University of Maryland band nixes Confederate state song, could lawmakers be next?

The University of Maryland marching band said Monday it would drop its longtime practice of playing the state song before football games.“Maryland, My Maryland” — set to the tune of the Christmas carol “O Tannenbaum” — is the latest pro-Confederacy expression to come under fire in Maryland in the wake of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., this month. The song includes nine verses that served as a bloody call to action against President Abraham Lincoln and the “northern scum.”Lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully for years to change the song, either by rewriting the lyrics or scrapping it entirely. Two years ago, the General Assembly asked the state archives to convene an advisory committee to examine the song; the panel urged lawmakers to revise or replace the song.Now the Mighty Sound of Maryland, the marching band of the state’s flagship university, has abandoned it. University spokeswoman Katie Lawson said the band decided to suspend playing the controversial tune to “evaluate if it is consistent with the values of our institution at this time.”The song is also getting renewed attention from state lawmakers, who predicted they would revisit it when the General Assembly returns to work in January.For years, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan said, complaints about the state song were seen in Annapolis as frivolous or silly. But now, she said, people are beginning to take the issue more seriously.“It is symbolic of a time in our long-ago history,” the Montgomery County Democrat said. “Calling Abraham Lincoln — one of our most revered presidents — a tyrant and a despot is absurd and offensive.“It’s time to make a change.”Kagan said she wants to eliminate the state song, then hold a contest in which Marylanders would submit ideas for new songs for lawmakers to consider.The lyrics of “Maryland, My Maryland” are drawn from an 1861 Continue Reading

Hogan, Leggett sell $3B tax break for Amazon HQ2 in Montgomery as economic boom for all of Maryland

The $3 billion in tax breaks that Gov. Larry Hogan is offering to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in Montgomery County would benefit all of Maryland, not just the affluent Washington suburb, representatives of the Republican governor told lawmakers Wednesday. “If Montgomery County wins, every corner of the state of Maryland wins, and wins significantly,” Commerce Secretary Michael Gill said. The deal being offered to the massive online retailer would be the largest economic incentive package in Maryland history. Montgomery’s bid for what the Seattle-based tech giant is calling “HQ2” beat out a Hogan-backed proposal for Baltimore, which was seen as a long shot but one with the potential for major impact in a region that has greater economic challenges. The governor shifted his focus to Montgomery County after Amazon announced in January that it was one of 20 finalists for the project. Montgomery County is the state’s most populous jurisdiction. The Amazon development is expected to bring as many as 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in corporate investment. Lawmakers did not dwell on what could have been for Baltimore, but focused on ensuring Maryland as a whole would benefit from a deal for Montgomery County. “This is $5 billion,” said Del. Nick Mosby, a Baltimore Democrat. “We have to look at it differently.” Legislation that Hogan is calling the PRIME Act — named for Amazon’s membership program — would provide incentives to any Fortune 100 company that agreed to create at least 40,000 jobs that pay an average of $100,000 a year. The proposal would provide $10 million a year out of the state’s Sunny Day business incentive fund, a state sales tax exemption for construction materials and a 10-year annual tax credit equal to 5.75 percent of each new job’s wages. Legislative analysts have said the package could cost state and local governments $6.5 billion over the next 35 Continue Reading

5 important stories you need to know from the weekend: Lake Central School Corp. mourns loss of science teacher who collapsed from heart attack. Griffith and Hammond will no longer play each other in any sports.

Lake Central School Corp. mourns loss of science teacher who collapsed from heart attack. He was training for the Chicago Marathon. SCHERERVILLE — Family, friends and the Lake County School Corp. community are mourning the unexpected loss of longtime Grimmer Middle School science teacher Dan Runyan.Runyan, 45, of Portage, died Friday — two days after he collapsed into cardiac arrest while running with a Grimmer Middle School student run club.“He died doing what he loved. He was preparing for the Chicago Marathon. He loved running with the club, and he was running on his own, too,” Runyan’s wife of 18 years, Heather, said Saturday from her Portage home. He leaves behind two children — Avery, 14, and Cole, 9.The outpouring of support from the Lake Central School Corp. community has been overwhelming, Heather Runyan said. Hundreds of “Get Well” letters poured in from students Thursday and Friday when Dan’s prognosis was unknown. Grimmer Principal John Alessia said Dan was passionate about science and sports, popular with his students and colleagues and always infused humor in his classroom lessons.“And he worked so hard to stay healthy. It was a devastating day (when we made the announcement) Friday. You don’t measure the impact until something like this happens, how much he meant to everyone here,” Alessia said. “He was a cool guy, you know, but deep down, he was probably a science geek…He was a jock, but he was a lover of science.”Dan was a longtime Science Olympiad coach and previously helped coach the football team. More recently, Dan was an assistant coach for the girls and boys track teams and volunteered with the school's run club.A healthier lifestyleDan was an inspiration to his community, having previously weighed 340 pounds and on the cusp of a diabetes diagnosis before changing his diet and exercise regime in 2011. Three years later, Dan began tearing up Continue Reading

Jeff Colyer is the next governor of Kansas. Will voters keep him?

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer sported a massive grin Wednesday morning as he sat around a table with Kansas teenagers at a high school in the Topeka suburbs. Colyer, a Johnson County plastic surgeon, had an inkling that he could get news that day that he would be the 47th governor of Kansas. He alluded to the possibility at one point, telling the students that he never intended to become governor before quickly adding “lieutenant governor” when he first set out on a career in public service. Colyer, Gov. Sam Brownback’s mild-mannered lieutenant, has spent the past six months cautiously preparing to take the reins of state government after President Donald Trump tapped Brownback to serve as ambassador at-large for international religious freedom. Even with an initial vote on Brownback’s nomination scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, Colyer was hesitant to presume that he would definitely rise to the top job. But within five hours of leaving the classroom at Silver Lake Junior-Senior High School, the U.S. Senate made it official. Colyer will be the next governor of Kansas. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Brownback 50 to 49 on Wednesday, clearing the way for his resignation within days. Colyer’s ascendance to the state’s top job comes after he spent years next to Brownback as the governor grew more unpopular and even Republican lawmakers turned against him. Colyer has less than a year to convince Kansans that he can take the state in a new direction while also navigating a Legislature that has grown hostile to his predecessor. The Republican primary for governor will take place in August, and Colyer faces a large field of opponents. He has promised a new tone for Kansas. “We want Kansans to know that they’re going to have somebody who is going to listen to them. ... I’ll be working very closely with the Legislature and a lot of folks. You’ll just see a lot of energy and a little different approach,” Colyer said. Continue Reading

Rep. Elijah Cummings hospitalized, wife Maya Rockeymoore Cummings drops out of Maryland governor race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maya Rockeymoore Cummings suspended her campaign Friday “due to personal considerations.” Later in the day, Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, her husband, announced that he has been hospitalized for the past week in the latest in a string of health setbacks. The emailed statement from the Rockeymoore Cummings campaign did not elaborate on why she dropped out of the crowded primary race for governor, and the campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The congressman’s office declined to answer a question about whether his health was related to his wife’s political decisions, or when he would return to Capitol Hill. Cummings was hospitalized Dec. 29 for what his office said was a bacterial infection in his knee. He underwent what aides called a “minor procedure” at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Aides could not say when he would be released. Cummings, 66, missed several months of work last year after complications from a minimally invasive heart surgery in mid-May. The congressman told The Baltimore Sun over the summer that an infection prolonged his recovery. Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, returned to Washington in September following his initial recovery and, while slimmer, kept a robust schedule. He spoke with The Baltimore Sun the week before the House adjourned for its Christmas break. Rockeymoore Cummings, a public policy consultant, was the last of eight Democrats running for governor to declare her candidacy and the first to drop out of the contest. In October, she gained the potentially lucrative endorsement of the national political group Emily’s List, which works to elect female candidates. Rockeymoore Cummings has worked in and around politics for decades but was a first-time candidate. Her decision to drop out of the race comes weeks before a crucial fundraising reporting deadline that will reveal how much the Democrats Continue Reading

Rockeymoore Cummings drops out of Maryland governor’s race

HANDOUT - Maya Rockeymoore Cummings announced Friday that she is suspending her gubernatorial bid in Maryland. (Rockeymoore Cummings campaign ) (Nate Pesce/Rockeymoore Cummings campaign) Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a policy consultant who is married to U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md), is dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor, citing “personal considerations.” Cummings, the second woman and the last of eight candidates to enter the crowded race, launched her campagin three months ago. “Making a positive and direct contribution to the state of Mayland and to our nation was my greatest motivating factor for stepping into the public arena,” Cummings said in a statement. “Unfortunately due to personal considerations, I am suspending my bid for governor of Maryland.” A spokesman for her campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The announcement comes just weeks before candidates must file reports on fundraising, which will provide a strong indication of how well they might fare against popular and well-financed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is seeing a second term.Rockeymoore Cummings had difficulty getting her campaign off the ground despite receiving a key endorsement from Emily’s List, a political action committee that pushes to elect Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights. Before she launched her bid, nine percent of voters in a Goucher Poll, taken in September, said they would consider voting for her. Rockeymoore Cummings has worked in politics as a staffer on Capitol Hill and for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, but was not widely known in Maryland politics. The bid for governor was her first run for public office. As a small business owner, Rockeymoore focused her campaign on addressing economic inequality. Her decision leaves just one woman, Krishanti Vignarajah, a former policy aide to Michelle Obama, remaining in the Continue Reading

University of Maryland is bringing upscale hotels, restaurants to College Park

The four-star hotel with sleek gas fireplaces and modern chandeliers where Patrick Killion and his University of Maryland colleagues gathered for happy hour recently would hardly draw a second glance in much of the Washington region. But Killion and his group were thrilled — and a bit amazed — because they were on College Park’s Route 1, a strip of the Maryland suburbs better known for college bars and fast-food joints than a place where grown-ups can chat quietly over a glass of wine. “One of the challenges of adult life at the University of Maryland is finding a place to go that feels like it’s for you and not for students,” said Killion, 43, as the rest of his group nodded in agreement. Killion and his colleagues are the very people whom university officials, Prince George’s County leaders and developers are working to impress in a coordinated effort to spruce up the Route 1 corridor, creating a place where more professionals will want to eat out, shop, enjoy cultural events and live. University officials say they want more graduates, faculty and staff members to be able to live and start research-related businesses near campus, while local officials say they want to better tap into the area’s potential to attract new jobs and make the city more livable. At the glitzy, four-month-old Hotel at the University of Maryland, the happy hour group remarked on the MilkBoy ArtHouse, a hip new restaurant and music venue down Route 1. Just beyond it, in Riverdale Park, luxury townhouses with rooftop decks are selling near a new Whole Foods. “It seems promising when you look at where College Park is,” Killion said. “There are a lot of cool things happening here.” [Whole Foods opening in Riverdale Park is sweet victory for Prince George’s] The Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue) corridor has seen gradual new development over the past five to 10 years, but it has visibly accelerated recently. In addition to Continue Reading

U.S. Dept. of Ed opens third investigation of University of Maryland’s handling of sexual misconduct on campus

The U.S. Department of Education has opened a third investigation into how the University of Maryland, College Park responds to reports of sexual violence on campus. The department confirmed Wednesday that its Office for Civil Rights initiated an investigation on Dec. 6. Two other investigations were launched earlier this year. The state’s flagship university is one of nearly 250 institutions across the country currently under investigation for possible violations of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex. “We plan to fully comply and assist in the review process,” university spokeswoman Katie Lawson said in a statement. “Our commitment to a campus free of sexual misconduct remains steadfast.” The Education Department is also looking into the handling of sexual misconduct cases by other Maryland colleges, including the Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Mount Saint Mary’s University, Saint Mary’s College of Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Colleges across the country are grappling with how to handle complaints of sexual misconduct properly. The nonprofit National Sexual Violence Resource Center has reported that one in five female students is sexually assaulted at college. The Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era guidelines on how universities should respond to reports of sexual assault under Title IX. New interim guidelines issued by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos allow schools to use a higher standard of evidence when considering sexual misconduct cases. Students at College Park have been pushing the university for years to devote more resources and attention to combat sexual violence on campus. The university’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct has struggled to find its footing since it was established in 2014. A record number of students — four — were expelled for sexual misconduct during the 2015-2016 Continue Reading

‘Brown v. Board of Education’ Didn’t End Segregation, Big Government Did

When Thurgood Marshall won a case, he would throw wild celebrations—and when he won Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, the champagne flowed like waterfalls. Sixty years ago in May, Marshall joined his NAACP colleagues to toast their success and to drink well into the night. And yet, as the evening wore on, Marshall grew increasingly sober. “I don’t want any of you to fool yourselves,” he warned the jubilant crowd. “The fight has just begun.” Marshall, as it turns out, was too optimistic. As Harvard’s Michael Klarman has documented, five years after the Court’s decision, just forty of North Carolina’s 300,000 African-American students attended integrated schools. A year later, only forty-two of Nashville’s 12,000 black students studied alongside white children. By 1964, ten years after Marshall’s victory before the Supreme Court, just one in eighty-five Southern black children attended an integrated school. The Court bears much of the blame for this. The justices of the mid-1950s came of age at a time when judges routinely struck down federal child labor laws and other progressive legislation, citing dubious theories of the Constitution. By the time they became justices, many of them were deeply skeptical of judicial action of any kind. Accordingly, the justices settled on a deeply compromised approach to integration. The Court held, a year after Brown, that integration need not be rushed, and must proceed only “with all deliberate speed.” Worse, the Court left local federal district judges, many of whom had been selected by segregationist senators, to supervise the implementation of Brown. Though Southern resistance was inevitable, this timid order emboldened segregationists. Close to a hundred members of Congress signed a “Southern Manifesto” decrying the “explosive and dangerous condition created by [Brown] and inflamed by outside meddlers.” Continue Reading

Ben Jealous Is Running for Governor of Maryland—and He Has an Inspired Agenda

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous entered the race for governor of Maryland with an honest complaint and an audacious promise. In an era when Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and Paul Ryan are working feverishly to reverse the progress of the past century, Jealous argues that progressive states are positioned to build the framework for the progress of the coming century. Decrying the failure of Republican Governor Larry Hogan and his statehouse allies to resist the new administration in Washington, Jealous declared in his announcement this week that “The current leadership has missed every opportunity to stand up to Donald Trump. They have let him trample over the progress our state strived to usher in. We have a rare opportunity right now and hidden inside of it, an obligation. We must bring people together across all lines, and make all forms of difference less important: whether it be race, class, region or religion.” In that unity, argues Jealous, there is the power not just to thwart Trump and Trumpism but to shape an alternative vision for the next American politics. Jealous faces Democratic primary competition and, if he gets the nomination, a challenging political fight with a well-financed Republican incumbent. But he enters the race with a striking résumé and an inspired agenda that is all but certain to make the Maryland contest a key measure of the national mood in 2018. With deep roots in Maryland—his parents were Baltimore educators and civil-rights activists—Jealous speaks of uniting the state around an economic- and social-justice agenda that extends from his groundbreaking work as executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (the federation of African-American community newspapers), as director of the US Human Rights Program at Amnesty International, and as the youngest president in the history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Jealous has for years earned Continue Reading