Brian Griffiths: Many key issues are local, not national

Before reading the rest of this column, log in to Facebook. Scroll the profiles of your friends who talk about politics. Make note of what they are talking about. If your Facebook friends are like those of most people, you will see a lot of the same words repeated over and over again: Trump. Russia. Health care. Hillary. Fake news. Those issues are important, to be sure. But note the common thread that you see among all of those issues: They are all national in scope. (Capital)

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August 3 // Can Baltimore go one weekend without murder?

In Baltimore, 2017 started with 26 murders in 25 days. Then it got worse. Charm City is suffering through its bloodiest year in decades, a daily drumbeat of carnage impervious to community outrage and surge police deployments. Maryland’s biggest city is now on pace to exceed 400 killings this year — in per capita terms, worse even than Chicago, which is undergoing its own season of senseless slaughter. Baltimore is a melting pot of dysfunctions, but that doesn’t easily explain the current bloodbath; after all, it was no less troubled from 2008 to 2014, when annual murders never exceeded 250. So many factors have combined to produce the homicide spree that began in 2015 — the same year riots erupted after Freddie Gray received fatal injures in police custody — that local officials often seem flummoxed in their attempts to unpack the causes. (Wash. Post)

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Another chance for Kamenetz to do the right — and politically expedient — thing

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamentz did the right thing recently in rescinding a policy that allowed a small circle of his top aides and department heads to collect lump-sum payouts ranging into the six figures when they leave county service. Now he needs to do the right thing and support a change to a county law that will do the same for him. Seven years ago, when he was a county councilman, Mr. Kamenetz voted in favor of an amendment to a pension reform bill that allows certain exceptions to the county’s prohibition against “double dipping,” or the practice of retiring from one county job, collecting a pension, being hired to a new county job, and accruing a new pension. (Balt. Sun)

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Charly Carter: Andy Harris is working against equal pay in Md.

With so much happening in the news, you may have missed that a few members of Congress, including our very own Rep. Andy Harris, are quietly working to undo all our recent gains to guarantee equal pay for equal work. Equal pay for Americans should be non-negotiable — and shouldn’t be a debate at all here in Maryland. Yet even as we just observed Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and years of efforts to close the gap, black women in Maryland make just 69 cents on the dollar compared to men. With a problem like that in a state with the 5th largest African American population in the nation, you’d think Maryland politicians would be clamoring to close the gap. (Balt. Sun)

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Police chiefs get it, even if president doesn't

Gradual change can escape attention, so even those around in past decades don't often comment on how much lower crime is now and how much safer urban areas, as a whole, have become. True, progress is never uniform. Homicides were at a record high in Annapolis last year and are spiking in Baltimore. There have been terrible incidents — in Ferguson, Missouri, in Baltimore, with the shooting of police officers in Dallas a year ago. But we don't think anyone wants to swap today's situation for that in American inner cities at the height of the crack epidemic, or for the riots of the 1960s and early 1970s, which ended with dozens killed, thousands arrested and entire neighborhoods looking as if they had been bombed out. (Capital)

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Doug Miller: Howard County TIF sacrifices taxpayer dollars

A plan to fund a 64-acre development in North Laurel with tax increment financing amounts to a sacrifice of Howard County taxpayer dollars to non-local, private interests and would discourage at least as much economic development as it is supposed to promote. The Stronach Group, which owns the nearby Laurel Park racetrack and other horse racing facilities in Maryland, has planned the project to include 127,000 square feet of retail space, 650,000 square feet of office space and 1,000 residential units. The proposal the Howard County Council is considering would have the county borrow against projected future increases in property tax revenue — resulting from the rise in property values and assessments that the planned mixed-use development is supposed to create — to pay for infrastructure the project would require, including roads, sidewalks and storm drains. (Balt. Sun)

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Do Baltimore police not realize they're being watched?

Police and prosecutors ask us not to rush to judgment about a second series of police body camera videos that raise questions about officers planting drugs during a search. Fine. But it certainly looks fishy, and it reinforces concerns raised by the Department of Justice’s report into the Baltimore police’s conduct a year ago. The public learned from the first questionable video released this summer that Baltimore’s body cameras are continually recording a short loop of footage even when they’re turned off, so that when an officer activates the camera, the device preserves the previous 30 seconds of tape, though with no sound. (Balt. Sun)

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Tom Neumark: Will LYNX improve Frederick High’s academics?

The LYNX program starts at Frederick High School in a few weeks, but based on the Board of Education’s most recent discussion and research into similar initiatives, it is difficult to see how it will be successful in improving academics. According to the latest state PARCC exam, Frederick High has a 76.1 percent failure rate in Algebra I, a 62.2 percent failure rate in Algebra II, a 59 percent failure rate in 10th-grade English, and a 69 percent failure rate in 11th-grade English. Against that disheartening backdrop, FCPS has planned to “reinvent” and “transform” the Frederick High School experience through more emphasis on internships, self-advocacy, apprenticeships, project-based learning and personalized education. (News-Post)

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