Recent blog posts

Donald C. Fry: Six Top Reasons to Toast Baltimore This Summer

If you live in the Baltimore region or most likely anywhere in the state, chances are that you are well aware that Baltimore’s image has taken it on the chin. The tragic death of Freddie Gray, the ensuing civil unrest, and the criminal trials in connection with the Gray incident have all been an unfortunate negative drumbeat. For some who don’t know the city, the images of buildings on fire, street marches, and indicted police officers going into court replayed over and over on CNN and other 24/7 news broadcasts confirmed that the Baltimore area was indeed the hard-edged city depicted in the HBO TV crime drama series, The Wire. But for those who live in the city and the region and know its many riches, Baltimore is not The Wire. Sure, like any big metro region it has its share of challenges. But an argument can be made that these... Continue reading
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Josh Kurtz: Speaker Mike Busch and the Thin Blue Line

You meet Maryland House Speaker Mike Busch (D) for breakfast in Annapolis recently, and he’s wearing a golf shirt from Harry Browne’s, the bar and restaurant on State Circle. Your initial reaction is, “Aha – the ultimate insider advertising the ultimate watering hole of insiders!” But of course, the proprietors of Harry Browne’s are also Busch constituents – the anomaly of the speaker also being the delegate from the capital city. A conversation with Busch outside of the legislative session is a delightful, unhurried stroll through a variety of unexpected topics: His empathy for U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.); his surprise when he finds Republican members of the House of Delegates at odds with Gov. Larry Hogan (R); State House reporters he has admired who have come and gone; the struggling state of the news industry; the city of Philadelphia, where he went to college and is looking forward to... Continue reading
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Kalman R. Hettleman: The Roots of Inequality in Baltimore: What Schools Can and Can’t Do

In an article in these pages last week, Dr. Leana S. Wen, Baltimore Commissioner of Health, wrote insightfully about public health’s role in “Tackling the Roots of Inequality in Baltimore.” Needless to say, city public schools must also play an indispensable leading part. But exactly how much can city schools do, and not do? And who’s to blame for what they now don’t do? At least 75 per cent of city students fail to meet national literacy standards, and other large school systems nationwide do no better.   Political rhetoric, right and left, gets in the way of clear answers. Both sides start from the same point: the landmark study in 1966 by Johns Hopkins University sociologist James S. Coleman showing that school resources mean less in determining student achievement than family economic and educational background. The point remains indisputable, but many conservatives and liberals take it too far and let... Continue reading
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Josh Kurtz: Another Elusive Political Prize

Quietly, Maryland’s Rod Rosenstein has become the longest-serving of the nation’s 94 current U.S. attorneys. The quiet part isn’t surprising: That’s Rosenstein’s customary way of doing things. But the longevity is – not because Rosenstein isn’t good at his job, but because of the politics that usually surround the appointments of the country’s top prosecutors. U.S. attorney is a plum political appointment – and ambitious lawyers are always lining up for consideration and beseeching a state’s U.S. senators to float their name to the president. Yet President Obama and Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D) have passed on the opportunity to replace Rosenstein, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and has been in office since July 12, 2005. “He’s been there for a shockingly long time,” said one politically plugged-in Maryland attorney. “That’s a nice opportunity for a Democratic lawyer – we don’t have a ton... Continue reading
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Donald C. Fry: Timing Not Right for $15-per-hour Minimum Wage in Baltimore

A month ago I wrote in Center Maryland about a proposal before the Baltimore City Council to raise the minimum wage in Baltimore to $15 per hour and concerns that the wage increase wouldn’t address two serious city issues: chronic unemployment and a work skills gap. Since then the Greater Baltimore Committee, business owners and other private sector organizations have studied the potential effect the legislation would have on jobs and the business climate. The overwhelming conclusion: it is not the right time to increase the minimum wage in Baltimore City to $15-per-hour. The state’s minimum wage has been set at $10.10 per hour, an amount higher than the federal requirement. The state’s rate will be achieved incrementally with the next step increase to $8.75 per hour slated to occur on July 1. The state’s minimum wage is scheduled to “top out” at $10.10 per hour on July 1, 2018. As... Continue reading
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