Changes coming for BCFD firefighters — the mayor’s budget calls for longer hours, and a loss of 100 to 300 positions due to attrition (depending on which media source you read, the number changes). This equates to longer hours for what amounts to less pay. Unfair and unwarranted, how about giving other city employees the same rotten deal, not just the ones who are charged with saving lives?
A sad commentary on public housing in Baltimore.
More suspected arson fires in Detroit, firefighters “pushed to the limits”.
The fight over the city’s new casino project continues.
The Atlantic Cities examines why skyrocketing rents are actually bad for the economy.
A Maryland attorney was indicted on nine counts of wire fraud, stemming from his real estate investment scheme, according to the FBI.
Speaking of fraud, Stewart Sachs, a slumlord we’ve written about several times, has now been charged with money laundering — specifically, a drug dealer’s loan payments. And they say slumlords don’t commit other crimes…
A bit of drama over at the Annapolis Housing Authority — they’re not sure whether Carl Snowden, a former city alderman, will be allowed to remain chairman of the Housing Authority’s board after he’s released from jail.
The Baltimore Brew asks whether we should house the homeless in the city’s many vacants — what do you think?
While the comments flew after this story in the Brew about liquor stores, Pennsylvania was busy working to end its stranglehold on liquor sales, while in Baltimore…we want the government to have even more control.
Good news-bad news in Cleveland: The number of vacant homes has increased, despite a decrease in foreclosures.
Milwaukee has decided to use a new strategy to beautify its vacant buildings: artistic boardups.
Good news for Detroit, too: Lead poisoning in children has dropped 70 percent, though you have to wonder — have property owners gotten better, or have more people simply left…so there are less children living in lead paint-filled homes?
Lots of fires and injuries as a result of fires this week. A sampling:
Saturday’s two-alarmer on Falkirk Road forced two people to jump for safety, according to WBAL.
Two firefighters were injured in a fire on W. North Avenue, one received first-degree burns, the other received second-degree burns. Neither were determined to be life-threatening.
BCFD also responded to a fire in a convenience store, in the 500 block of N Milton Avenue.
Despite their loyal service to the city by the rank and file, BPD and BCFD pensions are still being blamed for the City’s financial woes, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Detroit saw multiple vacant fires last Wednesday night, one neighbor says she’s had enough.
Speaking of Detroit, two children, ages 5 and 1 spent the night in a vacant home with the bodies of their murdered mothers and one other person, according to CBS News. The women were allegedly shot by one of the women’s ex-boyfriend.
Good news for one Cleveland neighborhood: 50 vacant homes in Slavic Village will be renovated for a cost of approximately $40,000 each, to be sold at a small profit. A smart strategy to redevelop a neighborhood — perhaps Baltimore should adopt a similar strategy, as $300K rowhomes in marginal neighborhoods don’t seem to be pulling in the homeowners.
Interesting opinion piece by Brent Larkin from the Cleveland Plain Dealer — the demolition of homes in empty neighborhoods is the right solution for East Cleveland.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University recently issued a report on investor activity in Atlanta. Not surprisingly, the study found that investors were buying up property in neighborhoods where poverty and vacancy rates were high, and median home values were low.
A group of Montgomery County legislators have introduced a bill that has the slumlord lobby up in arms — the bill proposes Maryland property owners who own four or more rental units should be subject to rent control. It also mandates that landlords cannot force tenants to make them the beneficiary of renters’ insurance policies. These two things are definitely worth supporting. Unfortunately, the bill is a bit of a mishmash, with other landlord-tenant issues thrown in — not sure where it will end up.
Some New York City landlords have found a way to make money off the homeless, by operating for-profit SROs/rooming houses — and needless to say, the living conditions are less than acceptable.
I’ve always been fascinated with Centralia, PA — a mostly-abandoned town situated on top of a coal fire that’s been burning for decades. WGAL has a “then and now” slideshow that’s worth a look.
How to be successful in Maryland politics: Give your campaign contributors lucrative development contracts. Just don’t get caught…
CBS Baltimore reports that a recent house fire, in which one woman was found dead in the basement, was more than just a simple house fire.
So now the Mayor wants you to pay for trash pickup? I thought property taxes paid for that, but…perhaps I was wrong. Oh, and the City is dicking around with the Fire Department again. It’s all about solving the budget crisis, I guess so we’ll have more money to give to local developers.
Speaking of the budget, how would you balance our completely out of whack budget? There’s a website for that.
Two and a half years after writing about this blighted, deserted block — it has been demolished. From yesterday’s press release:
Today’s demolition makes way for the Barclay Phase II rental community, part of a larger comprehensive revitalization plan for the Barclay/ Midway/Old Goucher (BMOG) neighborhood. The BMOG Plan includes the multi-phased redevelopment of 322 units of mixed-income housing, with market-rate and affordable homeownership and rental opportunities. The plan also includes approximately 12,000 square feet of community and retail space, an improved streetscape, a new neighborhood park and improvements to Calvert Street Park.
We’re happy to see the city moving forward on demolishing these blighted blocks, and even more happy to hear they’re planning on mixed-income housing. However, we’d like to see more mixed-income housing downtown, and in areas that are already improved. Continuing to keep the poor in far east and west neighborhoods only perpetuates the concentration of poverty in these neighborhoods, hindering any sustainable progress over the long term.
A recap of all the newsworthy links in 2012.
Early in 2012, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was grilled by the MD Legislature about the status of the city’s lead paint judgements. The city was refusing to pay, saying the judgement would bankrupt the city — a shame they didn’t think about that before allowing children to live in lead paint-filled homes.
A Federal judge sided with the City of Chicago in its fight to hold banks accountable for maintaining and securing vacant homes.
Business Insider had this to say about Baltimore’s neighborhoods — apparently some are just not worth saving. Is your neighborhood worth more to you than it is to your elected officials?
Maryland property managers got their knickers in a bunch over being asked to pay what amounts to $4 a month for lead paint insurance. Still seems cheaper than a multimillion dollar lawsuit.
Lots of articles have been written about squatters and takeovers of foreclosed and abandoned homes. This one from the Chicago Tribune, wrtten in March, is particularly good.
Also in March, WBAL suggested development along Baltimore’s waterfront could suffer due to a loss of tax breaks for developers. What were they thinking??
In Chicago, a young girl was raped at gunpoint between two vacant homes in the West Englewood neighborhood. Neighbors say the vacants are more than just a threat to property values.
Instead of paying lead paint lawsuit judgments, the city’s Housing Authority was paying for take-home cars for its employees, according to WBAL’s Jayne Miller.
Metro Dream Homes owner and founder Andrew Hamilton Williams, Jr. was sentenced for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost numerous people their homes, and bilked them out of $78 million.
Philadelphia rejoiced upon hearing that Robert Coyle, the “Millionaire Slumlord” was charged with defrauding banks of $10 million.
I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten in the past year from people who have major problems with their “rehabbed” homes, due to the fact that the “contractors” never bothered to get permits. Here’s a story from the Baltimore Sun about one such homeowner (he’s also my neighbor, and a stand-up guy.)
Another article on rehabs without permits appeared in the Baltimore Sun in April. This time, the owner was threatened with jail time. I guess since it happened in Canton, the city decided to get tough.
The Detroit Free Press did an excellent series on keeping schoolchildren safe on their route to school — something most people take for granted. Unfortunately, in some major cities — kids have an unsafe walk, passing vacant homes that are a magnet for criminal activity.
Travers and Tremayne Johnson, two brothers who were accused of setting a dog on fire, were found not guilty by a Baltimore jury.
BCFD wasn’t meeting NFPA standards for response times, according to an article by Baltimore Brew — yet the mayor and Chief Clack continued with their plans to close three Baltimore fire companies.
Detroit experienced a rash of arsons back in April — 16 fires in all, on the city’s east side.
According to a Baltimore Sun article, Builders of Hope, a North Carolina-based nonprofit chosen by Ray Lewis, was supposed to be renovating hundreds of homes in Baltimore City, near Johns Hopkins University in East Baltimore. Since then, we’ve heard nothing about the project — or the organization, except news of their ongoing dispute with the City of New Orleans and two contractors, allegedly for nonpayment of invoices.
April and May brought the mayor’s proposed cuts to the fire department — including the removal of truck and engine companies that serve our city’s poorest neighborhoods. Thankfully, one truck company was spared the axe. Two were not so lucky.
Speaking of the fire department, May saw quite a few arson fires — including more than 12 in Youngstown, OH.
Firefighters in Huntington, WV let a vacant home burn after being called to the same address multiple times.
And a fire in the 1100 block of Barclay Street in Baltimore may have been arson, according to this Baltimore Sun article.
And in the “It’s not just you, Baltimore” category: In June, DC City Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown was charged with mortgage fraud.
In July, the head of Baltimore’s housing authority continued to justify the agency’s refusal to pay court-ordered lead paint judgements. While Paul Graziano was busy refusing to pay these judgements, a DC man was scamming the Housing Authority of almost $1.4 million.
American Banker discussed the pros and cons of using eminent domain as a way for municipalities to get vacant homes out of the hands of banks.
Two big storms hit Baltimore City, and the mayor and fire chief still wanted to cut our fire companies. This didn’t sit will with the two IAFF Local presidents.
BCFD Chief Jim Clack received a hostile reception from IAFF members at July’s Firehouse Expo.
Habitat for Humanity and the Home Depot Foundation expanded a home renovation program for veterans.
WBAL asked if Baltimore City would pay for residents’ flooded basements, or will these residents once again get stuck with the city’s tab?
After being called to aid an injured man, a Baltimore City EMT and the patient fell through a hole in the front porch of a vacant home, into the basement.
Also in August, the Hip Hop Chicken on Hillen Road, a place where some swear you could get the best chicken ever — caught fire.
A fair housing case that dates back to 1995 was finally settled, giving some Baltimore families the right to move into safer housing.
Lots of housing-related crime happened in September. Kenneth Koehler of Baltimore pleaded guilty to wire fraud, in a scheme that left mortgage lenders holding the bag for over $1 million in debt. Six Upper Fells Point homes went into foreclosure as a result of this scam.
Lorain, Ohio used an interesting method to move vacant homes to demolition — search warrants.
Los Angeles City attorney called US Bank and Deutsche Bank “slumlords”, accused the banks of neglecting foreclosed properties.
Detroit Crime Commission tackled crime by going after large-scale slumlords, vacants, and arson.
An Ellicott City woman pleaded guilty to stealing $1.5 million in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Also in September, a series of arson fires did some major widespread damage to Detroit’s east side.
I was in Baltimore Magazine in October. Spending four days or more with a journalist is like therapy (only cheaper and more fun). I highly recommend it. I also did a Q&A with Technically Baltimore — they appeal to my data nerd side, and who doesn’t like talking about data?
Edward Ericson, Jr. from the Baltimore City Paper wrote about the debacle with the Prisoner’s Aid Association-owned properties that have been condemned, foreclosed on, or are in foreclosure. It’s definitely worth reading both articles: First Article Second Article.
The Baltimore Sun reported that former District 2 councilman Nick D’Adamo was given a cushy job as a “Special Assistant” to BCFD Chief James Clack. Hey…wasn’t Squad 11 in D’Adamo’s former district?
Speaking of dumb moves by government — Wayne County, MI (yeah that’s Detroit) is apparently got rid of its ability to investigate and prosecute arson cases. In Detroit. A city with probably more arson than any other city in the world.
Just as BCFD Chief Clack finished crowing about his impressive fire statistics in front of the City Council — five people, a grandmother and four children, were killed in a house fire. As much as people like to bandy about impressive stats and data — actions still speak louder than words.
ProPublica published their “Living Apart” series in November. The series is about fair housing in the US, and how things went terribly wrong, despite the best intentions of lawmakers on both sides of the fence. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.
Baltimore City demolished a block of vacants in West Baltimore — I hope it turns into something that benefits residents. You can see how the block looked before demolition here.
Baltimore Brew was quick to report on the community impact grant money our city gave the casino developers — money that was earmarked for poor communities like Pigtown, Sharp-Leadenhall, and Westport.
In Milwaukee, WI, foreclosed and abandoned homes continued to be a problem — yet Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker used settlement money received from a federal mortgage abuse lawsuit to balance the budget.
Want to buy that vacant foreclosure next door before it becomes a neighborhood nuisance? That may be harder than you think.
Louisville, KY created a registry of vacant homes, and a plan for what to do when owners don’t maintain them.
Foreclosed home caretakers sued a Bank of America affiliate in California, claiming the company cheated them out of overtime and wages.
As you can imagine, folks in Cleveland are tired of slumlords, too. And they had some words for an absentee slumlord who lives in Florida.
In New York, an attorney was convicted on multiple counts of mortgage fraud, but the NY Attorney General lost a few counts, despite testimony from the attorney’s employees.
An office building in downtown Baltimore will be converted to apartments — however, it looks like no affordable units are planned.
ABC2 News reports that an Owings Mills Man will be spending the next 25 years in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Even more apartments coming to downtown Baltimore, according to Steve Kilar at the Baltimore Sun. It’s unclear whether any of the buildings will include workforce housing.
A rather bizarre interview with the CEO of Wells Fargo about the economy, mortgage fraud, and board conflicts.
DSNews and CoreLogic report that mortgage fraud is on the rise again, with increased short sale fraud expected.
Howard Park is still waiting for their ShopRite Supermarket — what’s the holdup?
Interesting to see that Johns Hopkins is pledging millions of dollars to fix up the neighborhoods surrounding its Homewood campus — what about all of the lead paint-filled blighted homes owned by the Bloomberg School of Public Health near Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore?
Speaking of mortgage fraud, three people were indicted for their role in a fraud scheme that concentrated around houses in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood.
PG County has seen its fair share of mortgage fraud, too.
Brighter days ahead for one Detroit neighborhood — thanks to the residents who live there.
While steel shutters might be great for keeping vagrants out of vacants, they pose a challenge to firefighters and might result in greater property loss, according to Chicago Fire Department Chief of Special Operations Michael Fox.
TODAY, December 31, is the last day you can file your Maryland Homestead Tax Credit application. If your application is not postmarked by today, you will not receive the credit — file now!
Maryland home values fell 7% in 2012, according to this article in the Baltimore Sun.
Bittersweet news — Truck Company 10 in Sandtown-Winchester is to remain open until October of this year — no news as to the fate of Truck Company 15 and Squad 11.
Truck Company 10 primarily serves the following neigborhoods (and serves as backup all over the city when neighborhood trucks are on another call):
Allendale, Beechfield, Booth Boyd, Carroll-South Hilton, Dickeyville, Edmonson Village, Fairmount, Franklintown, Gwynns Falls, Hunting Ridge, Irvington, Mill Hill, Morrell Park, Mount Holly, Oaklee, Rognel Heights, Rosemont, Saint Agnes, St. Josephs, Shipley Hill, Ten Hills, Tremont, Uplands, Violetteville, Wakefield, Walbrook, West Hills, Westgate, Winchester, Yale Heights
Please continue to call, email, and fax Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and BCFD Chief James Clack, and let them know you’re opposed to any cuts to fire department companies!
If you live in one of the following neighborhoods served by Truck 15 or Squad 11, your voice is needed!
Berea-Clifton, Greenmount East, Greenmount West, Hopkins Middle East, Madison, Monument Street, Biddle Street, Druid Heights, Reservior Hill, South Clifton Park, Orangeville, Oldtown, Oliver, Broadway East, Darley Park, Johnston Square, Dunbar Broadway, Barclay
Baltimore Highlands, Butchers Hill, Broening Manor, Ellwood Park, Graceland Park, Jonestown, Canton, Fells Point, Greektown, Little Italy, Brewers Hill, Butchers Hill, Hopkins Bayview Campus, Federal Hill, Dundalk and Holabird, Patterson Park, Kresson, McElderry Park, Meford, Odonnell Heights, Saint Helena, Upper Fells Point, Washington Hill, Orangeville
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Phone: (410) 396-3835
Fax: (410) 576-9425
James S. Clack, Chief
Baltimore City Fire Department
Phone: (410) 396-3083
Fax: (410) 625-2699
Now the closures have been postponed until July 9. Wouldn’t this lead one to believe someone’s not sure of their unwise decision to close them in the first place?
Go here to get contact info for Chief James Clack and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and let them know we need our fire department, intact and fully funded!
Also, tune in to the Marc Steiner show on WEAA 88.9 FM for a discussion with Chief Clack about the closures — he’ll be joined by Mark Reutter from the Baltimore Brew, and Councilman “Pistol” Pete Welch (District 9), who voted for the closures.