Politics & Business

Baltimore County Latest to Honor Health Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses


2012 will mark the beginning of Baltimore County extending health benefits to its employee’s same-sex spouses.  The policy change comes after arbitration in favor of two police officers who filed grievances over the failure of the county to provide health coverage (that they had been paying for) to their same-sex spouses.

Baltimore County is not the first locale in Maryland to give at least some faith and credit to the legal same-sex marriages of other states. Employees of the state of Maryland, Baltimore City, Howard County, and Montgomery County already include their same-sex spouses in their health benefits.

The new policy will only acknowledge gay couples with a legal marriage (from another state, of course) and will not extend to those living in domestic partnerships. But it’s an incremental win for gay rights advocates in Maryland and highlights same-sex marriage as a fairly simple civil rights issue. Hopefully, it will soon become clear to those who stumble over the issue on religious grounds that to deny gays the right to marry is simply to deny American citizens equal protection under the law.

Maryland: Second Most Charitable State


Maryland is the second most charitable state in the country, according to 24/7 Wall St. The Old Line State was bested only by Utah when it comes to charitable donations.

Urban Institute’s methodology was used to determine the most charitable states with data collected by the IRS, ranking each state by average charitable donation per taxpayer. The number is calculated by dividing the total number of taxpayers in each state by the total charitable donations listed in itemized deductions for taxpayers.

Charitable donation per taxpayer: $1,661
Taxpayers who donate to charity: 40.8% (the highest)
Average income per taxpayer: $66,614 (4th highest)
Pct. of households earning $200,000 or more: 7.4% (3rd highest)

Said 24/7 Wall St:
Like Connecticut, Maryland is in extremely good economic shape. The state has the third-lowest poverty rate in the U.S., as well as the third-highest percentage of families that earn at least $200,000 per year. Average income per taxpayer in 2009 was $66,614, the fourth-highest rate in the U.S., and the average taxpayer gave $1,661 to charity in the same year.

Read more at citybizlist

Rally Scheduled at Fort Meade This Weekend in Support of Bradley Manning


Bradley Manning, 23, the army private accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified government cables to whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks will come to Fort Meade on Friday for a preliminary five-day hearing on espionage charges, for which he could face life imprisonment.

The Bradley Manning Support Network has organized demonstrations for both Friday and Saturday outside Fort Meade. The group says Saturday’s march will be coordinated with protests in over fifty other locations.

Among Manning’s supporters who will participate in the weekend’s demonstrations is Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg has repeatedly defended Manning’s alleged leak, and stressed that there is no substantive difference between the actions of the two whistleblowers.


Occupy Baltimore Gets Evicted


Early yesterday morning, Baltimore police in riot gear evicted Occupy Baltimore protesters who had been camping out at McKeldin Square for the last ten weeks.

Protester Mike Gibb said that with the eviction the movement enters into “Phase Two,” in which demonstrators begin squatting in empty buildings. It is not clear whether Gibb speaks for the larger Occupy Baltimore community.

Certainly Occupy’s tent cities and general assemblies are interesting (even inspiring), as are the issues it’s raised about the right of citizens to peaceably assemble in public spaces and on college campuses, but it wasn’t conceived as a movement about squatters’ rights or as a prototype for an alternative society, and I for one think it would be unfortunate if that’s what it becomes.

Over the past few months Occupy Wall Street has gained the support of many and caught the attention of almost everybody. Ending Wall Street’s inordinate influence on politics is becoming a goal with mainstream appeal. Let’s not be so fascinated with the trappings of agitation; let’s stay on message.

Whatever the movement decides to do from here, they’ve wasted no time regrouping. Last night’s general assembly was simply moved to War Memorial Plaza.

Sold! The Ivy Bookshop Sells to NY Couple


The Ivy Bookshop has new owners! Husband and wife team Ed and Ann Berlin will move down from the New York area to run the beloved North Baltimore neighborhood bookstore in the Lake Falls Village shopping center.

The couple, who have friends in town, have been to the store when in Baltimore to visit. When shop owner and founder Darielle Linehan sent out an email last summer alerting loyal customers of her plans to retire, the Berlins contacted her. Ann Berlin has experience in publishing.

The change of ownership will take place sometime in January, Linehan said.

Ehrlich Campaign Manager Convicted for Shouting "Relax" on Election Day


Paul Schurick, campaign manager to former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., was found guilty on Tuesday of election fraud for his part in the “relax” robocall that went out to 112,000 homes on Election Day 2010.

As you may or may not recall, the robocall urged voters to “relax” because Governor Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama had already been “successful.” “The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight,” the automated message said.

Schurick’s attorney called the robocall protected “political speech” and the charges “unconstitutional,” in that they violated Schurick’s First Amendment rights. But of course, the right to free speech is not absolute. You can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and you certainly can’t lie to voters in an attempt to keep them from the polls.

Schurick could face up to twelve years in prison for these convictions. Julius Henson, political consultant to the Ehrlich campaign and partner in the robocall plan, also faces charges. 

Baltimore’s Tech Community: On Knife’s Edge


Courtesy of Citybizlist – Over the past few years, it felt like the tech community in Baltimore was really growing into something magical. Lots of grassroots events, lots of passion, and consistent attendance at the Beehive co-working space were indicators.

But now, the community is on a knife’s edge and could just as quickly plummet. The few people who were affecting change in the city have moved on, or lost interest because of the bureaucracy, or personal issues.

The loudest voices made their requests known, but none have borne fruit. Baltimore’s leadership is slower and just as corrupt. As an example, New York City planned and will launch their bike share system of 10,000 bikes before Baltimore will launch its 300-bike system. What’s worse, people who care deeply about the city and making it a better place to live are apparently snubbed by the city specifically because of how outspoken they are.

Example: Baltimore’s new Chief Digital Officer position. It was publicly known that Mike Brenner, a huge champion of the local tech community, pinged the city’s CIO, Rico Singleton, about the position and heard nothing back.

In a live chat with Singleton and three (inexplicably anonymous) CDO candidates, I asked why Mike Brenner wasn’t included in the running. Singleton responded, “Mike Brenner never submitted a resume and I was not aware of his interest.”

I replied, “If the ultimate goal is to find the best person for the job, why does it matter if he submitted a resume or not?”

Read more at citybizlist

Anthropologie to Open in Harbor East


Clothing shop Anthropologie, a stylish favorite for fashionable women, will open a new store at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore’s Harbor East.

According to BMore Media, Baltimore’s Urban Design and Review Panel is to review plans for the store, tomorrow, Dec. 8.  Anthropologie’’s other local stores are in Towson and Annapolis. 

Baltimore City architect Robert Quilter says the store’s architect David A Levy & Associates Inc. of Akron, Ohio wants to do something “different” with the storefront, which is why it needs the city’s design panel to review its plans.

Anthropologie is a unit of Urban Outfitters, Inc.

Mayor Delivers Ambitious, Vague Inauguration Speech


Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was sworn in on Tuesday for her first full term as mayor. It’s hardly surprising that the primary goal laid out in her inauguration speech was an economic one. “Our number-one goal in the next ten years must be to grow Baltimore—strengthen our neighborhoods, create new jobs, and attract new people,” she said.

Though certain themes came through loud and clear — sacrifice, the greater good, cooperation — the speech avoided defining those terms more specifically.

It did, however, contain at least one concrete objective: draw 10,000 new families to the city in the next ten years. Getting them here will require “a complex web of individual actions and collective sacrifice, a steely resolve to demand better, and a potent sense of urgency to act now.” But what individual actions? What collective sacrifice? And a resolve to demand what from whom? Alas, the most basic details are lacking.

Certainly, there is a point past which a harsh economy and high unemployment become an issue of, as the mayor says, “basic rights,”  but at one point Rawlings-Blake goes so far as to compare troubleshooting the economy to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. “Unwilling to wait for government to give them the right to vote, to live where they wanted, or to receive an education, men and women took to the streets,” she said. “We must now draw on that example of collective action and individual determination as we fight for the fundamental rights of Baltimore’s future.”

“Took to the streets,” huh? I wonder if she’s heard of the Occupy movement.

Read the full text of Rawlings-Blake’s speech.

Baltimore Start-Up Sickweather: Off to a Sick Start


Courtesy of Citybizlist – Sickweather is an up and coming Baltimore-based startup led by CEO and co-founder Graham Dodge that we first reported on in October when it was about to launch its closed beta test.

Sickweather, which tracks the movement of illnesses across the country by crawling social media sites, is now open to the public. See for yourself here.

And it is working.

Sickweather said today that it successfully predicted what are now documented increases of Whooping Cough in Algonquin, IL and Milwaukee, WI.

According to a company release, the earliest Sickweather report of Whooping Cough (Pertussis) near Algonquin, IL appeared on October 5th (during Sickweather’s closed beta testing), approximately one month prior to confirmed reports that appeared in the news. A month later, the same trends followed in nearby Milwaukee, WI. Both instances also saw increased reports of “cough” prior to and during these outbreaks.

“The implication is that some of the users reporting cough from these areas may very well be undiagnosed or pre-diagnosed cases of whooping cough,” said Dodge. “We are also witnessing more reports of adults with whooping cough. In one case, a report of a doctor getting whooping cough, presumably from one of her patients.”

This is good news for a local startup that’s already gotten the attention of Time, Al Jazeera, All Things D, and others.

Read more at citybizlist