Category Archives: Baltimore

Questions I Ask

After a horrific deadly crash, there’s concern that school bus drivers could be on the road with kids in a bus while the MVA is processing a license downgrade or suspension, and there’s no process to alert the driver’s employer or the school system.

The question I, as a libertarian, ask:  Could a private organization solve this problem more effectively than a government organization?

I think the answer might be ‘yes’.  Private certification, requiring the driver provide contact information for their employer, notification processes, and more stringent certification processes, could all happen, and be more effective.  With an added bonus – accountability.  I certainly expect the driver’s estate and his employer will face lawsuits, but the MVA won’t.  A private certification organization charged with this responsibility would also be accountable (making it perhaps more likely they get it right, because they have a profit motive.)

I doubt anyone will ask the question, though.  Instead the question will be ‘what law or regulation can we pass that would prevent this’, even though existing regulations should have.  No one will consider that government isn’t the solution.

 

 


Fun School Funding Facts

THE SKY IS FALLING!

Well, if you listen to some city residents, and lots of city school administrators, that’s what you’re hearing about the Evil Republican Governor’s budget with respect to state funding for city schools.

The Baltimore Sun does a nice job explaining why there is a $35 Million reduction.  Fact is, it’s not because of The Evil Republican, it’s due to a formula that is more than a decade old. One, most likely, approved by the Democrats who control politics in Maryland.

Anyway, we’re hearing that this $35 Million cut is a catastrophe.  That students won’t have books, that 400 teachers will lose their jobs, that crumbling schools will be unsafe.  Having been a resident of Baltimore City, albeit one without children, I paid attention to the city schools, paid attention to the complete lack of accountability in leadership.  Watched as they celebrated a 60% graduation rate.  Watched as they lost millions of dollars.

Now, I’m a resident of Baltimore County, and I pay more attention to things here.  I compare, and I contrast.  You should, too.  After hearing the uproar and panic about the funding cuts, I decided to spend a little time on my own.  In about a half an hour, using search terms like ‘Baltimore City School Budget’ and Baltimore County School Budget’, and doing some math on a pad of paper, I discovered some fun facts.

  • $35 Million represents 2.6% of the entire city school budget for 2014 (I could not find a 2015 budget).  It represents a 3.5% reduction in state funds.  I would suggest that if a reduction of 2.6% is a catastrophe, maybe you need to look at the leaders of the school system, but that’s me and my corporate background.
  • The 2014 City School budget was $1,323,228,827
  • The 2015 Baltimore County School budget is $1,561,487,499.  That represents about a 6% reduction from 2014.
  • There are 110,000 students in Baltimore County, and there are 85,000 students in Baltimore City.  The Baltimore County budget is about $1,400 less per student.  While objective school success measures are difficult, they do somehow graduate 84% of students, versus 68.5% in the City. (I’ve seen a $3,000 spending gap published, but my math doesn’t agree with that number.  I suppose it may be due to how people look at capital budgets, which I have included.)
  • Baltimore City, with 25,000 fewer students, spends $30 Million more on Administration.  The County spends $1,300 per kid on Administration, the City spends $2,025.  That’s roughly $700 per child more (that’s half the difference in spending, by the way.)

The bottom line is this:  The administrators of Baltimore City Schools are proclaiming the sky is falling.  Why?  Because budget cuts put their jobs in danger.  Budget cuts make citizens do what I did, and actually look at the numbers.  They are lying when they say these cuts will have drastic effects on children, but that’s the only way to get parents upset enough to call their representatives to try to get more money.

Instead, perhaps the citizens of Baltimore should hold their elected leaders accountable.  Perhaps someone should take a look at North Avenue, and find out why they need to spend $30 Million more than their neighbors for the administration of schools serving 25,000 less kids.  Perhaps, just perhaps, some waste could be eliminated.

Anyone who thinks a 2.6% cut in funding for city schools should affect the day to day education of kids hasn’t looked at how the city schools are run.  I’m pretty sure I could find 5% in that budget in a couple of weeks.  I’d offer, but I’m not connected enough to get a job in City school administration.


Know Where You Stand

Yesterday, the President came to Baltimore to visit Fort McHenry as part of the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem.  War of 1812 and all that.

He, as one would expect, arrived via the Marine One helicopter… there’s plenty of space at Fort McHenry to land a helicopter.

This is, I think we would all agree, a normal and acceptable function of the head of state.  He visited a major celebration of an important time in the history of the United States, got to tour a historical site, and hobnob with the people there.  I’m cool with that.

At about 3-3:30PM, however, I95 southbound was closed at the Ft McHenry tunnel.  All access routes out of Baltimore to I95 Southbound were closed.  I695 Westbound from I95 (the West side inner loop) was also closed, so there was no access to I695 to go West or North from I95 all the way around to past I70.

It remained closed until after 5PM.

That’s on a Friday.  During rush hour.  As an Orioles game ended.  During a huge historic celebration bringing tourists into and around Baltimore.

The road closures were not announced until they were happening, and no ETAs for reopening were provided.

Why?

Because the President needed to attend a fundraiser for Democratic Senators, held at a private residence in Northwest Baltimore.  A house owned by a wealthy hedge fund manager, and a fundraiser that cost tens of thousands of dollars to attend.  (I’m thinking everyone there was probably in the 1%).

The result?  Tens of thousands of commuters were stuck.  Downtown Baltimore was absolutely gridlocked for hours.  Since there were no alternate routes, and overpasses along His travel route were also closed, there was no where to go, and no one knew what time it would end.

I understand the security needs of the President.  While I think it’s overkill to shut down an interstate so He can use it, I get it.  I understand why the closures aren’t announced, and why the timing isn’t shared with the public  What I don’t understand is how we got to the point that we simply accept the President can shut down a city for a couple of hours during rush hour to go to a fundraiser.  How much did that fundraiser cost the area in lost productivity?  Frustration?  Parents getting home to their kids?  I would argue it’s thousands of hours, and in the millions of dollars.

Here’s what it cost me, just as an example: Continue reading


Wit and Wisdom Review

My non professional opinion of my experience at Wit and Wisdom was fair.  I lean towards disappointment, only because I had heard so many good things.  Perhaps we caught them on an off night.  Perhaps people are raving about the happy hour (which did look good).  Perhaps people who rave about it haven’t experienced some of the really good places around Baltimore.

This isn’t to say it’s bad – it’s not.  It’s good.

Ambiance:

The space is really cool, modern, properly lit, and it seems every seat in the restaurant and bar has a great view of the inner harbor.  The hotel itself (lobby, valet) is also very nice, and hotel service is outstanding.

Service:

Outstanding.  Our waiter and the sommelier were attentive, intelligent, and engaging, without being pretentious or overbearing.  Our waiter knew when he was over his head on a wine recommendation (which is a really good trait in a waiter – far too many think they know all things.)  He gave the wine recommendation a shot, missed, then went and not only found the expert, but prepared her, so she came to the table already carrying other wine options for us.  The sommelier was very knowledgeable (while I’m not a wine expert, you can’t fool me that you are if you aren’t), communicated well, and clearly enjoyed getting it right, giving us options, giving just the right amount of education, and enhancing our experience.  Very well done.  These folks have the front of the house right, and lots of restaurants should be spending time here watching how it should be done.

Food:

Here’s the rub:  I really wanted to love it.  But I didn’t.  We had lobster corn dogs and caesar salads (that they split without some stupid up charge), J had monkfish poached in duck fat, I had a rib eye.  Everything was fine.  But that’s it – fine.  We were expecting to be blown away by something, and we just weren’t.  Nothing was bad, and certainly everything was prepared as we expected.  It’s just that you can get better, more creative food without paying rent to the Four Seasons.  Much better.  If you want a steak, Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s, Sullivan’s, even Flemming’s are all going to do it as well or better, and they aren’t going to charge you that much more, if at all.  (And they aren’t slouches when it comes to service, either).  For creative dishes, Alchemy, The Food Market, Jack’s Bistro, Fork and Wrench are all doing interesting things with excellent results for much lower prices.  And to make sure I don’t leave out some comparably priced places that are in the same area, given a choice I’ll give Chingale, Pazo, even Roy’s higher food marks.

Baltimore is a competitive food town, I’m not mentioning a lot of places that Wit and Wisdom needs to equal or best to get us to return over and over again.  We’ll probably give it another go and give the chef’s tasting menu a shot, or perhaps for happy hour tapas.  But for now, I wouldn’t recommend them when there are so many other choices.

 


Honesty

They finally admit they believe you are too stupid to make your own choices.

We regulate all sorts of things because the general public is not smart enough to know when they’re about to be fleeced

– Sen. Delores G. Kelley (Democrat – Baltimore County), who is much smarter than you are.  Just ask her.


Superstar

Mayor SRB is apparently running for re-election, and she shares a little snark with the Baltimore Brew.

That the Democratic party continues to trot her out on the national news shows is evidence the party is in deep trouble.  There’s an excellent administrator right up I83 in Kevin Kamenetz, who runs a much more politically diverse county, who runs a county without huge budget issues, and who shares the vast majority of political views as SRB.  But we never see him on TV.

By the way, Ms. Mayor:  if you want to move on to a higher office, you need to work on your skills with the media.  


Serious Questions

Dear Stephanie (I feel like we’re on a first name basis),

You wrote an editorial published in the Baltimore Sun on February 24 where you claim Republicans only offer criticisms, Democrats offer solutions.

Democrats have had complete control of Baltimore City government since 1967.

Do you consider the results in Baltimore City the results of effective solutions?  Or did Democrats just misunderstand the problem, and provide solutions, but the wrong ones?

Do you consider a 68% graduation rate a success?  Why is the rate so much higher in Baltimore County?  Why, after 50 years of complete Democratic control and policymaking, is the graduation rate so much lower than the county, where there is not full implementation of Democratic ‘solutions’?

Democrats have had 50 years, I don’t understand how there could possibly still be problems after all these ‘solutions’.

Help me understand.  And do it without blaming Republicans.

 


Baltimore Crime Solution

There’s been a lot of talk recently about crime in Baltimore.  People are upset.  Politicians are attending community meetings.  There is hand wringing.

But I haven’t seen a real solution.

There are two:

First, end the war on drugs.  The majority of violent crime in Baltimore, and certainly the majority of murders, are related to the war on drugs.

Second, and more (if you can believe it) complicated, the citizens need to take back the streets.  Criminals need to be afraid.  They need to be unsure if someone is going to fight back, or hurt them, or call the cops, or testify.  The single most important thing the people can do:  carry a firearm.  Quit waiting for the courts to fix the issues in the state legislature, quit being afraid of what the police might do.  How much chance is there, really, that a Baltimore city police officer will engage you, a law-abiding citizen of Canton, search you, and find your concealed handgun?  No one will know until you have to use it.  I think it’s worth the risk.

If you don’t, carry mace, or pepper spray, or a cattle prod; it doesn’t matter to me.  Engage the criminals, and win the fight.  Send them home limping, hurt, scarred, and they will think twice next time.  Yes, there’s risk; at some point you need to assume that risk, or let them win.

Up until a few years ago, you never even saw a police car in Little Italy.  No crime.  Why?  Because if you broke into a car there and got caught they didn’t call the police.  Because people were watching, and more importantly, people were ready to take action.

These are your streets.  Act like it.

 


A National Discussion

Two people were murdered in a mall in Columbia, MD, and the killer then shot himself.  A horrible tragedy, certainly a frightening event, and an example of senseless violence. We will probably learn more over the coming days about the three, my guess is this wasn’t random, that the killer targeted his victims for some reason.

Since January 1, there have been 19 homicides in Baltimore, and nearly 20 additional shootings that were not fatal.

Only one of these leads talking heads and politicians to proclaim we need to have a National Discussion.  A discussion about guns, violence, mental health, safety, domestic violence, and/or any number of other things.  But there’s no need for a discussion about the Baltimore murder rate in January.

Why?

Is it because no one wants a discussion about the failure of the welfare state, the failure of the drug war, the results of ongoing institutional poverty, the effects of a high rate of unwed/teen pregnancy, the dropout rate in Baltimore City schools, or is it not the narrative any of the talking heads want associated with politicians in Maryland?

Or do the dead people in Baltimore just not matter?


Why the Baltimore Sun has No Credibility

The TV critic can’t even hide his bias.

Sinclair’s conservative orientation is no secret. The company has long backed conservative candidates and causes.

And, as a result, Sinclair management does do some stuff that might be considered, well, hinky.

How on Earth did this get past an editor?  And how can we possibly take anything else he says seriously when he says this:

The question is whether its newly-acquired Washington muscle is going to tempt management into surrendering to its worst ideological tendencies — letting politics trump its journalism.

Well, thank goodness The Sun is looking out for that!

 


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