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Baltimore City

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  Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday morning he will lift some COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants. Beginning Friday morning, those establishments may operate indoor dining at 25% capacity and outdoor dining at 50% capacity. 

Bars without a food license may operate at 25% capacity. Scott also will enact a one-hour seating limit in all dining and bar establishments. 


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  Mayor Brandon Scott will keep Baltimore’s Phase 1 COVID-19 in place  the city’s intensive and acute care units approach the limits of their  capacity..


“Unfortunately, we are still seeing the impacts of New Year's Eve in our data,” the Democrat said at a news conference. “These are not decisions that I made lightly.” 

Scott said the plight of restaurant owners and restaurant workers, whose businesses are only open for carryout, keeps him up at night. 

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Baltimore City Council members introduced a package of housing relief bills Wednesday night during a reconvened meeting that was suspended earlier this week when the city’s video conferencing system failed due to a Webex outage. 

Though the coronavirus pandemic is not the genesis of the city’s longstanding housing insecurity issues, its resounding effects — shuttered businesses, job losses and long lines for unemployment benefits — have exacerbated the crisis.   

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Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday Baltimore City recycling curbside pickup services will resume next week, ending a six-month suspension first enacted due to COVID-19 outbreaks among crews that led to a shortage of workers.

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The Aug. 10 explosion in Northwest Baltimore that killed two people, injured seven and reduced three rowhomes to rubble was due to a “large natural gas buildup” ignited by a stove, city officials said Tuesday morning.

  

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Baltimore City will stay in amended Phase 1 COVID-19 restrictions that ban indoor and outdoor dining, Mayor Scott announced Friday. He said he arrived at his decision after reviewing numbers that indicated a surging post-holiday spread and rising positivity rates.

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  Mayor Brandon Scott said Tuesday he may update citywide restrictions on dining and non-mask wearing activities at the end of this week after his team reviews post-holidays COVID-19 data.

The city is in its fourth week of indoor and outdoor restaurant and bar closures, which Scott announced on his first full day in office. He also capped retail and religious institutions, gyms, malls and museums at 25% of capacity.

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Santa takes many forms throughout the holiday season: there’s the work party Santa, the  parade float Santa, the illustrious mall Santa. In Baltimore, there’s Santa atop a cargo bike carrying several hundred pounds worth of Christmas trees, trailed by the scent of slow-cooked pork. 

From the last week of Thanksgiving through the week before Christmas, Todd Coleman and Mike Santoro dress as St. Nick, load up to eight Christmas trees on their bikes and pack a cooler full of pulled pork sandwiches. The duo run Pork ‘N Pine: a local legend of a business that delivers Douglas firs and BBQ to your door.

the office of mayor brandon scott


  Mayor Brandon Scott has named Jim Shea, his former running mate in the 2018 gubernatorial race, to be Baltimore City’s top lawyer, while former Acting City Solicitor Dana P. Moore has been named the city's first Chief Equity Officer. 

Shea, chairman emeritus of Venable LLP, the state’s largest law firm, previously served as managing partner and chair of the firm from 1995 to 2017, shortly before his gubernatorial run. 


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Despite more than $130 million worth of contracts spread out over a decade that aimed to improve Baltimore City and Baltimore County’s shared, aging water system, a joint report from the city’s and county’s Offices of the Inspector General released Monday discovered more than 22,000 dysfunctional water meters that have resulted in millions of dollars worth of uncollected revenue. 

Baltimore City Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming and Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan also decried “a fundamental lack of communication between the city and the county [that] is central to the problems that have been plaguing the water billing system for years” in the report, which landed after nine months of investigation. 

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When Dr. Kathleen Page made her hospital rounds in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, she heard the same question from Latino immigrants hospitalized with COVID-19 over and over again: “When can I go back to work?” 

“The clear underlying theme here was low income wages, the necessity to work,” Page said, especially for undocumented immigrants. “Remember: They were not getting the stimulus check, they were not getting unemployment benefits.”  

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A series of new pandemic restrictions ordered by Mayor Brandon Scott in Baltimore, including the shuttering of indoor and outdoor dining, will go into effect at 5:00 p.m. Friday, as local hospitals approach capacity.

“Governor Hogan said yesterday that the state of Maryland is in red. No, we're on fire,” Scott said in a Friday morning news conference. “We have to understand the dire situation that we are in.”

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Mayor Brandon Scott and Comptroller Bill Henry were sworn into their new offices Tuesday afternoon, ending an administration created by political re-shuffling after ex-mayor Catherine Pugh resigned amid scandal.

The Democrats, formerly City Council President and 4th District Councilman, respectively, both campaigned on their progressive politics. Scott, 36, replaces longtime City Hall fixture Jack Young. Henry, 51, replaces Joan Pratt, who served as Comptroller for more than two decades.


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Mayor Jack Young’s term, born amid crisis and marked by a relentless onslaught of subsequent emergencies, ends Tuesday morning, as a slate of younger Democrats were sworn into their new City Hall offices.

The Democrat, previously City Council President, ascended to the Mayor’s office in May  2019 after the resignation of ex-mayor Catherine Pugh, who stepped down a month after her “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal came to light.

The punches kept rolling throughout his 19-month term: the city was in the midst of a ransomware attack as he was sworn in, and the coronavirus pandemic pummeled the city less than a year later. The man who had said he never wanted to be mayor led the city through some of its most challenging moments in recent memory.

AP/Patrick Semansky

Baltimore healthcare providers urged city council members to support overdose prevention sites, places where people can use previously purchased drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals, during a hearing Tuesday.

They said the sites confront the reality that people use drugs and allows them to do so safely.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Baltimore will re-enter Phase 1 level restrictions at 5 p.m. Thursday, as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths and positivity rates continue to climb throughout the city and state.

Mayor Jack Young’s executive order reduces capacity to 25% at religious facilities, retail establishments, gyms, theaters and other businesses, and also caps indoor and outdoor private gatherings at 10 people.   

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Baltimore Mayor Jack Young announced tightened pandemic restrictions in a news conference Friday afternoon, citing alarming COVID-19 trends that have crept upward throughout the city.

Effective at 5:00 p.m. next Thursday, indoor and outdoor restaurants, theaters, malls, and religious facilities, must cap capacity at 25%. Gatherings at homes, both indoor and outdoors, are limited to 10 people.

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Election workers throughout Maryland resumed the counting of mail-in ballots Thursday, after completing Election Day returns.


Unlike workers in some critical swing states who did not begin counting mail-in ballots until this week, Maryland election workers began sorting and counting early ballots in October. More than 1.3 million mail-in ballots were returned to the state before Election Day.

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Baltimore protestors rallied on Wednesday afternoon to condemn President Trump’s false claims that he won the contentious presidential election and that Democrats are “stealing” the election, as officials continue to count votes throughout the country.

“What matters is that what the people need and want is what we get,” said Sharon Black, an organizer with the Peoples Power Assembly, said. “We cannot tolerate, in this country, a fascist who basically steals the election by not counting every vote.”  

 

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Baltimore Democratic nominees gathered outside of Edmondson-Westside High School on Monday morning to encourage all eligible voters throughout the city to cast a ballot before the polls close for good on Tuesday night.

“We cannot afford to have anyone sitting this election out,” said City Council President Brandon Scott, the Democratic nominee for mayor. “You have the future of your city, your state, of your country and the world at hand.”

Baltimore City Health Department handout


  New coronavirus cases in Baltimore are up 120% from just four weeks ago and are approaching the case numbers the city experienced during a sharp spike in July.

“What this means is that Halloween is not the time for anyone to pretend we are not in an active pandemic,” City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said during a news conference Friday. She warned that the city will see another wave of COVID-19 “unless everyone continues to follow practical harm reduction guidance.” 

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Two city councilmen are calling on Mayor Jack Young to resume Baltimore’s curbside recycling service and raise the pay of the Department of Public Works’ sanitation employees, some of whom earn $11 an hour.

“The way we pay people communicates how we value them,” Councilman Zeke Cohen, a Democrat, said during a Wednesday news conference at the Sisson Street Sanitation Yard in Northwest Baltimore. “Right now we are sending a clear message that we do not value these employees.”

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Twenty hungry goats spent five days on a hill in North Baltimore’s Wyman Park Dell, transforming it from a dense woodland overgrown with invasive plants to a slope so bare it could be the dead of winter. 


The goats were guests of the Friends of Wyman Park Dell, a nonprofit that raised more than $3,000 to bring the animals to clear the slope, adjacent to the Baltimore Museum of Art, as an environmentally friendly alternative to machines and herbicides. They were contracted through Wednesday, but finished their job ahead of schedule on Monday afternoon.

Lowell Larson via Flickr

The Baltimore City school board stared down a $21 million shortfall Tuesday night brought on by pandemic spending, as its CEO decides how to handle the rest of the fall term.

Like school systems throughout the nation, the city schools racked up costs to keep online instruction afloat and support students and families as classes went online in the spring and stayed there this fall. All in all, the district spent $131 million on initial pandemic-related expenses.

Screenshot via Brandon For Baltimore


 Brandon Scott, Baltimore’s Democratic nominee for mayor, has nearly two-thirds of likely voters’ support, according to a poll commissioned by Scott and obtained by WYPR. The poll asked voters both where they stand in November’s general election race and what priorities they want the next mayor to tackle.

The poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, found Scott with 65% of the vote, Independent Bob Wallace with 14% and Republican Shannon Wright with 6%. The Democratic firm surveyed 400 likely November 2020 General Election voters in Baltimore from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6. The voters were both Republicans, Democrats, Independents and reflect Baltimore’s November electorate. The margin of error is ±4.9%. Polls commissioned by campaigns tend to paint rosier pictures of their candidates than polls commissioned by neutral parties.

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  An unusually competitive general election race is heating up in Baltimore City’s District 12, where Green Party candidate Franca Muller Paz has outraised incumbent and establishment Democrat Robert Stokes.

Muller Paz, an activist and teacher at Baltimore City College High School, has campaigned on a progressive platform that emphasizes on community-centered crime reduction, combating the digital divide and investing in schools. She says the Democratic incumbent has not been fighting for the district.

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Baltimore will outsource water meter reading operations to the same third-party vendor that installed water meters throughout the city earlier this decade, Mayor Jack Young announced Wednesday. 

Young said the city has a five year contract with Itron, a Washington state based company, to conduct meter reading, small meter installation and general maintenance. It’s not the first time the company has worked with Baltimore: in 2013, the city awarded Itron an $83 million contract to overhaul and upgrade its water metering infrastructure, which included adding additional meters.   

Northeast Baltimore Walking Tour/Wikimedia Commons

The Baltimore City Council held a busy virtual meeting Monday night. They passed two prominent bills that re-examine the legacy of Christopher Columbus, plus two bills to boost protections for the city’s hospitality labor force. They also introduced two new bills to create an evictions assistance program for city renters and officially suspend water shutoffs. WYPR’s Emily Sullivan and Nathan Sterner talk through each piece of legislation. 

Screenshot via Brandon For Baltimore Facebook page

Baltimore’s three Democratic nominees for citywide office came together Tuesday morning to urge voters to elect their party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, in a show of unity that was lacking in 2016 when then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton appeared to be on the way to victory. 

“This election is about the fabric of democracy and whether our country can come back from the last four years of embarrassment to elect people who can help us,” City Council President Brandon Scott said at a news conference.

 

AP PHOTO/MARY ALTAFFER


  Gov. Larry Hogan will allow restaurants to expand indoor dining capacities to 75%  at 5:00 p.m. Monday. The Republican is encouraging residents to partake in Maryland’s first statewide Restaurant Week, despite concerns over COVID-19 spread throughout the state.

“To celebrate the first-ever Maryland Restaurant Week, I encourage Marylanders to support their favorite local businesses, whether you do so through delivery, curbside pickup, or by dining indoors or outside,” Hogan said Friday in a news release. 

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