Baltimore, MD

O'Malley fumes over ACLU fees

March 28, 2002
Mayor Martin O'Malley criticized the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday, angered that the city and its housing authority must pay $1.1 million in fees related to the group's public housing discrimination lawsuit.
     The verbal barrage occurred moments before the Board of Estimates approved payment of the legal fees, which a federal judge last month ordered the city to pay.
     O'Malley railed against "elitist, liberal, arrogant lawyers," wondering aloud "how they sleep at night." He said "it makes me really sick" that the money would "enrich" lawyers rather than being spent on public housing residents. 

BNI reaches settlement in familial status complaint

October 17, 2001
A Baltimore City mother of a 5 year old child and a local fair housing organization filed suit in Federal District Court of Maryland against Park Raven Apartments Limited Partnership for violations of the Fair Housing Act. Walida Howard of Baltimore City and Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI), a private, nonprofit fair housing organization, joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit claiming discrimination on the basis of familial status. The parties have settled the matter for $24,200.
      Ms. Howard telephoned Park Raven Apartments in February 2001, requesting information on two-bedroom apartments. The leasing agent asked if Ms. Howard had children and what was the child's age. After learning that Ms. Howard had a 5 year old son, the agent stated that one unit was available on the first floor. Further, the agent stated that the practice was to place all families with children on the first floor. The leasing manager confirmed this information with Ms. Howard.
      Ms. Howard informed the employees that the practice of steering families to certain floors was illegal, but the staff stood by their policy. BNI's investigation confirmed this Park Raven Apartments policy of assigning families to certain floors or buildings.

2 men, boy, 17, charged in racially motivated fire 

August 31, 2001
Two Cecil County men were charged yesterday with federal civil rights violations, accused of setting fire to an Elkton house last month while a group of Hispanic men was inside.
     Federal authorities accused Christopher Cimorose, 33, and Murrell "Sonny" Webb, 19, of dousing the duplex home with gasoline and setting it on fire in an effort to intimidate the six Hispanic men who had rented the home a few weeks earlier.
     Three of the men were at home July 15 when a neighbor spotted the fire shortly after 10 p.m. They all escaped from the house unharmed. 

BNI sues apartments for bias against children

April 04, 2001
A Baltimore City mother of a 5-year-old child and a local fair housing organization filed suit in Federal District Court of Maryland against Park Raven Apartments Limited Partnership for violations of the Fair Housing Act. Walida Howard of Baltimore City and Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI), a private, nonprofit fair housing organization, joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit claiming discrimination on the basis of familial status.
      Ms. Howard telephoned Park Raven Apartments in February 2001, requesting information on two-bedroom apartments. The leasing agent asked if Ms. Howard had children and what was the child's age. After learning that Ms. Howard had a 5 year old son, the agent stated that one unit was available on the first floor.
      Further, the agent stated that the practice was to place all families with children on the first floor. The leasing manager confirmed this information with Ms. Howard. Ms. Howard informed the employees that the practice of steering families to certain floors was illegal, but the staff stood by their policy.
      BNI's investigation confirmed this Park Raven Apartments policy of assigning families to certain floors or buildings.

Judge to decide fight over rebel flags in cemetery

November 30, 2000
Allowing the Confederate flag tofly over the burial site of Confederate soldiers at a federally run cemetery in Maryland could be viewed as an endorsement of racial intolerance bythe U.S. government, the Justice Department argued today.
     The argument came during a hearing in U.S. District Court here in asuit brought by a Maryland man. The suit alleges that the federal government is violating constitutional rights to free speech by restrictingdisplay of the flag at Point Lookout Confederate Cemetery in St. Mary's County. The bodies of many of the several thousand Confederatesoldiers who died in a nearby prisoner-of-war camp are buried there in a mass grave.
     Point Lookout, on the tip of Southern Maryland where the Potomac River joins the Chesapeake Bay, was the site of the largest POW camp operated by either side during the Civil War in terms of the total number of prisoners who passed through during the war. More than 50,000 prisoners passed through the camp, and an estimated 4,000 of them died under abysmal conditions of disease, hunger and exposure to cold and heat.
     "This is a cemetery where Confederate dead lie," said MichaelWright, an attorney for Patrick J. Griffin III, a Montgomery County man descended from a prisoner who was held at Point Lookout. "This is theirflag." 

NAACP plans suit over voting issues

November 29, 2000
The NAACP plans to sue Florida and several of its counties over alleged voting irregularities in the state's presidential election, the organization's president said Wednesday.
      Kweisi Mfume said the nation's largest civil rights organization will seek unspecified relief in the lawsuits, which could be filed next week. The goal is to identify any irregularities and prevent them from happening again.
      The NAACP also is asking local chapters to hold hearings into possible voting irregularities in other states.
      Mfume said he already has presented the Justice Department with complaints of voting irregularities, but the NAACP has received only one telephone call in response, simply thanking him for the referral.
      "This is a strange stance from this Justice Department, which continues to get colder as it nears the end of its term," Mfume said.

Public housing strategy riles Baltimore neighbors

November 09, 2000
Isaac Neal watches his three sons play on an inner-city sidewalk and dreams of a house with a tree. "I need some more space," Neal says. "I need some more green. I need some more oxygen. . . . That's what I want for my children."
      Neal knows of such a house in Northeast Baltimore. If it were his, he'd plant Kentucky bluegrass and flowers there.
      "I'll buy a lawn mower once we are blessed to move there," says Neal, who lives in subsidized housing on a poor, troubled block.
      But some Northeast Baltimore residents say they don't want Neal and other public housing families in their midst, and they made their point loudly to city officials at a recent meeting to discuss Baltimore's planned resettlement of low-income residents into middle-class neighborhoods.
      The drama here, which has created a dilemma for Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), is also being played out in places as diverse as Dallas, Allegheny County, Pa., and Chicago as the nation dismantles its disastrous public housing high-rises in favor of integrating low-income residents into mixed-income neighborhoods.
      The strategy is designed to avoid the kind of racial and economic segregation that led the American Civil Liberties Union to file suit in 1995 against Baltimore, its public housing authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
      But turning the vision into reality, as the reaction in Northeast illustrates, can produce resistance.

NAACP ranks black-friendly banks

October 24, 2000
The NAACP urged consumers on Monday to avoid some of the nation's leading banks, saying they are not doing enough for black workers and businesses owned by blacks.
      NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said the organization's 1,700 branches and other groups should stop doing business with banks that earned poor or failing grades in the civil rights organization's first annual Banking Industry Report Card.
      The report grades banks in five categories: employment, community reinvestment, advertising and marketing, business development and charitable giving.
      The surveyed banks received an overall grade of C-minus.

NAACP urges debate questions on race issues

October 17, 2000
The NAACP, the oldest andlargest U.S. civil rights organization, said on Tuesday that it has asked the Commission onPresidential Debates to include questions with specific relevance to minorities in the final presidential debate.
     In a letter to the commission that has overseen two debates betweenDemocratic nominee Al Gore and Republican nominee George W. Bush, NAACP PresidentKweisi Mfume proposed a half dozen questions on subjects ranging from judicial nominations and police brutality to gunviolence and economic justice.
     The Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement ofColored People said the issues have not been addressed in the first two presidential debates.
      In the first two debates, moderator Jim Lehrer has determined thequestions. Tuesday's 90-minute debate at Washington University in St. Louis takes the form of a ``town hall meeting'' with the candidatesfielding questions from a citizen audience. 

NAACP: hotels' record on blacks bad

October 09, 2000
The nation's 11 major hotel chains have not kept their promises to improve business opportunities for blacks, the NAACP said Monday in urging people to avoid "underperforming" companies.
      In its fourth annual report card, the nation's largest and oldest civil rights organization gave the chains a grade of C-minus. Last year, the NAACP had said the hotel chains improved somewhat.
      NAACP President Kweisi Mfume urged people "to avoid spending dollars in failing or underperforming hotel chains."

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