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News coverage, series and commentary from WYPR's award winning news staff.
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John Lee

Baltimore County lawmakers struck a deal Tuesday to pass police reform legislation.

Last month, the county council shelved controversial reform legislation. Tuesday’s compromise has the support of the county executive, and six of the seven council members.

John Lee

There will be no school buses on the road Tuesday, even though it’s the first day of classes for a number of school systems in Maryland, including Baltimore City, and Baltimore and Howard Counties. Every school district in the state is starting the year with virtual learning.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR


  Loosened pandemic restrictions in Baltimore’s phase 2 reopening will go into effect at 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, including increased capacity at indoor restaurants.

Mayor Jack Young issued an executive order that allows restaurants, religious facilities, retail establishments and malls, indoor recreation establishments and casinos to increase operations from 25% to 50% of their capacity.

Capacity at indoor restaurants, religious facilities, retail establishments and malls, indoor recreation establishments and casinos may increase from 25% to 50%, per an executive order from Mayor Jack Young. 

Associated Press/Jeff Chiu, File

This is a Labor Day like no other, with millions of people out of work due to the COVID-19 economy.

In Maryland, Baltimore County has had more people filing for unemployment during the pandemic than any other locality. According to the Maryland Department of Labor, from March through August, more than 93,000 people filed jobless claims in the county.

CHARM TV

The coronavirus is not taking time off for Labor Day, Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young said, and residents should remain cautious as they enter the long holiday weekend known for cookouts, parties and one last summer hurrah.

“Now is still not the time to be planning large parties, cookouts, celebrations or religious events,” the Democrat said during a Friday morning news conference. “We're still in a pandemic, one that's built to spread rapidly in large groups. I know people are not looking to catch COVID, but COVID is looking for you.”

CHARM TV


Gov. Larry Hogan has lifted broad pandemic containment restrictions across Maryland starting on Friday, but that doesn’t mean localities like Baltimore City are joining him in phase 3 of his re-opening plan.

Baltimore is still firmly in phase 2, Mayor Jack Young said at a news conference Wednesday, though the city will allow indoor theaters to open at 25% of capacity. 

“We do not want to erase the gains we’ve made over the past month by loosening restrictions now,” the Democrat said.

SARAH Y. KIM

One of Baltimore’s largest LGBTQ nightclubs - Grand Central - is permanently closing its doors after over 30 years.

In its announcement today, the night club’s management team said the COVID-19 pandemic has made operations unsustainable. 

YouTube

State legislators on Wednesday received a bleak picture of life at the Maryland Environmental Service under the leadership of former director Roy McGrath. During his time at the helm, McGrath was “guarded and secretive,” and morale was low, former MES deputy director Beth Wojton told members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight.

Wikimedia Commons

Just a day after Maryland courts began new eviction hearings for failure to pay rent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a moratorium on evictions through the end of this year. The order came on Sept. 1 and aims to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Drew Morris/Flickr

Baltimore’s public schools and the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks are partnering to provide more than 1,000 students access to virtual learning lessons at 15 schools and recreation centers.

 

The program is to start September 28. It is designed to provide students in grades K-5 who might not have Wi-Fi access a way to complete their lessons.

John Lee

Baltimore County will follow the state’s lead and move into Stage 3 of reopening. That means all businesses in the county, including indoor theaters and other entertainment venues can reopen with restrictions.

The Office of the Mayor

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved Wednesday a $30 million rental assistance package aimed at staving off an eviction crisis.

The move came two days after courts in Maryland began hearing eviction cases and the day after the Centers for Disease Control issued a national moratorium on evictions.

Wikimedia Commons


Theaters and concert venues can open beginning Friday at 5 p.m., just in time for Labor Day Weekend. Gov. Larry Hogan announced that change Tuesday with the news that Maryland is entering the third and final phase of his COVID-19 recovery plan.

 

Theaters for both movies and live performances, concert arenas, and other entertainment venues will be allowed to open at half capacity, up to a maximum of 100 people at an indoor venue, or 250 people at an outdoor venue. 

Krissy Venosdale // Flickr Creative Commons

The Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday approved a plan that sets the minimum number of hours students must receive live, online instruction from teachers.

The board backed off a proposal to put those requirements in place later this month, after critics said that was too soon, and would have caused confusion and chaos.

Rachel Baye / WYPR


Baltimore County has recruited 1,500 election judges to staff polling places, but the county is still looking for substitute judges to provide backup. To encourage participation, the county is offering judges a new incentive:  $100 more per day.

John Lee

  

It’s been more than 3 months since the House of Representative passed the $3 trillion COVID relief plan called the Heroes Act. It remains stalled in the Senate.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said there are dire budget consequences ahead for the county if the money from the Heroes Act doesn’t come through.

Flickr

Weeks after Maryland’s school systems submitted to the state plans for virtual learning this fall, the state school board is looking at a proposal for a minimum level of live, online instruction time for students.

The proposal comes as school is already under way in some parts of the state and about to begin in others.


Thousands are marking the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington Friday with growing calls for police reform. In Maryland, those calls often point to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, or LEOBR, as a barrier to police accountability.

 

Representatives of law enforcement groups defended the LEOBR during a meeting with state lawmakers Thursday and pushed back on other suggestions for reform.

SCREENSHOT VIA GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN FACEBOOK PAGE

Gov. Larry Hogan announced yesterday that all of Maryland’s public schools should plan for in-person learning this fall. The announcement comes just days before the start of the school year. 

“It is absolutely critical that we begin the process of getting our children safely and gradually back into the classrooms,” Hogan said at a late afternoon press conference. 

The Associated Press

If you are an eligible voter in Maryland, you should get your application for a mail-in ballot in the mail any day now.

It marks the start of a bizarre, unprecedented election season for voters and election officials alike.

John Lee/WYPR

  Baltimore’s Department of Public Works will suspend pickup recycling services through Nov. 1, acting director Matthew Barbark announced at a Thursday afternoon news conference. The agency has reached a breaking point with its struggles to fulfill trash pickup services due to shortages of workers tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

All recycling collection crews will be diverted to trash collection on a full-time basis beginning Aug. 31. The city will create recycling drop-off centers in each of its 14 city council districts for residents; they will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. 

Wikimedia Commons


  Baltimore City Council is considering a bill to rename the Columbus Obelisk monument in Herring Run Park to honor the victims of police brutality. The move comes as cities across the country re-examine monuments during a summer of national reckoning with racial injustice. 

“This is not an attack on Italians. This is not an attack on white people,” insisted Councilman Ryan Dorsey of northeast Baltimore. “This is not an attack on history. This is us helping to right this ship that has been steered by white supremacy as a system.”

The Democrat introduced the legislation to rename the monument, which stands 44 feet high in the Northeast Baltimore park..

Originally, the white stucco obelisk stood at North Avenue and Harford Road. It was erected in 1792 and is the oldest U.S. monument to Columbus. In 2017, protestors took a sledgehammer to it, decrying the violence and slavery the explorer inflicted on indigenous people. Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation restored the monument afterward. 

SCREENSHOT VIA BALTIMORE RENTERS UNITED FACEBOOK PAGE

Housing advocates want to know why Baltimore Mayor Jack Young fired the city’s housing commissioner Michael Braverman last week as renters will soon face a mass eviction crisis. 

“We are here to demand that Mayor Jack Young speaks to the city,” John P. Comer, founder of Architects for Justice, said at a press conference Wednesday morning in front of City Hall. “The concerned citizens who are renting every day and may not know where their next home will be.”

Courts will resume hearing new eviction cases for failure to pay rent on Aug. 31. Comer said homelessness is likely to skyrocket. 

 

“People are losing their homes and evictions are becoming backed up,” he said. 

Towson University

Towson University is throwing in the towel and sending most of its students home for the remainder of the semester. Online classes will continue.

Towson President Kim Schatzel said in a letter Wednesday in announcing that residence halls will be closed that her greatest responsibility is to protect the health of everyone on campus.

YouTube

State lawmakers on Tuesday grilled the Maryland Environmental Service’s board over the unusual severance package given to its former director, Roy McGrath, when he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff. After his severance package became public earlier this month, he resigned that job. Rachel Baye and Nathan Sterner discuss the controversy.

Wikimedia Commons

When Amy Stephens learned that St. Augustine School in Elkridge, Maryland, would offer a combination of in-person and virtual learning this fall, she asked if she could teach her music, theater and strings classes via livestream. She was told no, she would need to be physically in the classroom, interacting with the entire student body each week. 

So a couple of weeks ago, she quit her job.

Baltimore County Public Schools

Baltimore County schools are being accused of failing special needs students who need their own aides, by not sending assistants into those students’ homes because of COVID-19 fears.

The school system is wrestling with the dilemma of protecting its employees while at the same time making sure those students aren’t left behind in virtual learning.

NIH IMAGE GALLERY/FLICKR

The science journal Neuron published a paper in July on the underrepresentation of African Americans in brain research, specifically in genomic studies that inform the emerging field of personalized medicine. 

One of the paper’s authors is Dr. Daniel Weinberger, director of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, a nonprofit located on the Johns Hopkins medical campus. 

Baltimore County

The state parks in Baltimore County are seeing a crush of people looking for things to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. And because of that, officials say, the parks are being abused and traffic around them can be a nightmare.

CARMICHAELLIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Colleges are welcoming students back this month, but many of them won’t be enjoying the same learning experiences they used to. 

Remote learning can mean a loss of community and independence for students, while going to reopened campuses means dealing with a lot of uncertainty. Some, like the University of North Carolina, reopened and shut down within weeks after clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Erin VanLuven, a clinical social worker with Kaiser Permanente in Maryland, said these experiences can be detrimental to students’ mental health. 

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