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.
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.
“Anyone who comes to do violence, we do not want that there and people are going to be held accountable,” Zeke Cohen said.
“Our city is taking steps towards becoming more transparent and open,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Councilman Zeke Cohen, who represents Southeast Baltimore. “This legislation places Baltimore at the forefront of lobbying reform.”
The council is also set to issue a final vote on a bill from Councilman Zeke Cohen (D-District 1) to set more stringent transparency rules for lobbyists in city government. The legislation requires them to file disclosure reports twice a year (it was originally four times per year, but that mark was cut in half at an August hearing) and the city’s ethics board to post all reports online within 30 days. Lobbyists who violate the rule would face a three-year ban.
The Transparency in Lobbying Act (18-0230) was ratified on third and final reader tonight.
The bill aims to make it easier to identify what parties are lobbying City Hall officials. It also requires lobbyists to file reports of their activities twice a year rather than annually.
The Baltimore Ethics Board is required to post those reports online within 30 days, with the first reports due on or before June 1, 2019, and to potentially ban violators from lobbying in the city for three years.
At an earlier work session, bill sponsor Zeke Cohen fended off an amendment that would have expanded the definition of a lobbyist to include community activists.
The program provides summer jobs for youth in both the private and government sectors, but Cohen says unlike Youth Works, “This is Working” is not just about summer employment.
“We want to make sure the summer work experience is robust,” says Cohen. “That it is not just work a job for five-weeks but is work, but also learn.”
Introduced by 1st District Councilman Zeke Cohen, the bill would also require reports to be available to the public online within 30 days.
Bill 18-0230 would “place Baltimore on the national forefront of lobbying reform,” Cohen said, addressing an audience dominated by activists who advocate for low-income workers, the homeless, students, black women, water affordability and other causes.
“We can show that at the local level, we are listening to the citizen we serve, and not just those that can afford to hire a lawyer or a lobbyist,” Cohen said.
On Tuesday, Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen was sponsoring the Transparency in Lobbying Act to the City Council.
"What this legislation will do is make it easier for the public to know what's going on inside the halls of city hall," explained Cohen. "Specifically, it would create an online database where lobbyists would report when they have been meeting with legislators, it would create a harsher penalty for lobbyists who violate the ethics code, and it would force lobbyists to affirmatively disclose who they are and who they represent."