Blogs from Site Admin - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. Thu, 21 Jan 2021 03:54:41 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Port Discovery Children’s Museum unveils cargo ship exhibit with support from Ports America Chesapeake This summer, Port Discovery Children’s Museum reopened its doors to its newest exhibit, The Port, which highlights the importance of the Port of Baltimore to the region. The exhibit was developed through the support of private and public financial commitments, including a $50,000 grant from Ports America Chesapeake and Steamship Trade Association Charitable Legacy.

“People from around the world come together at the Port,” said Port Discovery Vice President of Development and Communications Jennifer Bedon. “The exhibit is like a metaphor—kids across the community are playing side by side and all working together to get something from here to there.”

“Ports America Chesapeake is proud to support ‘The Port’ exhibit at Port Discovery,” said Ports America Chesapeake Vice President Bayard Hogans. “We love that both parents and kids will learn more about the Port’s impact in the state and the idea that it may inspire the next generation of engineers, marine superintendents and stevedores.”

Located in a prime location at the center of the museum, The Port exhibit explores maritime industries and their impact on local, regional and global activities. On a life-size sculpture of a cargo ship titled S.S. Friend Ship, kids are encouraged to use their imagination to become captains, engineers, sailors, crane operators and more. Children can imagine themselves as engineers in the mock engine room, which includes the tools and components found in a real marine engine room. Additional features include a mock gantry crane lifting lightweight storage containers that helps children improve motor skills, and four different engine component activities that focus on problem-solving skills and teamwork.

PAC furthered its commitment to the museum through a $12,500 sponsorship of $2 Family Fun Night events this summer. Through this donation, families throughout Maryland will receive $16 off the original ticket price for entry.

“[PAC’s] philanthropic support is so important to allow people from this community to come through these doors,” Bedon said.

Through Port Discovery’s new exhibit, The Port, children learn the value of the Port of Baltimore and how professionals work together to move goods. The exhibit is part of a $10.5 million renovation for Port Discovery, the museum's first major makeover since 1998.

chafukay [AT] centrosync [DOT] com (Site Admin) Blog Sun, 14 Jul 2019 11:46:13 -0400
Report: The Unintended Consequences of Impact Fees in Baltimore County
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chafukay [AT] centrosync [DOT] com (Site Admin) Blog Tue, 21 May 2019 00:33:21 -0400
Joseph (Jay) A. Schwartz, III: Senate Bill 30 ‒ The Pundits and Perhaps the Most Extraordinary Vote In General Assembly History The just concluded General Assembly Session was one that none of the pundits saw coming. So they said: It is an election year; there will be a lot of bills filed but nothing of substance will be enacted; partisan wrangling will be the order of the day; blah, blah, blah.

But here’s what happened. It was a remarkably bipartisan 90 days where the Governor and President Miller and Speaker Busch found a way (1) to shore up the Maryland Health Insurance Exchange in spite of efforts to undo Obamacare in Washington, (2) secured an agreement with Virginia and the District of Columbia for dedicated Metro funding which had been argued about for years, (3) agreed on an historic package of tax incentives for the potential Amazon headquarters in Montgomery County, (4) compromised on an omnibus crime package designed to assist law enforcement in Baltimore, (5) changed the school funding/tax formula to help Baltimore (6) resolved all controversies surrounding the medical marijuana rollout and (7) agreed on a school safety bill after the school shooting in Southern Maryland.

Winner/Loser: According to The Baltimore Sun, Governor Hogan was the primary winner and the primary loser was Comptroller Franchot. Franchot is so angry that he has pledged to go door to door in President Miller’s district in order to defeat him and will also work to defeat Speaker Busch. Perhaps Comptroller Franchot is as popular and effective as he believes and will turn the tide against the Presiding Officers. I suspect Vegas will not like his odds.

There were over 3,000 bills filed in the 2018 session. Newspapers like The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post covered perhaps 20 to 25 of these bills. The other 3,000 were largely just known to the proponents and opponents of the bills.

However, perhaps the most interesting story about the other 3,000 bills has to do with Senate Bill 30 which featured a fight between the plaintiffs’ malpractice lawyers and the doctors and hospitals they sue. This is a “tribal fight” and, while rarely reported in the general press, is more typical of the “fights” that occur over most of the bills filed the General Assembly.

From 1975 to 2015, I was an active lobbyist in the General Assembly. For the last three years I have watched the activity over the Internet generally from my winter quarters in South Carolina.

Senate Bill 30 had one of the most remarkable odysseys that I have seen in the 41 years that I was actively involved and the last 3 years when I have been an interested observer. Its fate was not decided until approximately 10 minutes prior to the witching hour of midnight on “sine die,” the last day of the 90 day session.

The vote on the House floor was remarkable. The Conference Committee Report was voted down by a 41-89 vote, probably the most decisive rejection of a Conference Committee Report in General Assembly history.

99% plus of Conference Committee Reports, even controversial ones, are passed. A Conference Committee Report is a “compromise” forged by a committee of 3 Senators and 3 Delegates to resolve differences between the Senate and House bills on the same subject.

Senate Bill 30 sought to repeal a 1986 law which disallowed professional expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases by stating the witness may not spend more than 20% of his or her time as an expert witness. The notion was that the malpractice crisis in the mid-1980s was partially caused by these expert witnesses for hire who didn’t treat actual patients.

There is a cottage industry of companies which will secure the services of a medical “expert” for any type of malpractice case. Google the term “professional medical experts” and you will be introduced to these companies. In many cases, these “medical experts” do not see patients and yet are keen to testify against doctors who do.

Why was I watching Senate Bill 30? Because between 1993 and 2015 I was the principal lobbyist for the doctors and would routinely fight proposals like Senate Bill 30. And even though I was no longer involved, my former firm and my former partners continue to represent MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi).

Senate Bill 30 was inspired by the Maryland Association for Justice (once more aptly named the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association) and opposed by MedChi and Maryland hospitals. Until 10 minutes of midnight it appeared that the trial lawyers had the whip hand. Their proposal to repeal the 20% rule had cleared the Senate and needed only a confirming vote in the House of Delegates and the 3 House conferees were agreeing to the same thing that the Senate had just passed.

Trial lawyers had descended in force on Sine Die Monday and were camped out in legislative offices and in the State House buttonholing every Senator and Delegate. A furious lobbying effort led by Gene Ransom, the CEO of MedChi, and Steve Wise, MedChi’s outside lobbyist, resulted in the lopsided 41 to 89 victory.

Faced with the trial lawyer presence, Ransom and Wise organized a counteroffensive and coordinated an impressive array of lobbyists including Bruce Bereano and Pegeen Townsend representing MedStar, Donna Jacobs representing the University of Maryland, Neal Karkhanis and Delora Sanchez on behalf of the Maryland Hospital Association, Martha Nathanson on behalf of LifeBridge, Tom Lewis on behalf of Hopkins, Barbara Brocato for the Anesthesiologists and Teresa Healey-Conway on behalf of the Anne Arundel, Prince George’s and Howard County Medical Societies. But the coup de grâce came when Ransom unleashed the 8,000 member doctors of MedChi on Saturday night who then inundated the General Assembly members with thousands of emails, texts and phone calls.

Anyone who has tried to predict the outcome of the vote in the House of Delegates (141 members) on the final day of the legislative session when deals and counter deals are being made by the minute knows that their counting may be far off. Right before the vote, it was delayed for 10 minutes and, apparently, the proponents of the bill thought they had the votes. As it turned out, they were 30 votes short. Ransom and Wise were hoping for 70 votes; they got 89.

How does this happen? It happens when the House Speaker lets it be known that everyone is free to vote their own conscience rather than the normal message that a Conference Committee Report is sacrosanct.

I am partial to Ransom and Wise, my former client and my former partner; but not so partial that I would praise them unless they deserved it. And deserve it they do: this was perhaps the most decisive drubbing of a Conference Committee Report in General Assembly history.

It had the added benefit of preserving a Maryland law which has kept unmeritorious medical malpractice suits from being filed. That law has kept smooth talking and professional medical “experts” out of Maryland courtrooms.

So the “tribal fight” between lawyers and doctors ended in a surprising doctor victory, proving, as Yogi Berra once said, “it ain’t over until it’s over.”

Once again, the pundits got it wrong.

chafukay [AT] centrosync [DOT] com (Site Admin) Blog Mon, 16 Apr 2018 15:51:03 -0400
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chafukay [AT] centrosync [DOT] com (Site Admin) Blog Wed, 05 Mar 2014 10:57:47 -0500
Moving beyond outrage over violent crime By Donald C. Fry: 

Baltimore’s tragic week of 32 shootings that left 12 dead since last Friday has triggered a round of public outrage and concern voiced by elected leaders over both the shootings themselves and, to some extent, the public statements from police about violence in the city.

This fresh round of public dialogue about violent crime in Baltimore City serves to frame an important assessment about the nature of the city’s decades-long effort to reduce violent crime and to gauge the prospects for progress as that effort continues.

The shootings during the last seven days occurred in more than a dozen incidents that took place between June 22 and June 27 in a broad range of neighborhoods in eastern, western, northern, northwestern and southwestern parts of the city.

Initial reactions by city police acknowledged, but downplayed the violent weekend, terming it “a little bit of a spike,” noting that such spikes “are going to happen” and that overall crime in the city is on a downward trend. To be fair, these kinds of clinical operational assessments are typical of law enforcement officials who are on the front lines of crime fighting every day.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has pledged an “assertive” response to the spike. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pledged that the recent violence “will not diminish our resolve” to target repeat violent offenders and gangs in Baltimore City. Speaking to Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton, one city council member called for hearings to make sure city police are prepared for increased summer violence. Another said many city residents were upset by police statements about the weekend. Another council member said residents are “fed up” with city government’s inability to quell violent crime.
Two things strike me about the reaction so far to the violent weekend. First, no one is venturing to address the issue of why such spikes occur. Pronouncing 12 homicides in a week as the result of an unfortunate “spike” is not a reason. It’s an excuse.

Second, most tend to assign the responsibility for doing something about the violence to someone else, usually the government or the police. The elephant in the room, of course, is the degree of complacency that appears to exist in Baltimore. Too many seem willing to accept the notion that, well, Baltimore is by nature a violent city and, like the weather, violent crime simply must be endured if you live here.
Granted, crime is a complex issue impacted by a myriad of factors including social trends, demographics, health, education, public policy and dozens of other variables. Nevertheless, the level of crime that Baltimore endures doesn’t occur in most other cities – all but four in the U.S. to be exact – New Orleans, Detroit, Newark (New Jersey) and St. Louis.

In Baltimore, we are striving to be among the vast majority of U.S. cities and communities that are, frankly, not afflicted by unacceptable levels of crime.

Police officials accurately note that crime in Baltimore has been reduced over the last decade. But even at its “reduced” level, violent crime continues to inflict personal tragedy on a daily basis to Baltimore neighborhoods. It’s critically important to also understand that the existing level of crime impacts economic growth in Baltimore and detracts from the city’s many positives as a place to live and work.
Crime is an issue that must be more comprehensively addressed if the Mayor is to have any possibility of achieving her goal of growing the city by 10,000 families.

Even in 2011, when Baltimore’s homicide count of 197 was the lowest the city had experienced since the 1970s, our citywide rate of 3.1 homicides per 10,000 residents still ranked 5th highest in the nation.

The Madison-East neighborhood, where someone sprayed bullets into a crowd of people last weekend, has a homicide rate of 10.6 per 10,000 residents. That makes homicide the third-leading cause of death in that neighborhood – behind heart disease and cancer, according to city data.

A half-dozen other city neighborhoods have annual homicide rates of more than 6.0 per 10,000 residents, which is higher than the overall homicide rate of any city in the U.S.

Baltimore’s historic struggle with homicide rates, which exceeded 300 per year in the 1990s, is well documented. Since 2000, city police have concentrated crime enforcement on the segment of the population that commits most violent crimes. The current strategy is, as Commissioner Batts says, “repeat violent offenders, gangs, and illegal guns.”

Since 2011, when the number of homicides in Baltimore dipped below 200, the count increased to 217 in 2012 and now stands at 114 so far this year. Law enforcement leaders say they view Baltimore’s current crime statistics as indicative of a city where crime spikes occasionally, but is generally under control. Keep in mind that in Baltimore, “under control” appears to equate to roughly 200 homicides per year. In a city where 300 homicides was once the annual norm, this qualifies as progress. But to me this reduced-but-consistently-high level of death underscores that violent crime in Baltimore is not just a police issue. It’s a community issue. The reaction by the Baltimore community to our city’s tenacious tendency toward violent crime must extend beyond outrage. Everyone is outraged, but we must convert this outrage into action … together.

We can’t allow ourselves to succumb to the temptation to lay all of this on police and government to “do something.” Thirteen years of law enforcement concentration on our city’s chronic violent offenders has resulted in a 34 percent reduction in homicides.

chafukay [AT] centrosync [DOT] com (Site Admin) Blog Fri, 28 Jun 2013 08:21:00 -0400