaking, visit this link.

To read Soderberg's reporting in The Appeal, visit this link.

To learn about the Persistent Surveillance Systems technology, visit this link.

Maryland Historical Society

Sixteen-millimeter movies are practically relics -- especially compared to the immediacy of Youtube or smartphone videos. But the look and sound of real celluloid stirs an unmistakable nostalgia. The Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Maryland Historical Society will give audiences entry to that nostalgic feeling later this month with “Maryland On Film” ... featuring scenes of Baltimore from the 1920s to the 1990s. We get a preview from Tom Warner, librarian in the ‘Best & Next Department’ of the Enoch Pratt Library/State Library Resource Center and from Joe Tropea, Curator of Films and Photographs at the Maryland Historical Society.

For information on the Look Before You Leap-Year edition of Maryland On Film, visit this link.

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here is a Stoop Story from Shawna René, about how even little things can make a big impact. René is the founder of the ‘Say It Out Loud’ Urban Storytelling Collective in Washington, DC. You can hear her story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

By The Opte Project - Wikimedia Commons

The proposal for Maryland to become the first state to tax big internet platforms that track how you browse on the internet and target ads at you highlights how much money is made in digital ads. Computer Science Professor Avi Rubin says the more targeted ads, the more money to be made. Opponents contend the tax would hit not just Google and Facebook, but also hurt Maryland businesses. Economist Paul Romer disagrees. He says those arguments are just a big smokescreen. 

For further reading, here is a Maryland Matters article on the digital tax. To read the NYT Op Ed by Paul Romer, visit this link.

Christopher Connelly / WYPR

The story of voting rights in the United States charts cycles of restriction and expansion.

In her new book, “Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America,” UB Law associate professor Gilda Daniels traces a path from Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the Voting Rights Act to today, calling attention to barriers that block minority and marginalized groups from the ballot box.

She will be speaking about her book on Tuesday, February 25th at Red Emma's in Baltimore. 

Timothy K Hamilton / Flickr

Is it physician-assisted suicide--or medical aid in dying? The idea of someone with a terminal diagnosis enlisting the help of a doctor to end their life comforts some, outrages others.

Dr. Janet Conway, an orthopedic surgeon, contends the bill before the General Assembly is hostile to what caring doctors should do. You can read her Baltimore Sun op-ed here. Dr. Conway is a member of Maryland Against Physician Suicide.

From radio interviewer Diane Rehm, the opposite view. In her new book, "When My Time Comes," she argues such laws let people plan for a good death, if they’ve talked it through with their family. A companion documentary is expected in 2021.

Simon & Schuster

How could five boys, walking free in Philadelphia in the summer of 1825, be kidnapped, forced into the hold of a boat, chained and beaten, brought to the Eastern Shore, and then transported south?

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here is a Stoop Story from Betsy Hague about how her husband’s Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis changed their relationship. You can hear others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast. Learn about upcoming shows here.

The Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library, Print Department / Flickr Creative Commons

During segregation, African-Americans flocked to Carr’s Beach and Sparrow’s Beach, bayside resorts where families could freely swim, enjoy concerts, and share a meal. Environmental advocate Vincent Leggett describes the cultural and culinary history of these summertime hotspots, known for performances by legendary motown and R&B entertainers. 

Melissa Gerr

Environmentalists contend that Gov. Hogan’s proposals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade won’t go far enough to deter climate change. They say that plan is unrealistic in relying on fossil fuels and is counting on hundreds of thousands of Maryland drivers to switch to electric vehicles. Mike Tidwell heads the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and claims there is no substance to Gov. Hogan’s greenhouse reduction plan. But Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles touts the substance of the governor’s proposals for less carbon in generating electricity -- called 'CARES.'  Grumbles claims the plan recognizes the need for renewable and cleaner energy incentives. How far apart are environmentalists and the Hogan administration?

For information on attending public climate plan meetings, visit this link.

WikiMedia Commons

When Spiro Agnew, faced with prosecution for bribes dating back to his days as Baltimore County Executive, resigned the vice presidency in 1973 -- it seemed the glaring end of his political influence.

But the book, "Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America," contends Agnew did create a political legacy, and we see it today in Donald Trump’s America. Authors Zach Messitte and Chuck Holden write that Agnew excelled as Nixon’s emissary to the Silent Majority.

Adaptive Phage Therapeutics

As bacteria evolve to become more resistant to antibiotics, dangerous infections are taking their toll on human lives. We hear from John Haverty who, after knee replacement surgery generated an unrelenting infection ... found himself facing amputation of his leg. Enter a new treatment called 'phage therapy' and Greg Merril, CEO and co-founder of Adaptive Phage Therapeutics in Gaithersburg. He explains how phages devour bacteria and the treatment that ultimately saved Haverty’s leg.

Acroterion / Wikimedia Commons

One hundred sixty years ago this week, the abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the army arsenal at Harpers Ferry hoping to arm slaves who would rise in rebellion. We ask historian Martha Jones what drove Brown, and how history views him.


Comics allow us to imagine possessing superpowers and life on other planets. What if you borrow that medium … to tell about powerful experiences and life in other cultures? That’s what artist and journalist Malaka Gharib does in her graphic novel: 'I Was Their American Dream' - about growing up in a Filipino-Egyptian household.

Nguyen Khoi Nguyen created the indie comic series 'The Gulf.' It chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a Vietnamese-American family. You can meet both authors at Greedy Reads on Friday, February 7 at 7:30pm. They'll be in conversation, and signing books.

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here's a Stoop Story from Josh Kohn about his comic superhero, Shalom Man. You can hear his story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

Rachel Paroan

Americans are showing more and more interest in plant-based foods. Some are just sampling, some are replacing all meat, fish and dairy in their diets. Our guests today want to entice you!

Restaurateurs Naijha Wright-Brown and Sam Claassen have organized “Maryland Vegan Restaurant Week,” Feb. 7 through Feb. 23. They talk about flavor and texture and the community of a meal --and why a restaurant doesn’t have to be all-vegan to take part. Plus Dr. Neal Barnard on his new book: "Your Body in Balance: the New Science of Food, Hormones and Health."

MissMessie / Flickr Creative Commons

In her new documentary “Broken Trust: Athlete Abuse Exposed,” athlete and filmmaker Jill Yesko turns the spotlight on former elite athletes who experienced abuse by coaches and other authority figures in the sporting world.

Yesko says it’s important to share athletes’ voices now--in light of the Me Too Movement and the Olympic games this summer.

She will be screening her documentary, “Broken Trust,” tomorrow at the University of Baltimore School of Law, followed by a panel discussion with former elite gymnast Jessica Armstrong and Dionne Koller, director of UB’s Center for Sport and the Law.

Plus Adam Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, gives advice to parents for staying vigilant in protecting their kids. Learn more about abuse prevention training here. Read about the warning signs of abuse here.


A tiny knife, a miniature bloodstained blanket. Bruce Goldfarb, of the chief medical examiner’s office, tells us about the tiny clues arranged by wealthy Chicago socialite, Frances Lee Glessner.

His new book is "18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics".

E.H. Pickering / WikiMedia Commons

When Charles Carroll, one of the wealthiest men in Maryland, died in 1832, he willed his sprawling estate near Ellicott City to his grandson.

Amid the turmoil in the transition, a young enslaved man named Moses Addison saw a chance to escape. What happened to Moses? Our guest is researcher and artist Jonathan Carroll.

By New York Clipper/Wikimedia Commons

It’s not as if no one was gay, lesbian or gender fluid in the founding days of America; it’s just not much reflected in recorded history. What was it like to be gay a century, or two or three, ago? Preservation Maryland and Historic London Town and Gardens examine that question in a five part lecture series called ‘LGBTQ+ History in Maryland.’ We meet with historian Chris Mielke, who previews his entry in the series: “More than friends: The Queer Chesapeake in the 18th 19th and 20th centuries.” 

For more information about the lecture series, visit this link.

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here's a Stoop Story from Tavon Vincent about surviving ... and thriving in his life with HIV. You can hear his story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

Ellen Lesperance

Only a tiny fraction of the art world’s permanent holdings are works by women. This year, the Baltimore Museum of Art is setting its sights on transforming that picture, by putting its money where its mouth is. For an entire year all the BMA's exhibits and all of its acquisitions will be works by artists who identify as female. The project is called “2020 Vision.” Chief curator Asma Naeem admits it’s just a start … but believes the bold move already is having an impact. Plus, Ellen Lesperance, tells us about her show at the BMA called “Velvet Fist”-- paintings based on the attire of women peace activists.

To enter to wear Lesperance's 'Congratulations and Celebrations' sweater, visit this link. For information on events with Ellen Lesperance at Baltimore Museum of Art, visit this link. For information about the Greenmount West youth-led artist talk, with Lesperance, visit this link.

Donne Ray Jones / Flickr Creative Commons

Kids demanding too much screen time? Certified parent coach Cindy Shuster advises how to navigate that battle, and others.

Plus, author Jane Isay talks about her book, "Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today".


Millions of Marylanders get care from the University of Maryland Medical System, UMMS. Last year one-fourth of all the hospital visits in the state were made to one of the 13 hospitals that are part of UMMS. But most news headlines about the system last year described devious contracts and unethical practices on its board.

The old board has been replaced, and the new board picked a new CEO Dr. Mohan Suntha, a cancer doctor who has worked at UMMS almost three decades. He says he knows how to keep UMMS true to its mission.

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here’s a Stoop Story from artist Christine Ferrara about her time as a highly caffeinated pen pal.

Lydia Thompson (21st Century Fox) for National Geographic

Powerful painkillers can often dispatch acute pain, but using them for chronic, persistent pain carries the risk of addiction. Nearly two million Americans have a substance abuse disorder stemming from prescribed opioids. So scientists are researching ways to treat pain without drugs. Journalist Yudhijit Bhattacharjee writes about them in National Geographic in "Scientists are Unraveling the Mysteries of Pain." Plus, University of Maryland neurobiologist Dr. Luana Colloca describes her research using virtual reality to manage chronic pain. For more information on this National Geographic article, visit this link. For more information on Dr. Luana Colloca's research at the University of Maryland, visit this link.