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Ban on reporter part of a larger problem

How can ban on public radio reporter possibly be justified?

Congratulations to The Sun for taking a stand concerning a colleague, Kenneth Burns of WYPR, who has been exiled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake from all post-Board of Estimates news conferences on the grounds that he is a threat, presumably physical ("Let Kenneth Burns in the room," Oct. 17). No evidence, no due process and no recourse for Mr. Burns or WYPR — just a mayoral edict worthy of a garden variety banana republic somewhere.

So, I endeavored to look up when the next Board of Estimates meeting would be held so that I and/or my wife and/or whomever else might be interested in doing so might show up to lodge a citizen protest or at the very least ask of Her Highness that she answer Mr. Burns' very reasonable and appropriate question about whether the Baltimore Police Department's status as a state agency impacts her ability to make the kinds of reforms she believes are necessary after the Justice Department's scathing report of some weeks ago.

What I found from the Baltimore City Comptroller's own website are the rules passed in 2014 concerning who may speak and who may not speak at such meetings. Here is the key paragraph: "WHEREAS, in the interest of promoting better government, order and efficiency the Board wishes to establish certain rules, applicable to all private individuals, business entities, fraternal organizations, special interest groups, associations and other entities, etc. (HEREIN after collectively referred to as 'entity') who wish to speak at the meetings of the Board… 1. Anyone wishing to speak before the Board, whether individually or as the spokesperson of an entity must notify the Clerk of the Board in writing no later than by noon on the Tuesday preceding any Board meeting, or by an alternative date and time specified in the agenda for the next scheduled meeting. The written protest must state (1) whom you represent and the entity that authorized the representation (2) what the issues are and the facts supporting your position and (3) how the protestant will be harmed by the proposed Board action… 2. Requests to speak on matters submitted to the Board for its information, notation or status report from a previous Board action may be heard at the discretion of the President of the Board…."

One can read on for a the full picture of how difficult or impossible it is for anyone to say or ask anything at these meetings that is not approved of by those presiding over the meeting. We pay for these meetings! The matters discussed are entirely pertaining to how our tax dollars are being spent or might be spent in the future. Of all the meetings held by the city and its fearful leaders, this is the one where public comment is most important and where the role of the press is most important.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake has for years cloistered herself in the tower of Baltimore's bureaucracy at a time when the city is most in need of visible, energized leadership. Now, she apparently is too fearful to even field a reasonable question from a public radio reporter. Under those 2014 rules, passed I'm sure at her insistence, we are deprived all access to our elected officials and the ability to participate in public processes which we pay for and are dependent upon. This ineffectual mayor has but weeks left in office but the legacy of her administration will live on in the culture of fear and isolation and executive privilege that she has instilled at the highest level of our municipal management.

Is it any wonder the state does not trust the city, nor does any other informed person, to address the Justice Department's report responsibly and enact meaningful reform within the police department? If Mayor Rawlings-Blake can't stand up to a reporter, how can she stand up to the Baltimore Police Department?

Mark Thistel, Baltimore

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