On Thursday the newly formed Baltimore Health Committee hosted a hearing on Councilmember Zeke Cohen’s Baltimore Trauma Responsive Care Act.
“The message that we the council were left with from the young people, was that we were not doing enough as a city to support their needs, and to support their well-being,” said Councilmember Cohen.
Members of the newly formed Health Committee got input on how to meet the needs of city youth during a public hearing.
City Councilman Zeke Cohen, the bill's sponsor, said this is about making sure Baltimore is a city where young people can not only survive, but thrive.
Listening to and working with the residents, DOT and City Councilman Zeke Cohen came up with the idea of the beacon.
Cohen said he was thrilled to see the project come full circle and observed that he had “lost track” of the number of accidents in the area. “This is how Baltimore gets better: government and community working side-by-side,” he said, in his address at the event.
The legislation was sponsored by Council member Zeke Cohen. “A few months ago, the City Council passed a resolution in support of [Baltimore] City Schools policy JBB,” said Cohen. “That policy was passed by the School Board of Commissioners. When we introduced that resolution, we said that we would not ask the Baltimore City Schools to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves as a city.” Cohen said this bill—making all publicly accessible, single occupancy restrooms in the City of Baltimore –gender inclusive is one step closer to fulfilling that commitment.
Zeke Cohen, the lead sponsor of the bill, says hearing of experiences like Jolicoeur’s and of many other trans Baltimoreans are part of what led him to introduce the bill.
“I think it is critically important that we, as legislators, listen to people who have been marginalized within our city,” Cohen said, “particularly our transgender and gender nonconforming communities who have often been victims of violence.”
First District City Councilman Zeke Cohen, who is co-sponsoring the new legislation, said the gender-neutral, single-stall bathroom bill is an effort to extend the same bathroom accessibility now a part of the school system to all of Baltimore. “This is about creating a more welcoming, inclusive city in our public accommodations, particularly for our transgender community and our gender non-binary community,” Cohen said.
In the aftermath, the neighborhood’s council representative, Councilman Zeke Cohen (1st District), said he and community leaders sought something to lift families’ spirits, if even for a day, and bring the neighborhood together. What they’ve come up with is a block party as unique as any in Baltimore, with a cookout, snowballs and games for the kids–and world-class orchestral musicians as the headlining entertainment.
Councilman Zeke Cohen, the bill’s sponsor, said his proposal is “about creating a more welcoming, inclusive city in our public accommodations, particularly for our trans community, our gender non-binary community—folks who would not feel welcome in either a male or female restroom.”
The resolution — introduced by councilmen Zeke Cohen, Isaac Schleifer, Robert Stokes, Sr. and Ex-officio Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young — is similar to efforts at other state legislatures and municipal governments to recognize the historic impact of systemic violence.
Councilman Zeke Cohen asked questions regarding the availability and effectiveness of school psychologists and mental health officials, calling on officials to examine whether the city’s worst schools “need more than one school psychologist” and to provide data about the current racial makeup of those officials.
“Too many of our kids … do not receive the mental health services they need,” Cohen said.
City Councilman Zeke Cohen (1st District), the sponsor of the resolution, said on the floor that he met with both a transgender teacher and student who described a climate of harassment.
Cohen said the student contemplated suicide, and told him, “Councilman, we just want to be seen.”
“This policy is a step in the right direction toward letting our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, and siblings know that they are not only seen, but loved,” Cohen said.
"I spoke to a transgender student who had been bullied so badly that they thought about taking their own life. They felt like the school system and government had ignored their pain and rendered them invisible," said Cohen.
Across Maryland, we have allowed ourselves to be divided when it comes to funding our schools. Urban versus rural. Rich versus poor. Baltimore versus everyone. This zero-sum scramble for resources leaves all of our kids at a disadvantage. Over the past few years, Maryland’s schools have fallen in nationwide rankings. Our economy lags behind neighboring states. And we are not delivering on our potential to lift our most vulnerable citizens out of poverty. We must do better.
“When you have multiple deaths from people falling into the water, that just cannot be acceptable,” said councilman Zeke Cohen
Focusing on the company’s efforts to kill the bill, Councilman Zeke Cohen says Wheelabrator is violating the lobbying law he pushed through last year by failing to register its City Hall lobbyist.
“A 30% increase over three years without any kind of study to justify it?” Councilman Zeke Cohen said today. “Every single day I hear from my constituents who are right on the margins, saying, ‘If rates go up by 30%, I don’t think I can afford to live in Baltimore any more.’”
In a statement, councilman Zeke Cohen said the “public deserves an independent evaluation that explains how the rates are set.” Similar studies have taken place in Rockville, Harford County and elsewhere before rate increases
“For the public to have faith in our water system, we need transparency and we need accountability,” First District Councilman Zeke Cohen said outside City Hall. “People need to trust that their tax dollars are going to the right place.”
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.
Councilman Zeke Cohen, one of five committee members, said he would vote “no” on Fitzgerald. Cohen said that could change if there were meaningful opportunities for the public to get to know him.
“Our community has some deep concerns about this nominee,” Cohen said. “He needs to be here.”
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."
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."
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.
Baltimore City councilman Zeke Cohen is encouraging everyone to get out and shop in Fells Point on Sunday.
This is the first year the councilman issued the "Shop Local challenge." He says its because small businesses rely on community support.
“It’s just critically important we support the people that support us and make our city so charming. I encourage everyone to bring your friends, bring your uncle, come out and get those holiday gifts,” said Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen.
Cohen said, “We can’t do this anymore. There can’t be other Devontes. We have to end the violence.”
Cohen expressed his sympathy for the family’s loss.
Zeke Cohen, a member of the executive appointments committee, announced that he wouldn’t be able to support Fitzgerald without seeing the results of the mayor’s vetting.
Cohen said he asked Fitzgerald personally to release the information, but was rebuffed and told to file a Freedom of Information request.
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.”
City Councilman Zeke Cohen, who organized the event, said that the commission would need to address concentrated poverty in Baltimore. And, he noted, you can’t talk about the poverty in Baltimore without addressing racism.