City Council Members Push For Independent Study On Water Rate Increase

Councilman Zeke Cohen and other advocates held a conference Tuesday to ask the DPW to produce an independent rate study before raising water bills.

“This is a moment for transparency in Baltimore,” said Cohen. “The public deserves to know why our bills are increasing and where our tax dollars will go.”

DPW announced that rates would go up by 30 percent between fiscal year 2020 and 2022 and is scheduled to ask the Board of Estimates for the rate increase Wednesday.

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Councilman Cohen Releases Statement

Councilman Zeke Cohen, a member of the Executive Appointments Committee, released a statement after the hearing, saying in part: "I expect any nominee for this position to consistently engage with the public, present a vision for their leadership and the city and be transparent about their background file and resume. Unfortunately, these qualities have not been reflected in Mr. Fitzgerald's candidacy."

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This process was embarrassing for this city

Councilman Zeke Cohen also wondered if Fitzgerald was the right person for the job.

"This process was embarrassing for this city. We are at a moment where we are facing a crisis of violence and a crisis of confidence," Cohen said. "We need the best in the world to come here to Baltimore. We need a process that is clear and transparent. We need someone who is going to come here with a vision, a plan and an ability to both reduce violence and successfully implement our consent decree."

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Baltimore police commissioner nominee withdraws

Going forward, council members and activists said Monday that Pugh needed to guarantee greater transparency. Councilman Zeke Cohen called for a fresh start.

“My strong recommendation is that we start over with a transparent, community-based process where the voices of people who sat through that hearing are heard, where council members have access to the full vetting file of the candidate and we can get the very best person in the world to come serve our great city,” said Cohen, who sits on the council committee that weighs mayoral appointments.

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Zeke Cohen described a testy interaction when he asked Fitzgerald on Tuesday

But a third council member — Zeke Cohen — announced Wednesday that he would not be able to vote in favor of Fitzgerald unless he can review the background investigation report.

Cohen described a testy interaction when he asked Fitzgerald on Tuesday to share the file.

Cohen said Fitzgerald told him to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for any material that is publicly available and expressed frustration that the process in Baltimore was “more intensive than he had experienced before.”

“Baltimore is a tough town and anyone who wants to lead the police department needs to understand that our city is at a moment where people are demanding transparency and engagement,” Cohen said.

“He didn’t seem angry. He just seemed a little frustrated that I was asking for what I think he perceived to be personal information.”

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Baltimore leaders band together as anti-Semitism surges

The murder of 11 Jews in a synagogue on the Sabbath is the devastating consequence of our decaying national discourse. Hate speech is wielded by profiteers and politicians whose goal is to divide, devalue and dehumanize. They conjure mythical hordes of black, brown and Middle Eastern “barbarians” invading our southern border. The dog-whistle has become a bullhorn. And people like the Pittsburgh shooter are listening.

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