Gov. Larry Hogan called a meeting in the city today about what can be done to address Baltimore’s ballooning violent crime problem. Unfortunately, he appears to have excluded two prominent local elected officials, both of whom have major stakes in addressing the issue.
Councilman Brandon Scott, chair of the council’s public safety committee, and Sen. Bill Ferguson, who represents Baltimore’s 46th legislative district, showed up at the William Donald Schaefer Building this morning to sit in on the gathering of public safety officials. However, when they walked in, they were “kicked out of the building,” Ferguson wrote in a Facebook post. “’We’re not on the list’ apparently. For a public meeting. About crime in our City.”
Ferguson and Scott waited outside in the rain shared their surprise about being shut out while they sat outside in the rain.
— Brandon M. Scott (@CouncilmanBMS) August 29, 2017
Hogan last week announced he wanted a “frank and honest discussion” with local leaders about the deadly crime spike in Maryland’s largest city, as reported by the Sun. Through today, the city has logged 231 homicides in nearly eight months of 2017. Reported incidences of rape, robbery, aggravated assault and common assault were all up significantly from last year as of Aug. 22, according to police data.
The governor invited local leaders and judges to attend the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Council President Jack Young and Mayor Catherine Pugh brass are all members of the coordinating council, according to its website.
Usually the body’s monthly meetings are open to the public, but the Hogan administration told outlets it was making today’s meeting closed to keep the talk “frank” and “very serious.” Last week, three judges who sit on the council and usually attend the public gathering sent the Republican governor a letter informing him they wouldn’t be there, citing a state rule that says justices “shall not be swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism.”
Hogan called their refusal to attend “disappointing” and “unacceptable.”
The coordinating council was established under a memorandum of understanding that, in part, says its meetings must be kept open to the public. “Regardless of whether [it was] intended [to be] closed or not, I never imagined City electeds who care deeply about this issue would be denied entry,” Ferguson wrote on Facebook. “We want to work together to solve problems. Instead we were shown the door.”
For what it’s worth, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said nothing sensitive was really discussed, other than Hogan announcing his goal to introduce “truth in sentencing” legislation next session, per WYPR’s Rachel Baye. The bill Hogan is proposing would limit courts from offering repeat violent offenders suspended sentences or parole terms, holding a similar effect to a mandatory-minimum sentencing policy.
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