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Archive for the ‘jobs’ Category

In a city with some 30,000 vacant rowhouses and lots one sometimes get the feeling that we’re scuttling around an empty shell of a city that was once great. It can be a thrilling feeling, like when you’re up in Floristree with musicians making a lot of noise in an industrial building that was abandoned to the rats and termites –and now has been reclaimed by young, energetic artists with a passion to carve out a vibrant arts culture. Mostly it’s depressing and creepy to wander a block away from home and find rows of unwanted houses and tarred lots with weeds poking up through the cracks. Because usually, you only have to walk a couple blocks before you find one that looks like this.

The city looks ready to tackle the vacants with some new legislation slapping fines on negligent landlords. In the meantime, creative Charm City citizens like the H&H building artists become inspired by the richness of Baltimore history. Using urban life as a muse, they have taken to empty walls, lots, buildings and trails to tell stories. Here are several neat projects we’ve noted in the past couple of days.

Baltimore Love ProjectDuring the 25th annual Sowebo Arts Festival this past Sunday, MICA graduate and longtime Baltimore resident Michael Owen was busy on a ladder painting four silhouetted hands that spell LOVE onto a wall opposite Hollins Market. The mural is to be one of 20–two are up elsewhere in Baltimore–in Charm City to inspire acts of kindness and love between residents. Some say it’s cheesy, but we loved the mural’s simple, graphic appeal, which is markedly different than the colorful back-to-Africa motifs on most city murals. In fact, we bought a t-shirt to support future mural-paintings (you could say, “I put in for the right pinky tip”). (more…)

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Pouring on Confusion

Up against a looming $121 million budget gap, Baltimore’s City Council is  again considering a 4 cents levy on beverages. Beverages included in this tax are soda, water, alcohol and other beverages with less than 10% fruit juice. But this one is facing hefty opposition (er, no pun intended). The alternatives are an increase in property taxes, laying off police offers and closing city pools just as another humid, sizzling summer kicks off.

The Stop the Baltimore Beverage Tax web site bills itself as “a coalition of concerned citizens, businesses and community organizations that oppose placing a new tax on beverages on the backs of hardworking families.” What the site doesn’t say is that it is funded by the American Beverage Association, which has launched a fierce advocacy campaign to stop this from going through. (more…)

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Matt Roth for The New York TimesThe Baltimore Chop reported this morning that the New York Times “dump[ed]” on Baltimore yet again. The Gray Lady had the audacity to point out that adding a third arts district in the boarded-up Howard Street corridor is fiscally risky and may not yield immediate results–measurable by, at the very least, fewer vacant buildings.

We perked up (being a bit foggy-brained this Friday morning) at this bit of the Chop’s post:

… the New York Times is looking down its nose at us again. They seem to see Baltimore as little more than a source for so-so regional cuisine, a great inspiration for campy Broadway musicals, and a crummy baseball team for the sweeping.

This time around they’re making us out to be a bungling, artless money-pit who is stuck in the Schmoke era and wants to copy Manhattan. We really, really wish the Times would mind their own fucking business a little more, and publish these cheap, quickie drive-by stories about Baltimore a little less.

And they include links to said (sad) articles which do tend to be reported via a helicopter ride in and out of Baltimore (would a Times reporter deign to take Bolt?). However, I would argue that the Times review of that Eastern Shore-inspired Greenwich village restaurant made it sounds pretentious, bland and overpriced, which is reason for a poor review: Maryland, especially in context of Manhattan’s West Village, is none of those things. (more…)

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Martin versus Martin

Freewheeling, 100% tea party, corporate lobbyist, rainmaker, DJ — erstwhile Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich has lots of labels thrown around. What he is not: A throwaway competitor for our sometimes-soft current governor O’Malley. Now that O’Malley has a veritable challenger, he’s got to get his back up and tell his core party why they shouldn’t run someone against him on the Dem’s ticket. If I saw Mr. O’Malley today at the Downtown Athletic Club, I would not let him placidly run on the treadmill.  Here are some questions I would ask.

1. Does he really care about improving Maryland’s sagging and outdated public transportation system? Why is the Intercounty Connector is getting built (without a bike lane) while the Purple and Red Line are still faint plans on the horizon?

2. Is Maryland ever going to get tough with Eastern Shore poultry polluters whose run-off is ruining the Bay? Or is a band of law students the only group brave enough to take on this powerful state lobby?

3. Why don’t you create green jobs for Baltimore kids — build a giant city farm, like 100 Real Food Farms, train them to grow organic tomatoes for rich people– so they don’t have to become corner boys to get by?

3. Is your band still touring or what?

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Going Electric?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox / January 26, 2010)

Governor O'Malley Touring GM Plant

This week brought news of a further boost in the jobs outlook for the Baltimore region, and  especially the beleaguered manufacturing sector: General (Govment) Motors will soon manufacture electric motors at its White Marsh plant for use in battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles.  This move is expected to generate close to 200 jobs by the year 2013 and the plant will be the first of its kind in the United States.  What’s more, the company is investing some $246 million in the facility, including state funds and federal stimulus money.  For all the criticism which has been levelled at Barack Obama in the wake of his State of the Union speech earlier this week, this news presents an example of something he has done right in the past year: force the automobile companies into a paradigm shift.  If only he had been so tough with the bankers and weapons manufacturers, but that is a topic for another post.  For now, we have this to keep us warm: new figures show that US GDP grew at a rate of 5.7% in the final 2009 quarter.  Alas, the jobs outlook continues to be as bleak as the wintry scene on Park Avenue on this snowy weekend afternoon: here is a fascinating map of unemployment rates throughout the US.  For all of Baltimore’s problems, living in Maryland looks like a good deal after taking a look at that map, no?

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