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The Beginning Of A Tax Revolution?

Some Baltimore business owners have had enough.

More than 30 business and restaurant owners in Fells Point are threatening to withhold taxes if city leaders do not address crime, trash and other issues they say are plaguing the waterfront neighborhood.

The group sent a letter to Baltimore officials Tuesday — two days after three people were shot in the popular and historic nightlife destination early Sunday morning — complaining about blatant drug sales, public drinking and other problems they say are happening in plain sight while police are handcuffed from enforcing the law.

The letter bemoans a “culture of lawlessness” that allows the ” the kinds of violence and tragedy we witnessed (over the weekend).”
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In Baltimore City – Students Fail And Move On To The Next Level.

In March of 2021, we wrote a post concerning the Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts which is a high school level school in West Baltimore.

A child who passed only 3 courses over four years was ranked within the top half of the student at the school. Out of 434 students, only two students could read and do math at their grade level. The school, the students, and the parents could hardly be considered a model of educational excellence, even though that is what the school was portrayed as being.

Fast forward through the pandemic, and once again we see the failure of the Baltimore City Schools to achieve and demand excellence from students.
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Baltimore Sun Attacks Clean Up Effort.

Volunteers clear an alley strewn with trash near Fulton Ave Monday morning. They were inspired to come out and help by Scott Presler, a Republican activist who organized the cleanup via Twitter. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore Sun editorial board came out with a editorial that basically slammed the clean up effort of people in West Baltimore.

We assume it was pure motives that led a Trump supporter to launch a cleanup in Cummings’ district, right?

It made for good photos, compelling videos and catchy Twitter hashtags. A group of conservatives rolled their pickup trucks into one of West Baltimore’s most impoverished neighborhoods Monday for a cleanup day. Loaded down with trash bags and shovels, they cleared alleyways of old tires, food containers, paper and other debris. They pulled up weeds and cut away overgrown grass. The group posted before and after pictures on social media showing their progress.

The effort was organized by pro-Trump activist Scott Presler. He claimed the event was not political. Yes, he was inspired to come by tweets from President Donald Trump describing the area, represented by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, as a “rodent infested mess.” But the visit wasn’t about showing support or animosity for either man, he said.

Call us skeptical.

This is an interesting perspective. Assume for a moment that the Sun is right – that the clean up was politically motivated by Trump’s description of the area. If that is the case, shouldn’t the opposite have occurred as well? Shouldn’t the people in the district have shown support for Cummings and get out there and prove Trump wrong? Where were the supporters of Cummings running out of their homes to support the effort? Shouldn’t that have happened if the only motivation of people is “political?”

Look, we appreciate anyone who is willing to roll up their sleeves to help Baltimore. More than 170 people came from all over the country and cleaned up nearly 12 tons of trash, according to Mr. Presler’s Twitter feed. He doesn’t post any photos of the totality of the trash, so we’ll have to take his word for it.

Please notice the above picture taken by Baltimore Sun photographer Jerry Jackson, who apparently went to the West Baltimore scene to photo-document the clean up. If there are no pictures of the “totality of the trash,” isn’t that on the Sun, and not on the people cleaning up?

The editorial board then attacks this tweet by Pressler.
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The Gun Buyback That May Not Have Turned Out Well.

The City of Baltimore has started a “gun buyback” program.

The actual research on whether these types of programs is mixed, with many studies showing that the programs are not effective.

One woman, however, decided to use the money from turning in a weapon for an interesting purpose.

The 9mm handgun appears to be semi-automatic which means that the woman would have been given $250 for the weapon. According to Fox45:

Twenty-five dollars for rifle magazines that carry more than 10 rounds, one-hundred dollars for revolvers, pump and bolt action weapons, two-hundred dollars for semi-automatic weapons and five-hundred dollars for full-auto weapons.

We don’t follow gun prices at all, but it seems to us that $250 is a good start to a better, larger weapon.
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The Cautionary Tale Of The Baltimore City Police Department.

They were the best of the best. Often cited as a shining star in law enforcement in the City of Baltimore, the members of the elite Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) were in fact criminals – selling drugs, robbing victims, and assaulting people at will.

The BBC has a lengthy investigative story on this task force and it is worth the read not because of the salaciousness of the accusations, the cases and the trial of these officers.

Here’s what the public was led to believe about the Gun Trace Task Force, before the FBI arrested almost every member of the squad:

That in a city still reeling from the civil unrest that followed the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, the GTTF was a bright spot in a department under a dark cloud. The 25-year-old African-American man’s death after a ride in a police transport ignited a build up of decades of tension between Baltimore’s black residents and the police, touching off days of demonstrations, including looting and violence.

That while the homicide rate was on a historic rise, this elite, eight-officer team was getting guns off the streets at an astonishing rate – their supervising lieutenant praised “a work ethic that is beyond reproach” that resulted in 110 arrests and 132 guns confiscated in a 10-month period.

That the GTTF’s leader, a former Marine and amateur MMA fighter named Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, was a hero who’d plunged into a violent crowd during the unrest to rescue injured officers, an act of bravery that earned him a departmental Bronze Star.

But when the sun came up on 1 March 2017, the city awoke to a vastly different reality.

Seven officers were arrested and indicted for racketeering, extortion and fraud: Sergeant Jenkins; Detective Daniel Hersl, a 17-year veteran of the force; longtime partners Detectives Momodu Gondo and Jemell Rayam; and Detectives Maurice Ward, Evodio Hendrix and Marcus Taylor. Only one member – oddly enough, John Clewell, the man whose name triggered the entire investigation – escaped indictment. The FBI found he was never a part of the criminal enterprise.

“They were involved in a pernicious conspiracy scheme that included abuse of power,” the US Attorney for Maryland told reporters that day. Police commissioner Kevin Davis, who’d once praised the men’s work, now likened them to 1930s-style gangsters.

“It’s disgusting,” he said.

The public soon learned that the GTTF stole from drug dealers, but also from a homeless man, a car salesman, a construction worker and many others. The victims were overwhelmingly African-American.

However, there is a theme in the entire narrative:
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Baltimore Businesses Want Accountability. Taxpayers Will Probably Pay The Bill.

You may remember the riots in Baltimore, MD after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

What initially started out as peaceful protests turned into full scale riots where people were assaulted and property was destroyed.

The Mayor of Baltimore at the time Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, (in)famously said:

“It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate. (emphasis ours)

Media and the country jumped on her comment wondering why people needed the “space to destroy?” Isn’t that what the police should protect against?

Rawlings-Blake later said her comments were misconstrued and mischaracterized and her office released another statement:

What she is saying within this statement was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday. Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate. The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence.

The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.

The statement clarification was just as bad as the original statement. It seemed the Mayor was condoning the violence in the city and its destruction.

In an “after action” report by the police union, the police accused the City government of such things as to not stop people from causing damage to property, arrests had to be cleared by civilian lawyers, gas masks were either not distributed or had expired canisters, commanders told policemen not to wear gloves because of the image it created as well as being told not to move to stop the violence.

While the Mayor disputed the accusations by the police, Delegate Curt Anderson (D) said:
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Baltimore City Police: To Profit And Steal.

Seven Baltimore City police officers, who were members of the “Gun Task Force” have been arrested and indicted on charges they robbed and extorted Baltimore residents, filed false court documents, and made false overtime claims:

The indictment alleges that Detective Marcus Taylor, for instance, filed for overtime on days when he was in New York City on vacation. It alleges that Sgt. Wayne Jenkins filed for overtime on days when he was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on vacation. It alleges that Detective Maurice Ward also filed overtime for a day when he was in Myrtle Beach on vacation.

The indictment alleges Detectives Jemell Rayam and Momodu Gondo were recorded discussing being in the poker room at Maryland Live Casino in Anne Arundel County and getting a drink with a friend, respectively, on a day when they claimed to be working overtime.

The indictment does not provide total dollar amounts for the alleged fraudulent overtime payments, but does calculate the total amount of overtime the officers made in fiscal 2016.

Jenkins, whose annual salary was $85,406, made the most of any of the officers, taking in $83,345 in overtime. Gondo, whose annual salary was $71,412, made the least amount of overtime of any of the officers, taking in more than $29,000.

In addition to overtime fraud, the officers are accused of shaking down citizens, filing false court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims, all while Justice Department investigators were scrutinizing the department for what they concluded were widespread civil rights violations.

One of the officers was also accused in a separate indictment of participating in an illegal drug organization and tipping its members off to investigations.

[…]

The officers were summoned to internal affairs Wednesday morning and arrested. They were identified as Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, 36, and Detectives Momodu Gondo, 34; Evodio Hendrix, 32; Daniel Hersl, 47; Jemell Rayam, 36; Marcus Taylor, 30; and Maurice Ward, 36.

It appears that these officers were not unknown to be what can charitably described as “bad cops.”

Some of the officers have long been accused of using excessive force or of other wrongdoing. The city has paid out more than $500,000 in settlements in cases involving the officers, according to a review by The Baltimore Sun.

Members of the city’s state legislative delegation called for a federal investigation into Rayam in 2009 after he was involved in three shootings over the course of two years. The city has settled multiple lawsuits involving Hersl.

“The majority of these officers have been known to my attorneys as having significant credibility issues,” Baltimore Deputy Public Defender Natalie Finegar said. “We have aggressively been pursuing personnel records to be able to highlight the issues with their credibility on the force.”

But even with the allegations and use of excessive force, these rogue cops were still on the job and still allowed to shake down citizens, steal from the taxpayers and run illegal operations. If anything, this case shows how horribly difficult it is to get rid of bad cops. Frankly, getting rid of those bad cops should be something every good cop should want to happen. The actions of the bad cops stain the good cops and damages the reputation of the police within the City. (Assuming that it could be damaged more than it is already.)

Indicted Officers.
(image courtesy Baltimore City Police Department)

Six out of the seven officers are being held without bail. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Gallagher cited concerns with the officers’ previous actions while on the job.
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Baltimore Burns While Rawlings-Blake and Obama Fiddle.

Baltimore-Medal-Burning---ROHWhile Baltimore burns and many residents and businesses live in fear from losing their homes and livelihoods, politicians continue to play the fiddle.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has tried to walk back her idiotic statement of:

“I’ve made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act, because, while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to deescalate, and that’s what you saw.”

Rawlings-Blake’s office has tried to explain her remarks and how they were misunderstood:

What she is saying within this statement was that there was an effort to give the peaceful demonstrators room to conduct their peaceful protests on Saturday,” her office said in a statement released on Monday. “Unfortunately, as a result of providing the peaceful demonstrators with the space to share their message, that also meant that those seeking to incite violence also had the space to operate. The police sought to balance the rights of the peaceful demonstrators against the need to step in against those who were seeking to create violence. The mayor is not saying that she asked police to give space to people who sought to create violence. Any suggestion otherwise would be a misinterpretation of her statement.”

The office also put out an updated version of her comments, edited in a way to reflect what the office said she really meant:

“I’ve made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act, because, while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also [as a result] gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to deescalate, and that’s what you saw.”

Her “clarification” is as bad as the statement as it doesn’t address the fact that she either ordered or allowed the police to stand by while people and property were threatened and destroyed.

Contrasting Rawlings-Blake’s (in)action while looters and rioters took to destroying, Midshipman from the Naval Academy did what the police would not – they protected people:
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