Baltimore City Power Rankings: Mayor Pugh, Hamsterdam, Andy Harris, more

Baltimore Education Coalition, Baltimore Algebra Project
(Alex Fine)

↑ Baltimore Education Coalition, Baltimore Algebra Project

Thousands of Baltimore parents, teachers, and students rallied in Annapolis to demand the state fund city schools adequately. This year's budget gap is pegged at $130 million, or about 10 percent of the school budget, although city officials including Councilman Zeke Cohen (1st District) say the state owes much more—$290 million—according to an adequacy formula the state legislature agreed to years ago. Gov. Larry Hogan points to the existing state support of Baltimore, which is nearly twice the state average. But the Education Coalition has also pressured city officials to step up, flooding Mayor Catherine Pugh's office with phone calls. "The state has to make a contribution and the city has to make a contribution," Baltimore Education Coalition co-chair Sharicca Boldon told The Sun. On March 2, the Baltimore Algebra Project is organizing a rally at City Hall.


↑ Baker Artist Awards

This year's Baker Artist Awards finalists were announced last week—that's 31 artists (chosen from a pool of about 900 portfolios submitted) in the visual arts, literary, music, film/video, interdisciplinary, and performance categories. Several of them are previous Baker winners and finalists, and artists that CP has followed for years, including jazz powerhouse Lafayette Gilchrist, experimental pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, filmmakers Theo Anthony and Matt Porterfield, and performance artist Naoko Maeshiba. The winners will be announced May 25, with an exhibition of their work at the BMA to follow.

↑ Hamsterdam

David Simon's fictional west-side drug-enforcement-free zone, as depicted in The Wire, has long been the subject of "what-if" speculation. Last week The Abell Foundation gave its endorsement in a 15-page report titled "Safe Drug Consumption Spaces: A Strategy for Baltimore City." The idea of letting dealers deal and addicts shoot-up free from police harassment sounds dubious to some, but according to the report, there are 97 such "safe consumption spaces" currently operating in 11 countries, including two in Canada. The areas are staffed by public health professionals, case managers, and addiction specialists. They cut down on HIV and hepatitis transmission, the report says. Baltimore had 481 fatal overdoses through September of last year*. Maybe it's time to try something new.

↓ Mayor Catherine Pugh

On Feb. 24, Mayor Catherine Pugh told a crowd of residents, students, and teachers rallying in Annapolis to close the city schools budget gap that she had a plan. "Prove it! Prove it!" the assembled constituents shouted back at her. Pugh teased an announcement on Monday, later telling The Sun in an interview she would work with state lawmakers over the weekend to find the money for city schools. Welp, Monday rolled around, and in a total Trump-ian move of writing checks your ass can't cash, Pugh stood at a podium in the capital and announced that, well, there's still a budget deficit and it will have to be fixed. That is some plan. Somebody better come up with something, and it better be more than "we're gonna start winning again."

↓ Andy Harris

One of the things getting us through this hellscape of an early Trump presidency is watching GOP lawmakers face the music at their local town halls. Maryland Representative Andy Harris—or as CP editor-at-large Baynard Woods prefers, "Dick-hole Harris"—was a no-show at a town hall held at Harford Community College to discuss the future of Obamacare, upsetting the nearly 200 who showed up. Harris, an anti-pot, Tea Party ding-dong has never been a favorite of CP, so we love seeing those out in HarCo make this guy accountable. Perhaps Trump and awful Republican policy can unite disparate Americans after all.

Correction: An earlier version of this article inaccurately there had been 290 overdose deaths in the city last year. According to figures collected by the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, there were 342 heroin overdose deaths in the city from January-September 2016. There were 481 drug and alcohol-related overdose deaths in the city during that same period. Fourth quarter figures for the rest of the year have not yet been released. City Paper regrets the error.