Tag: baltimore city

Mayor Acts Like Speed Cameras Are Not for Generating Revenue

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Since the installation of speed cameras throughout Baltimore city in the fall of 2009, the annual revenue generated by the $40 tickets issued to motorists caught traveling 12 miles per hour over the limit has increased nearly tenfold — from just $2.4 million in 2010 to $19.2 million over the past 12 months. That increase in revenue is partly due to the number of speed cameras jumping from 28 to 56 to 83 over the course of the program. But it can hardly account for all of it. And anyway, if the speed cameras are intended to deter motorists from speeding, the revenue should be going down, at least per camera.

The County’s Got Guns — and Drugs Too

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A home in Gambrills County reminded everyone that Baltimore City isn’t the only place in Maryland where police can make a major drug/weapon bust. On Friday the 27th, Anne Arundel County police found $50,000 worth of marijuana and two-dozen firearms in the house of one Nicholas Vincent Dominick.

Baltimore Lost 1,500 People in the First 15 Months After 2010 Census

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And you thought Baltimor Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s goal of attracting 22,500 new residents to Baltimore in the next ten years was tough enough already. And now the U.S. Census Bureau has used data on housing units, number of people moving, births, and deaths to determine that Baltimore’s population dropped by approximately 1,500 people between April 2010 and July 2011.

That means we were hemorrhaging 100 people a month. And if the population naturally continues on that downward trend, then even if we attract 22,500 new residents (or 10,000 new families) to Baltimore over the next 120 months, its impact will be undermined by the steady exodus.

Baltimore Could Lose Permanently Three Fire Companies

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In the face of a $48 million budget shortfall, Baltimore may close permanently three city fire companies, Truck 10, Squad 11, and Truck 15, as proposed by Fire Chief James Clack. For two years now, the city has been carrying out rotating closures of three companies, in the hopes that the local economy would pick up before having to make any of the closures permanent.

Under the proposal, the firefighters of the closed companies would not lose their jobs, but would be shuffled around the city among the remaining 52 companies.

Even if the closings are necessary, and even if they present no increased risk to public safety (as Clack assures us), you know things are bad when you are making permanent cuts to such basic services.

And it’s particularly heartbreaking when excellence and heroism can’t overcome a budgetary reality. Rick Hoffman, president of the firefighters’ union, says that Truck 10 leads the city in department commendations for heroic actions, and just yesterday, the company was instrumental in rescuing three children who lay unconscious in a burning building.

Hoffman credited their experience and skill with the saving of the children. The union president told The Baltimore Sun, “What’s very important on these low-rise fires is knowing the way the buildings are set up. The way these guys know these places played a major part in saving these children.”

Big Fish Q&A with Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools

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At the outset of the past decade, Baltimore City changed its public schools superintendent with alarming frequency – a dizzying parade of six different bosses in six years. Given the dispiriting prevailing academic circumstances, few relished the job: a less than 50 percent graduation rate, a decades-long slide in enrollment, and appallingly low test scores compared to the national average.

In the summer of 2007, yet another new Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, Andrés A. Alonso, plunged into this apparent cauldron of failure. “We were just about as low as we could be,” Mary Pat Clarke, who chairs the City Council’s education committee, told The New York Times in December 2010. “He blew into town with a suitcase full of ideas. Now the school system’s in motion.”

Alonso set about implementing an ambitious reform program, dramatically altering the school system’s size, structure, and sensibility. In the past five years, he has shuttered underperforming schools; dismissed approximately 75 percent of the system’s principals; eliminated central office personnel by a third; established individual school autonomy by shifting central-office resources and decision-making to principals; introduced critical reviews of teachers based on their students’ achievement; and hired monitors to oversee state assessment testing in an effort to prevent cheating.

His top-to-bottom overhaul has resulted in soaring enrollment, increased graduation, decreased dropouts, and significantly improved test scores.

Still, problems — both perceived and real — vex Alonso’s vision for change. In recent months, The Baltimore Sun has revealed a school system that has allocated scarce financial resources to non-classroom-specific purposes: notably, $65 million to personnel for unused leave over five years; $14 million in overtime pay since 2009, including $78,000 last year alone for Alonso’s driver/security escort; and $500,000 for posh office renovations at BCPS’ North Ave. HQ.

Maryland’s Open Data Program Brings Internet Back to Its Visionary Roots

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Remember when the Internet was sold to us as a technology that would grant unprecedented access to important data, radically democratizing information? Well, we got a little sidetracked with pornography and sneezing pandas, but we’re finally getting around to it!

Maryland will become the latest (with an emphasis on “late” — 30 other states have already beaten us to it) to implement an “Open Data” program, which would make thousands of state documents available to the public via the Internet. (Gosh, remember the late ’90s when we were constantly using the phrase “via the Internet” just to hear ourselves say it?)

For over a year, Baltimore has been running a similar program with its city documents. And according to The Sun, it’s been used by Sun reporters “many times.” “OpenBaltimore” applications even helped the paper build an interactive map of speed camera locations in and around the city.

The state hasn’t figured out yet exactly what data is the most important to make available, or in what format it would be most useful. And that’s what makes this kind of old-school, information-superhighway Internet project so exciting. You can almost feel the paradigm shifting. Listen, I know that we’re just talking about government documents here, but seriously, this could be really cool.

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