A man engrossed in a newspaper. (Credit: John Ragai via Creative Commons)

There was no shortage of major news in Baltimore in the past year. Our city garnered national attention for events both wondrous and woeful. From the deadliest day ever for the city fire department, to the debate over what to do about confrontations between squeegee workers and motorists, to a new generation of political leadership taking control of state government, Baltimore generated topics for debate at kitchen tables and water coolers everywhere.

Here’s a sampling of the biggest stories we debated, cheered and moaned over the past 12 months:

Hope for Harborplace

After years of vacating merchants, declining business and neglect by prior owners, there is fresh hope for Harborplace, the commercial buildings and public spaces that are nearly synonymous with Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the 1980s-era renaissance of the city at the hands of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. P. David Bramble, the managing partner of MCB Real Estate and a Baltimore native, has taken ownership of Harborplace, and is poised to redevelop one of the most important pieces of real estate in the city. Bramble calls the property “Baltimore’s front porch” and “a destination location for residents of the city and surrounding region.” In announcing the project, Bramble noted that “the level of disinvestment and disrepair that has happened to one of our city’s crown jewels has been heartbreaking for me and so many others….We will reinvent and reimagine Harborplace as a modern gathering location that is awe-inspiring and authentically Baltimore.” A judge approved the transfer out of receivership in December, a key step in Bramble’s efforts.

Firefighters killed in vacant home collapse

A blaze inside a vacant rowhome in late January in the city’s Mount Clare neighborhood became the deadliest fire ever for the Baltimore City fire department. Five minutes after Engine 14 arrived just before dawn, the building collapsed with six firefighters inside. Three of them died: Lt. Paul Butrim, Kenny Lacayo, and Lt. Kelsey Sadler. An entire city mourned their loss, and lauded their bravery in entering the building to attempt to rescue a person they were told was inside. A subsequent investigation found that the fire had been set during criminal activity, either intentionally or accidentally, and the firefighters’ deaths were classified as homicides. The tragedy sharpened debate about how to address thousands of abandoned and vacant properties in distressed Baltimore neighborhoods, and later in the year the fire department began visibly marking properties into which firefighters would not enter. At the beginning of December, regional emergency officials released a report on the deadly fire, which found inadequate polices and lack of critical information during the emergency. On the day of the report’s publication, Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford resigned after leading the department since 2014.

A new generation political leadership

The Larry Hogan era is coming to an end in Annapolis, and after the 2022 elections, the state’s top political leadership will look a lot more like its population. Democrats swept every office, and strengthened their majorities in the General Assembly. In January, Wes Moore will be sworn in as governor, and his running mate, Aruna Miller, becomes lieutenant governor. Anthony Brown, who like Moore is Black, will become attorney general. Every previous Maryland governor has been white and male, as has every previous attorney general. But no more. And Brooke Lierman, the state delegate from Baltimore who ran a successful campaign for comptroller, becomes the first woman elected to a Maryland statewide office on her own, and not part of a ticket.

Squeegee worker killing

The proliferation of squeegee workers in Baltimore, and the conditions that lead to their activities, sprung into national view in July when 48-year-old Timothy Reynolds was killed by a 15-year-old with a gun. Reynolds had gotten out of his car with a baseball bat to confront squeegee workers, but may have been retreating when he was shot, and the teen was charged with murder. As Washington Post columnist Theresa Vargas put it, the killing “turned a locally divisive issue into a nationally divisive one.” A debate erupted over what to do about squeegee workers, with suggestions range from employing them to arresting them. Mayor Brandon Scott formed a public-private Squeegee Collaborative that released 18 recommendations in the fall, including creating no-work zones at key intersections along with increased services for youth.

Adnan Syed released

In September, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby asked a judge to vacate the conviction of Adnan Syed, who had been serving prison time for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. A month later, Mosby announced she was dropping all charges, based on what she said was new DNA evidence in the case. A yearlong investigation, her office said, showed that Syed had been wrongfully convicted of strangling and killing Lee. Syed’s release thrilled his legions of supporters, most of whom first learned of the case through the wildly popular podcast ‘Serial.’ Syed walked out of prison for the first time in two decades, but the family of Hae Min Lee continues to fight the decision, and more courtroom battles lie ahead.

The fall of Marilyn Mosby

It was a pivotal year for Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. She was indicted in January following a highly publicized investigation into her statements on loan applications for the purchase of properties in Florida. She announced a reelection campaign in April but was defeated in the Democratic primary in July by attorney Ivan Bates, bringing an end to her 8-year tenure. Mosby had initially asked for her criminal trial to take place prior to the election, but it has been postponed to 2023.

Launch of the Baltimore Banner

The Baltimore Banner, the flagship outlet of the Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, officially launched its operations in the spring, providing new vibrancy in the Baltimore media market. The Banner is a non-profit news organization created in large part because its founder, wealthy hotel and skilled nursing care industry leader and former Maryland state senator Stewart Bainum, failed in his effort to buy the Baltimore Sun and its parent company, and decided to create a competitor out of whole cloth. The Banner, which is digital-only, filled out a newsroom with experienced editors and managers, including several notable Baltimore Sun journalists, and is on its way to deliver on its promise of more robust local news coverage.

Lamar Jackson and a fully guaranteed contract

The Ravens star quarterback and his team failed to reach a long-term agreement in the last offseason, after Jackson made it clear that he wanted a fully guaranteed deal that surpassed the five-year, $230 million contract of Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns. So Jackson is poised to become a free agent in 2023, and like many players is gambling on himself. Now, like last year, Jackson is healing from a late-season injury and his team has slipped out of first place in its division. The region’s football fans are anxiously watching their team and its star – and many observers believe that the Ravens have little choice but to pay their most dynamic player what he seeks.

Water woes

More than 1,500 West Baltimore homes and businesses were placed under a boil water advisory on the Monday of Labor Day weekend after the detection of E. coli bacteria in water supply samples over that weekend. It was just the latest crisis affecting access to safe water across the country. City officials blamed again infrastructure for the crisis, and city residents bemoaned a lack of clear communication.

Departing leaders of anchor institutions

Some notable leaders left their roles in the past year, ending tenures that are measured in decades and handing reins to a new generation. After 30 years at the helm of University of Maryland Baltimore County, Freeman A. Hrabowski III retired on June 30. Hrabowski gained national acclaim as he transformed the university into a top research institution. Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, the founder of the American Visionary Arts Museum, the cylindrical building with the mirrored façade on Key Highway, retired after 27 years. Donald C. Fry, who has led the Greater Baltimore Committee for nearly two decades, retired June 1 from the private-sector business advocacy group. Peggy Daidakis retired after 36 years as executive director of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Attorney General’s report on Archdiocese abuse

As one of his final acts after eight years in office, Attorney General Brian Frosh prepared to release the result of a four-year investigation into the Archdiocese of Baltimore. A 456-page document identifies 158 priests who allegedly abused more than 600 boys and girls — some of them preschoolers — over a period of 80 years. While it is unclear exactly how many of these sexual predators are alive and still members of the priesthood, Frosh wants the report to be made public. “I think justice has been delayed for so many of the abused,” Frosh told the Baltimore Banner. “Our report is the best and perhaps only way that justice can be done and the truth can be told.” But a judge has ruled that grand jury proceedings cannot be made public, and lawmakers are again debating altering statute of limitations laws to bring charges against offenders.

Lady in the Lake

Novelist Laura Lippman writes about Baltimore, so when one of her recent novels was turned into a television production, the city became its sound stage. Actors and crews spent six months filming “Lady in the Lake,” the forthcoming Apple TV+ series starring Academy Award winner Natalie Portman and Baltimore native Moses Ingram. Crews built retro sets in Hollins Market, Hamilton, Patterson Park, Redwood Street, and Pikesville for the 1960s tale of an unsolved murder.

We Own this City

“We Own This City,” a series chronicling the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, premiered on HBO in 2022. It examined the corruption in Baltimore’s institutions, and where the policies mass arrest were championed at the expense of actual police work. The series was based on the book of the same name by reporter Justin Fenton, formerly with the Baltimore Sun and now with the Baltimore Banner.

Baltimore Orioles resurgence and Angelos family squabbles

As the Baltimore Orioles showed on-field resurgence after years at the bottom of their division, the organization’s ownership fueled drama and uncertainty. A lawsuit revealed that the two sons of Orioles owner Peter Angelos two sons are locked in a bitter feud over control of the baseball team and their family’s fortune. Infighting erupted after Peter Angelos fell seriously ill in October 2017 and established a trust with his wife and two sons appointed as co-trustees.

Johns Hopkins Police Force

Despite determined efforts by students, faculty, community members and others, a Johns Hopkins police force is becoming reality. In 2022, Johns Hopkins and the Baltimore Police Department agreed to a draft memorandum of understanding, a crucial document defining jurisdictional boundaries for a new force, which university leaders say is crucial to safety. Protests continued, and protestors disrupted September town halls with chanting and signs. But the university is moving ahead, and resistance is fading.

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David Nitkin

David Nitkin is the Executive Editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He is an award-winning journalist, having worked as State House Bureau Chief, White House Correspondent, Politics Editor and Metropolitan Editor...

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