Midday Newsmaker | WYPR

Midday Newsmaker

Baltimore City Police Department

Tom's guest today is the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department, Michael Harrison.  He was sworn into office in March, after a successful tenure as commissioner in New Orleans.  That tenure continues to be credited with the sharp decline in murders and robberies in NOLA over the past three years. 

A decline in murders here in Baltimore continues to be aspirational. Just this morning, our city recorded its 300th homicide for the fifth year in a row.  That number includes a few deaths which were ruled homicides this year following assaults that occurred in prior years. But the stubborn and horrifying fact is that more people have been killed so far this year than at this time in 2018, and we could be on track to equal the city's near-record homicide count of 343 in 2017.

Courtesy of Baltimore Teachers Union

Today, a conversation with Diamonté Brown, the new president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.  She was first elected last spring in a close and contentious race to lead the 7,000-member union of teachers and school para-professionals.  Her victory, which was officially certified in July after an investigation by the American Federation of Teachers, ended the long tenure of Marietta English, who was seeking her seventh 3-year term as BTU president.

Ms. Brown ran at the top of a coalition called The Union We Deserve.  She has pledged to improve accountability, engagement among union members, and to promote social justice.

A former teacher at Booker T. Washington Middle School, Ms. Brown now leads a union of teachers and school para-professionals who are working with a shrinking population of students, in the context of a deep political divide among lawmakers over funding for schools throughout the state. She joins us in studio A to discuss the present state of the union, and the school system improvements its members are striving for.

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page; you can watch the video here.

Midday Newsmaker: Dr. Khalilah Harris

Aug 15, 2019

Nearly 150 people of color who worked in the Obama Administration, signed an op-ed in the Washington Post asserting that President Trump’s racist comments provide “jet fuel” for anti-Trump activism. 

Dr. Khalilah Harris is one of those staffers, who co-wrote the op ed. She’s also a co-author of a new report from the Center for American Progress that outlines a new agenda for education policy. 

This conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page. You can watch the video here.

Photo Courtesy / Baltimore City Hall

Tom's guest is President of the Baltimore City Council, Brandon Scott.  He was elected President by his colleagues on the City Council in a unanimous vote last May, despite Mayor Jack Young’s preference for the Council’s Vice President, Sharon Green Middleton to assume the position she had held in an interim capacity during the weeks former Mayor Catherine Pugh pondered her political future. 

Last week, Mr. Scott weighed-in on where he sees Baltimore’s future.  He unveiled a detailed list of legislative and policy proposals that would result in significant changes in the way the city operates.

Baltimore Police Dept.

Today, Tom's guest in Studio A is the newish police commissioner of Baltimore City, Michael Harrison.  He was appointed by then-Mayor Catherine Pugh in January, approved by the City Council a few weeks later, and sworn into office in March. 

Last Thursday, flanked by Mayor Jack Young and other city officials, Commissioner Harrison unveiled his new plan to address the crime problem that has afflicted Baltimore in particularly acute ways since the riots and unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

The plan addresses response times by police, where and how they are deployed throughout the city, technology needs and how police can build cases that hold-up in court for people accused of serious crimes, while exploring alternatives to jail for those who commit lesser offenses. 

This conversation was livestreamed on the WYPR Facebook page.  You can watch that video here.

Courtesy of the office of Rep. Raskin

Rep. Jamie Raskin represents Maryland’s 8th District. He is a member of both the House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Reform Committee, which is chaired by another Maryland Congressman, Elijah Cummings. 

As President Trump meets with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, Rep. Raskin joins Tom on the line to explain the growing calls for the House to begin an inquiry into impeaching the President  -- calls he says are being fueled by the Special Counsel's report and the intensifying legal clashes between the Trump White House and Congressional Democrats.

Courtesy Sen. Cardin

Tom’s guest today is U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), who has represented Maryland on Capitol Hill since 1987: first in the House of Representatives, where he represented Maryland’s Third Congressional District. He was elected to the Senate in 2007 and re-elected to a third term last November. Earlier in his career, he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for two decades.

Sen. Cardin is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. He is also a member of the Environment & Public Works and Finance committees. 

We livestreamed this conversation on WYPR's Facebook page.  Click here to see the video. 

Courtesy City of Baltimore

Tom’s guest for the hour is Andre M. Davis, the Baltimore City Solicitor. 

Davis was appointed as the city's top lawyer by then-Mayor Catherine Pugh in September 2017. He brings to the office 30 years of experience as a judge on local, state and federal courts -- including eight years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  As city solicitor, he directs the city’s legal department, which includes about 100 lawyers and support personnel.  He is also one of five members of the city’s Board of Estimates, which formulates and executes the city's fiscal policies. 

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video. 

photo courtesy Friends of Johnny O

Tom’s Newsmaker guest today is Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Junior.  A Democrat, he was elected to office last November, and sworn in on December 3rd.  He’s a former Maryland state delegate, a lifelong resident of Dundalk, and a former high school teacher who made education and the quality of the county’s schools a major part of his campaign for county executive -- and of his first budget.

Two weeks ago, he submitted his 2020 county budget proposal to the County Council.  It’s a $3.4 billion dollar plan, more than half of which is devoted to education spending.  The  Council holds a public hearing about the budget tonight (Tuesday April 30) at 6:00, in Council Chambers in Towson.

Baltimore County Executive Olszewski joins Tom in Studio A to discuss the budget and other issues he's confronted during his first five months in office. 

Listeners with questions and comments can call the studio at 410.662.8780, email us at midday@wypr.org, tweet us at @MiddayWYPR, or comment on  WYPR's Facebook page, where the program was livestreamed.

The Office of Sen. Chris Van Hollen

Today, a conversation with U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland.  He was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving seven terms in the House of Representatives, where he represented Maryland’s 8th congressional district.

Senator Van Hollen currently serves on the Senate Budget Committee, the Banking and Environment Committees and the all-important Appropriations Committee.

Early in his career, Van Hollen served in Maryland’s House of Delegates as well as in the State Senate.

We live-streamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch that video.  

Courtesy of Rep. Elijah Cummings

Tom speaks with Congressman Elijah Cummings.  He represents Maryland's 7th District, which includes parts of Baltimore City and some of Baltimore and Howard Counties.  On January 4th, 2019, Rep. Cummings was elected by his colleagues in the newly Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to be chairman of the Committee of Oversight and Reform for the 116th Congressthe committee on which he'd previously served as Ranking Member.

We’ll hear about the issues on the committee's agenda, including reform of prescription drug pricing and a sweeping anti-corruption bill called HR 1. 

Photo courtesy Pugh for Mayor

Today, on  Midday with the Mayor, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh joins Tom in Studio A for an exclusive interview.  She discusses her nomination of Dr. Joel Fitzgerald, the current police chief in Ft. Worth, Texas, to be Baltimore’s new police commissioner.  If the City Council confirms him next month, Fitzgerald will take over a department that is still reeling from frequent leadership changes, a demoralized rank and file, and corruption scandals. 

As for the Mayor’s efforts to reduce violence in Baltimore, the Safe Streets program is adding three more locations around town.  Mayor Pugh also points to the 52 million-dollar Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund, which she has long championed, as another initiative aimed at transforming economically depressed areas of our city.  On Saturday, the Mayor attended a ceremony celebrating three new Habitat for Humanity homes in Sandtown Winchester.

During their hour-long conversation, Tom also questions the Mayor on her efforts to take the bite out of continued water-rate hikes, the future of Pimlico and the Preakness, and other important issues affecting Charm City.  And the Mayor addresses listener comments and questions, as well.

This program was live-streamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and the video can be seen here.   (The final three minutes of the stream were lost because of a brief Internet service interruption.)

John Sarbanes

Rep. John Sarbanes joins Tom for the hour today. Last month, he was re-elected to represent Maryland’s 3rd congressional district for a seventh term.  

For nearly two years, Sarbanes has chaired the House Democracy Reform Task Force, a group of legislators seeking to minimize the influence of special interests on elections. He is the principle author of H.R. 1, a bill that addresses ethics and campaign finance reform as well as voting rights protections. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who will likely be the new Speaker of the House, said the bill will be the first order of business when the House reconvenes on January 3rd, 2019.

Congressman Sarbanes also serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its Subcommittee on National Security. He joins Tom live in Studio A.

Office of the Governor

Today, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan joins Tom live in Studio A.  He is one of only two Republicans elected to our state’s highest office in the last 50 years, and in a poll released last month by Gonzales Media and Research, 71% of MD voters said they approve of the job the Governor is doing.  While there is no shortage of Democrats vying for the chance to face the Governor in the general election in November, Mr. Hogan leads all of them in head-to-head match-ups at this early stage in the campaign. 

Calling for bipartisanship and cooperation in his State of the State Address last month, the Governor points to education funding and accountability, re-districting, and the environment as some of his top priorities.  Tom discusses some of those issues during his 30-minute interview with Mr. Hogan. 

Later, Maryland and government reporter for The Daily Record, Bryan Sears, joins us on the line with the latest from Annapolis and reaction to the Governor's remarks. 

Photo courtesy Baltimore Sun

Today, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh joins Tom in Studio A.  Like Mayor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake before her, last Friday, Mayor Pugh fired the city's police commissioner.  Kevin Davis was an outsider who had come to Baltimore after tenures in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties.  He was replaced by a 30-year veteran of the Baltimore Police, Darryl DeSousa.  The Mayor’s mandate to her Commissioner-designate is clear: improve violence reduction, and turn around our city’s crime numbers, which are at historic levels. 

The first few weeks of this New Year have not been easy for the city: multiple maintenance crises in city schools, the announcement by Amazon that we are out of the running for their new headquarters, the shuttering of the only big box department store in West Baltimore, and hovering above it all: murders on our streets that continue at an alarming rate. 

Mayor Pugh points to several areas in which the city is making progress. The Police training academy has a full class preparing to join the force. Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested millions to improve technology for law enforcement, and to train young entrepreneurs.  The Safe Streets program is being expanded, and a new violence reduction program that has shown promise in Boston is being bought to Baltimore. 

The Mayor has spoken of changing the narrative about our city.  She talks about how she plans to do that in today's Midday with the Mayor.  And she takes questions and comments from the Midday audience.

Today's program was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page, where you can now watch the complete video.

CREDIT BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Today, Dr. Sonja Santelises, the CEO of the Baltimore City Public Schools joins Tom in Studio A for a conversation about the state of the city's school system. With nearly 60 schools closed due to the cold earlier this month and accusations of funding impropriety from the governor, mayor and parents, BCPS faces increased scrutiny and pressure to educate and provide for its students. 

At a press conference announcing $2.5 million in emergency funding for City Schools, Gov. Larry Hogan pointed to mismanagement and a lack of accountability, and he called for a newly created Investigator General to be embedded in the Department of Education to oversee state grants to the city.

All these conflicts arise as BCPS continues to educate a student population disproportionately affected by poverty and racial injustice.

Photo courtesy State's Attorney's Office

(The text of a statement sent Friday, Dec. 22 to Tom Hall by the defense counsel for Keith Davis, Jr., the Columbia man whose recent conviction on second-degree murder charges is discussed in Wednesday's Midday show, is posted  at the bottom of this Web article)

Tom's NewsMaker guest today is the State’s Attorney for the City of Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby.  In the 2014 primary, she defeated her former boss, Greg Bernstein, by ten points, a decisive victory, before running unopposed in the general election.  She was swept into office by tapping into widespread dissatisfaction with increasing crime.  Mosby promised to reduce it. 

Two years into her term, her Office has a conviction rate of 79% in homicide cases.  The clearance rate of cases for the Baltimore Police department has also improved. 

But Baltimore struggles with an epidemic of violent crime that has reached record levels, and the police department has been rocked by internal corruption.     

How do we fix this?  State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby joins Tom, and takes your questions, for the hour.

To watch the conversation we streamed live on Facebook, click here

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U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D) joins host Tom Hall for the hour. Maryland’s senior senator is a member of the Senate Finance Committee. He is also the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senate Republicans are confident that their tax bill will be approved this week. With so much attention on the tax bill, it’s easy to overlook other major stories, such as: Without a Continuing Resolution by Friday at midnight, the government will shut down. Last week, the White House and the State Department sent conflicting signals about conditions for talks with North Korea.  And, the President’s declaration that the embassy in Israel would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has engendered a storm of criticism. 

Tom asks Sen. Cardin about these crucial issues and more. And the senator answers listener questions. 

photo courtesy BCPS

Today, a Midday Newsmaker interview with Dr. Sonja Santelises, the president and CEO of the Baltimore City Public Schools.  School has been back in session for two months; for many more months than that, the Kirwan Commission has debated ways to re-vamp the funding formula for schools statewide.  Their findings were to have been released by the end of the year.  Now, it appears that we won’t hear their ideas until well into next year.  We’ll find out what that means for our city’s kids.  Dr. Santelises joins Tom for the hour in Studio A, and takes your questions and comments.

Photo courtesy New Press

Today, a Midday Newsmaker interview with  Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler.  He’s written a book that is a clarion call for a complete change in the way we think about the problems of racial inequality and injustice.  

The book is Chokehold: Policing Black Men – A Renegade Prosecutor’s Radical Thoughts on How to Disrupt the System.  In it, Butler quotes the famous Langston Hughes poem, Harlem, in which Hughes asks, “What happens to a dream deferred?  Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?...Or does it explode?”

Butler argues for explosion in this provocative book, which questions assumptions long held by those on both the left and the right.  He also chronicles how the curse of White Supremacy has dictated in a fundamental way the political, judicial, and social norms in America; and he proposes some very controversial ideas, such as abolition of prisons. Throughout, Butler argues the case for radical reform persuasively, and with tremendous grace, erudition and scholarly authority. 

Professor Butler joins Tom from NPR studios in Washington, D.C.