Baltimore City Power Rankings: Makayla Gilliam-Price, Artscape, Baltimore City Planning Commission, more

Makayla Gilliam-Price
(Alex Fine)

↑ Makayla Gilliam-Price

On Saturday, a protest organized by activist Makayla Gilliam-Price with assists from Baltimore Bloc, Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) Baltimore, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, and others made its way through part of Artscape and onto I-83, leading to 65 arrests. While it came at a steep cost, the protest was effective in setting a clear agenda, with organizers making two very reasonable demands: the creation of a civilian review board for police investigations and a city police budget that earmarked 10 percent for community programming. Not to mention that the protest thrust these issues in front of hundreds if not thousands of eye balls at one of the city's largest public gatherings. Hopefully Gilliam-Price and her co-organizers will keep going in the face of an unnecessarily strong response from the BPD.


↑ Friends Records

On Friday, the fiercely local record label announced a new distribution deal that would take its releases across the country and to the Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. It's a major step forward for the label, which before the deal only reached the Northeast corridor. Additionally, the new partnership that helped make the deal happen, between label co-founder Jimmy MacMillan and record industry veteran Bruce Gearhart, allows Friends to book tours—including international ones—for its artists and release albums on all formats. Best of all, the label also announced a ton of forthcoming releases, including albums by Moss of Aura, Wing Dam, Other Colors, and Ami Dang. This whole thing, really, is a big win for the entire music scene.

→ Artscape

We predicted, perhaps prematurely, that Artscape this year would be underwhelming at best on account of the lame '90s throwback musical lineup (Wyclef Jean, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) and the apparently weak programming scheduled to fit into the "Space: Explore What's Out There" theme. While the headliners were about as exciting as expected, and Bond St. District—a local act we looked forward to seeing—didn't get to perform due to fears of rain, some of the artist-created Anchor Projects and performances were actually pretty cool, even in bajillion degree heat. Also pluses: Open Space's Artist Run Art Fair, the new feature of all-local eats, and the large and diverse turnout.

→ South Baltimore Community Groups

Hailing a 30-year, $39 million "partnership" with Port Covington developer Sagamore Development as "historic," the lawyer for a coalition of community associations from Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Lakeland, Westport, and Mt. Winans told the Sun the funding "represents economic justice" for the mostly African-American neighbors of the planned $5.5 billion development. But buying off potential opponents is a time-honored practice, and the cost—less than two percent of developer Kevin Plank's current personal assets—is a small price for him. City bonding under a TIF (see above) will save him $660 million, at least.

↓ Baltimore City Planning Commission

The nine-member Baltimore Planning Commission is the kind of body government reformers say is needed to balance the power of the professional and political classes. With seven "citizen representatives," including Chairman Wilbur Cunningham, the commission should act as a check on wealthy interests who seek public advantage. But it doesn't. As it demonstrated on its July 14 meeting, where members brushed aside opponents' concerns and rushed citizen testimony before unanimously approving the Port Covington $535 million Tax Increment Financing agreement, the Planning Commission is no more than a rubber stamp. The TIF goes before the City Council on July 27.