Below the Fold

From the Baltimore Brew crew, a behind-the-scenes look at what we do…

Lips sealed at City Hall

Last Thursday, I sent an email to the Mayor’s Office of Communications asking for some basic responsiveness: Please return our emailed queries and phone calls about stories. Please send us the same routine emails you send to other members of the media.

Lately, more so than usual, they haven’t been.

It’s a shame because, even without their cooperation, we manage to produce balanced accounts of what goes on in Baltimore government.

Our reporting can debunk not just bland City Hall reassurances that “There’s no problem here,” but also unproven accusations that City Hall enabled indictable offenses.

Such was the case with Mark Reutter’s story Friday on the homeless services grant. (Quick history: The handling of the grant was slammed with a harsh federal audit and has resulted in taxpayers having to send nearly $4 million back to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.)

Mark’s reporting, based on the full and so far unreleased HUD report, didn’t let City Hall off the hook. The Mayor’s Office of Human Services got pretty much all of the blame in the report for multiple failures in the oversight of grant monies and activities, he explained.

Separating Fact from Fiction

But Mark noted also that, judging by the document and his additional reporting, there’s no basis for conspiracy theories that United Way, the city and unnamed non-profits had pocketed millions of dollars intended for the homeless.

One reason I’m proud of this story is that it is not one of those quickie, faux-judicious on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand treatments where everyone gets a gentle reproof and then it’s back to business as usual.

He waded into a swamp of bureaucratic jargon and came away with a plain-English analysis that was deep and nuanced. The mayor and city agencies spend large amounts of our tax dollars to hire public information officers to, ostensibly, do just that.

Separating fact from fiction, understanding what was accomplished and what went wrong – that’s good journalism.

Lucid information aimed at making local government work better – you’d think city officials would want that, too, and realize they could get more of it by answering our questions.

Lips sealed at City Hall
  • baltolady

    Almost four million dollars missing. There are no tracking mechanisms in place, no paperwork, no one responsible for the mismanagement of such a large amount of money. How does anyone know if fraud is not a factor? They/we don’t. Mayor Rawlings-Blake still insists on a ‘no audit’ policy for the City and its agencies. This situation is evidence that the federal and state government agencies that pour funds into Baltimore City coffers should be scrambling to perform audits on every $$$$. Thankfully, the Baltimore Brew is insistent and persistent in pursuit of answers from City Hall. I am grateful for all your reports on our City government and its shenanigans. Good luck getting any responses to your inquiries!

  • trueheart4life

    Bravo Fern … This administration is all smoke and mirrors and lacks any transparency!!!

  • ushanellore

    Various city and state govts have done this before–barred writers from the halls of govt. or given certain satirical and incisive writers and writer hounds the cold shoulder. There is no fig leaf that will cover what’s happened with these federal govt. grants for the homeless. They were misspent, spent on projects already in the works, they were not allocated as expected, the allocations made were not recorded, the books were never balanced, the needs of the homeless were not met–the willfulness of those who disbursed the monies ruled the day and city hall didn’t care until the feds came to bite–this fiasco was bad on every level. That is why they won’t talk to the Brew–the Brew is an incisive hound–would you want an incisive hound fleet of foot and sharp of teeth after your butt if you were SRB?

  • Tom Gregory

    There must be a reason why $BR is keeping The Brew out of the loop, which only brings more attention. Where there’s smoke there is fire.

  • Sean Tully

    I’m rather pleased with the news the Brew produces. I wish you’d do more stories more often, but for the small operation you have, you are A-OK. You present the news in an adult fashion, unlike the forever young City Paper. (I stopped reading that publication seriously 20 years ago.) As for the Mayor not replying to your inquiries, that can only mean you are making some direct hits. Keep it up.

  • The_Whimsical1

    Keep up the good work, Baltimore Brew!