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No Baltimore renaissance with gag orders still in use

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, in announcing his candidacy, stated that Baltimore is on “the cusp of a renaissance” (“Young says he’s running in 2020 to remain Baltimore mayor, believes city is ‘on the cusp of a renaissance,'” Oct. 22). Let us be clear: there can be no renaissance in Baltimore under a cloud of civil rights abuses and cover-ups. Our city must be brought fully into the light, as we cannot solve any problems that we cannot face. Nondisclosure agreements, more commonly known as gag orders, stand in direct opposition to Baltimore’s renaissance (“Baltimore City Council unanimously passes gag order ban in city settlements,” Oct. 29). They condone violence by silencing victims and survivors, allowing those in power to control the narrative. They hide crucial information from citizens and city leaders, shielding who the problem officers, city employees and officials​ ​are and how much of our tax dollars are being spent on civil rights violations, police brutality or sexual assault. The Transparency and Oversight in Claims and Litigation ordinance​ ​will allow us to see the full scope of the problem.

If Mayor Young truly wants to lead Baltimore into a renaissance, he​ ​must start with clearly and unequivocally supporting full transparency from our government. This support must include standing firm against any opposition to full transparency from the City Solicitor Andre Davis or any other city leaders. The trust and safety of Baltimore residents is not achieved without this.

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We call on Mayor Young to stand with the people of Baltimore, especially those who have been brutalized, oppressed, silenced and not believed. We call on him to stand with the City Council President Brandon Scott and the council members who unanimously passed this bill, now on the mayor’s desk. Mayor Young must show the people of Baltimore that, in the spirit of renaissance, he seeks an end to hiding the abuse and corruption by police and city officials. He must sign this bill without delay.

As the Honorable Elijah Cummings said before his passing, “When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?” We implore Mayor Jack Young to stand in the forefront, speak out and sign this bill today.

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Tawanda Jones, Gretchen Tome, Hilary Hellerbach and Brittany Oliver, Baltimore

The writers represent advocacy groups The West Coalition, Runners4Justice, and Not Without Black Women.

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