Below the Fold

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

Diving deep into the details

Documents Reutter reviewed for the Horseshoe Casino ground rent story.


Some of the documents that The Brew reviewed for last week’s Horseshoe Casino ground rent story.

 

“Ha ha, so not a surprise.”

“Shocking…not!!”

We get applause but also the occasional eye-roll these days for our accountability reporting – like last week’s piece about how tax cuts promised by the mayor as a selling point for Horseshoe Baltimore probably won’t happen, thanks to the casino’s lower-than-expected revenues.

We get where the “duhh” reaction comes from. There’s deep cynicism about Baltimore’s government, and some readers may feel like bad behavior and mismanagement by city officials is as predictable as the law of gravity.

But we don’t take anything for granted when we tackle these stories and go in with eyes and minds wide open.

That means hours of work to listen to all sides, attend meetings, read reams of documents, and cultivate and interview sources.

Sometimes these efforts lead to no “big” story at all. Sometimes they lead to stories where there’s an awful lot of gray.

Cautious and Careful

We wrote, for example, a half dozen stories on the inability of the city to account for $9.5 million in federal homeless services funds.

Did somebody make out like a bandit on that deal, as many suspected? Or was this a reasonably-run program tripped up by picayune federal rules, as City Hall maintained after trying to ignore the issue for months?
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“The facts occupy a middle ground of mostly well-intended homeless providers kept in the dark about the rules and regulations of the grant money until HUD forced the issue with an audit of the program,” we finally concluded.

We write what we know after good reporting. And when we don’t know it, we say that, too.

Whom does HomeServe Serve?

Likewise, with our coverage of Homeserve, whose unnerving solicitations emblazoned with the City of Baltimore seal have been hitting mailboxes all over town, warning water customers that they probably need to buy pipe insurance.

A total scam? It’s hard to say. But Brew reporter Danielle Sweeney has looked at every angle, read the fine print, turned up a history of complaints in other cities and gone around and around with the Department of Public Works about the details of this program and the public-private partnership behind it.

Her carefully-reported stories on Homeserve give residents weighing the value of purchasing it the best information out there.

Poring over the Docs

On the Horseshoe Casino ground rent story last week, we connected a lot of dots regarding what was promised to residents and what’s so far been delivered.

We reviewed a stack of documents (see photo above) and boiled down the essence of our research to tell readers how the Horseshoe’s so-far-disappointing revenues will impact their pocketbook (or not).

The story was another in our continuing series on the behind-the-scenes deals between the casino and City Hall that have led to the use of community impact grants to help out the casino with “overtime” policing and infrastructure improvements.

No one else has been covering issues like the casino or water pipe insurance (not to mention audits for city agencies, the Circulator’s financial problems, the use of Tasers by the Baltimore Police Department and “zombie” licenses at the Liquor Board and much more) with the intensity of The Brew.

We take the time for this deep-dive reporting because we believe journalism best serves the public when it acts as a fair but persistent watchdog of government, providing facts and context that educate and enlighten readers.

And if sometimes that means logging a couple of bleary-eyed hours with a stack of jargon-clogged documents or a tedious late-night meeting, that’s what we’ll do.

We just keep upping those eyeglass prescriptions and keeping well-stocked with the coffee beans . . .

 

Diving deep into the details