Those were among the high- and lowlights of 2013, as viewed from these parts.
It was a year that saw Baltimore’s homicide rate resume an upward trajectory, and one in which the last large, unbuilt swath of the city’s harborfront cleared hurdles toward development. It was a particularly busy year legislatively in Annapolis, while many national stories — from the Obamacare rollout to national security revelations — played out locally as well.
Maryland remained true to its blue cast in 2013. Minutes into the new year, same-sex couples took advantage of the state’s new marriage equality law, which took effect on Jan. 1, to tie the knot at venues such as Baltimore City Hall. There, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, having just counted down the new year at the Inner Harbor, officiated the weddings of seven couples.
Even though other states and the federal government would fail in their attempts at stricter gun control in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, Maryland enacted one of the country’s most far-reaching measures, banning the sale of assault-style weapons, requiring fingerprints and a license to buy handguns, limiting the size of magazines and barring more people with mental illnesses from purchasing firearms.
The General Assembly also abolished the death penalty, replacing it with life without parole and making Maryland the 18th state to ban executions. And Maryland became the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana, authorizing doctors at academic medical centers to dispense it.
In Baltimore, the error-prone speed camera program was turned over to new contractor, Brekford Corp., at the beginning of the year. But despite new cameras being installed, inaccuracies continued and the program was taken offline in April. By the end of the year, the city decided to pay $600,000 to end its contract with Brekford Corp.
With its high concentration of federal workers and government contractors, Maryland was particularly hard hit by Washington’s seemingly never-ending budget battles, including the mandatory sequestration cuts and the 16-day government shutdown in October.
The race to replace the term-limited Gov. Martin O’Malley began in earnest, as Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler battled for the Democratic nomination along with Del. Heather Mizeur, who became the first openly gay candidate for the office.
Gansler’s campaign was beset with gaffes — he was caught on tape saying Brown, who is black, was running on his race; state troopers on his protective detail said he made them speed and drive dangerously, and photos emerged of him at his son’s raucous Senior Week beach party.
While Brown had a smoother year on the campaign trail, 2013 ended with him increasingly called to answer for the state’s glitch-filled rollout of its health care exchange.
On the Republican side, Harford County Executive David Craig, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar launched campaigns, and Larry Hogan, chairman of the conservative activist group Change Maryland, said he would announce at the beginning of next year.
Meanwhile, O’Malley continued raising his national profile, laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2016.
Even before the first vote was cast, though, one loser is apparent: the Baltimore area, which for the first time would not be represented by a gubernatorial candidate or running mate.
Annapolis’ mayoral election had to go through marathon counting sessions of provisional and absentee ballots before Republican challenger Mike Pantelides emerged victorious over Democrat Josh Cohen by just 59 votes out of nearly 8,000 cast.
Anne Arundel County as a whole had new leadership as well, with Laura Neuman appointed county executive to replace John R. Leopold, who was found guilty of misconduct for making public employees perform personal and political tasks for him. Meanwhile, County Councilman Daryl Jones returned to his seat after a five-month federal prison term for failing to file tax returns; and State Del. Don Dwyer was sentenced to 60 days, to be served over weekends, for impaired-boating and –driving incidents.
It was Baltimore Police Commisisoner Anthony W. Batts’ first full year on the job, and a trying one: A gunfire-filled Memorial Day weekend led to a violent summer, followed by a 30-day stretch in which the city averaged almost a killing a day. The year 2011, when Baltimore finally dropped its murder rate to below 200, seemed very long ago.
Meanwhile, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young called Batts on the carpet for a long delay in getting a $285,000 consultant’s strategic plan for the department and what he called staffing shortages and inefficient deployments.
In February, a police instructor shot and critically injured a trainee after mistakenly firing his service gun rather than a “simunitions” pistol. The incident led to a shake-up in leadership of the police academy, and the instructor, William S. Kern, was found guilty of reckless endangerment but not guilty of a more serious assault charge.
City officials also contended with growing questions over in-custody deaths such as that of Tyrone West, who died after an altercation with police during a traffic stop. Family, activists and eventually city council members questioned delays in releasing the autopsy report and some expressed a fear that, as in a previous case, the State’s Attorney would not prosecute officers in the death.
An undercover federal agent in Maryland helped authorities break an online drug marketplace known as Silk Road by posing as a high-level smuggler. The Silk Road head allegedly asked the agent to kill one of his employees, who had recently been arrested, to prevent him from assisting authorities.
But perhaps the most explosive crime story of the year was the federal indictment of 25 Black Guerrilla Family gang members and correctional officials who charged with smuggling cellphones and drugs to inmates at the Baltimore City Detention Center. Leader Tavon White, who according to the indictment bragged that he made “every final call” in the jail and impregnated four guards, was among those to plead guilty over the course of the year.
The case expanded in November, when indictments were unsealed against 14 additional correctional officers — including an Army reservist serving in Afghanistan — and five other suspects.
… & PUNISHMENT
More than two dozen convicts, mostly older men who had served more than 30 years in prison, were released as a result of Maryland Court of Appeals ruling. The court found that jury instructions given before 1980 were unfair to defendants because they permitted jurors to consider not just the facts of the case but what the laws meant, allowing them to toss out such concepts as reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence.
In January, state officials finally bowed to years of opposition and decided to scrap plans for a new $73 million juvenile jail in Baltimore. Instead, the state planned to send more young offenders to treatment programs and renovate a smaller facility for violent lawbreakers.
The Supreme Court in June upheld Maryland’s DNA-collection law, enacted in 2008 to allow police to take genetic information from persons who are arrested on serious charges. Authorities consider DNA an important tool in solving crimes, but progressive and civil libertarian groups say the measure allows the government to intrude on personal privacy and maintain a database of people who have not been convicted of a crime.
There’s likely never been a year when the super-secret National Security Agency spent more time in the public eye than 2013.
In June, Edward Snowden, who grew up in Crofton and Ellicott City, was revealed as the source of leaks involving the NSA’s worldwide surveillance activities. The government contractor became an international fugitive, leaving behind girlfriend Lindsay Mills, a balletic pole-dancer who graduated from MICA, and taking asylum in Russia.
In July, after an eight-week court martial at Fort Meade, Army private Bradley E. Manning was found guilty of espionage for handing over hundreds of thousands of documents and videos to WikiLeaks. Manning later was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and announced that he was transitioning to the female gender and that his name was now Chelsea.
Despite a flurry of opposition, Baltimore approved $107 million in taxpayer assistance to the developer of Harbor Point, an upscale project near Harbor East that will include Exelon’s local headquarters, apartments, offices and parks.The development raised questions about the amount of taxpayer largesse given to private corporations at a time when other parts of the city are hurting for jobs and amenities.
Statewide, localities dealt with a new stormwater fee, dubbed by opponents as a “rain tax,” to fund efforts to reduce the amount of pollutants washing into waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay — even as Republican candidates for governor urged its repeal.
The General Assembly approved an incremental increase in the gas tax, with the first of several stages — four additional cents on top of the previous 23.5 cents per gallon — taking effect in July. The tax hadn’t been raised since 1992, and the increase was expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for road improvements and mass transit.
Meanwhile, Maryland continued to expand gambling: With casinos generating tens of millions of dollars in revenues every month, table games debuted in the state, first at the Hollywood Casino in Perryville in January and then at Maryland Live at Arundel Mills in April. In May, the state’s fourth casino opened at the Rocky Gap resort. Construction got underway on a Baltimore casino, expected to open next year, and three bidders were vying to open one in Prince George’s County.
Under new ownership, St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson still contended with the after-effects of Dr. Mark Midei, whose medical license had been revoked after allegations he unnecessarily implanted coronary stents in patients. In May, nearly 250 patients settled lawsuits against him, while in October, a jury found that Midei had violated medical standards by putting three stents in the heart of Glenn Weinberg, an executive with the Cordish Cos. But the following month, a judge declared a mistrial when jurors couldn’t agree on the amount of damages.
In February, it was revealed that a Johns Hopkins gynecologist was suspected of photographing patients during medical exams. Dr. Nikita Levy, whom many patients and nurses revered for his caring style, committed suicide in his home as he was being investigated. Lawyers negotiating a group settlement of a class-action lawsuit later said as many as 9,000 patients might have been photographed.
The state’s online health exchange had a disastrous, crash-prone rollout, paralleling the woes of its national counterpart, and documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun revealed much behind-the-scenes bickering among contractors. In December, with the exchange still foundering, executive director Rebecca Pearce resigned.
The Ravens’ magical post-season run took them to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII, where after a spooky 34-minute blackout in the Superdome, they beat the San Franscisco 49ers 34-31. The so-called Bro Bowl pitted Ravens coach John Harbaugh against his brother and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
But soon after more than 200,000 fans welcomed the Ravens home in a victory parade, the team underwent a transformation, with the iconic Ray Lewis retiring along with Matt Birk, and other players such as Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin headed to other teams. Quarterback Joe Flacco signed a $120.6 million contract that at least temporarily made him the highest paid NFL athlete. The Super Bowl champion traditionally gets to play the first game of the following NFL season at home, but due to a scheduling conflict with the Orioles, the game was moved to Denver, where the Ravens lost.
The Orioles opened their 2013 season by winning with what would become a familiar sight, a home run, a grand slam in fact, by Chris Davis. He ended with 53 homers, setting a new team record, but the Os failed to make the playoffs.
Waiting near the finish line to cheer her mother’s completion of the Boston Marathon, Towson pre-school teacher Erika Brannock was among the 260 injured in the bombing that killed three. Brannock, the last of the victims to be released from Boston hospitals, lost a leg and with a prosthetic, is walking again.
After three years of taking over downtown streets on Labor Day weekend, the Grand Prix may have run its course in Baltimore. Other events are scheduled over that weekend in 2014 and 2015, and event organizers conceded it would be hard to bring the race back after a two-year absence.
Michael Phelps, who retired after capping off a glittering Olympic career in the London 2012 Games, appeared to open the door to a comeback: In November, it was revealed that he had re-entered the drug testing pool necessary for international competition.
In May, Baltimore public schools CEO Andres Alonso, who had rattled the North Avenue headquarters, resigned after six years. Under Alonso, student achievement and graduation rates rose, but the system also was beset by fiscal and cheating scandals.
Fred Lazarus IV, Maryland Institute College of Art's president for the past 35 years, announced in April that he would retire in May 2014. Under Lazarus, MICA's enrollment more than doubled, the campus grew tenfold and the school's endowment increased by more than 25 times to $72 million. He was also a key figure behind Artscape and the Station North Arts District and helped revitalize the entire neighborhood.
In June, Baltimore Fire Chief James S. Clack said he would resign and return to his native Minnesota, ending a five-year tenure in which he clashed frequently with firefighters over budget cuts, company closings and pension and labor issues, even as fire-related deaths dropped to historic lows.
The state’s top judge, Robert M. Bell, retired as mandated by his 70th birthday in July. As a teenager, he had been the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that helped push the country toward desegregation. He was the first African-American to become chief Maryland Court of Appeals judge, and his successor similarly breaks new ground: Mary Ellen Barbera is the first female chief chief of a court that also for the first time has a majority of women filling its seven seats.
Baltimore’s business community saw some changes in high-profile executive ranks.
In March, Mayo A. Shattuck III, who for years was the area’s highest paid chief of a public company, retired from Exelon Corp., the Chicago-based energy giant that had acquired the parent of local utility Baltimore Gas and Electric in 2012. Shattuck had also been a top exec of the Alex. Brown investment firm that was sold in 1997.
And after a worldwide search, Legg Mason decided to promote within its ranks and give the CEO’s job to Joseph A. Sullivan, who had been interim CEO since Mark R. Fetting stepped down late in 2012.
It was an eventful year for renowned Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson as he exited the operating room in favor of full-time political punditry. He stepped down as Hopkins commencement speaker in the wake of outrage over his linking of homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, became a commentator on Fox News and spoke out against Obamacare as socialism and slavery.
In August, the Maryland Senate’s minority leader, E.J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican, retired to work on a master’s degree in sports management in Texas.
Other transitions of note include the resignation of Benjamin Jealous as president of NAACP, the youngest ever to lead the Baltimore-based civil rights group, and Edward C. Papenfuse, who retired after almost 40 years as state archivist.
In the most dramatic transitions, the Baltimore area marked the deaths of people who helped shape the region. Among them:
Earl Weaver, the “little genius” who led the Orioles through some of their greatest seasons; Harold A. Carter, Sr., civil rights leader and pastor of New Shiloh Baptist church; Artie Donovan, the beloved Baltimore Colt whose raspy-voiced storytelling made him a favored guest on shows like David Letterman’s; legendary political commentator Jack Germond; and Tom Clancy, the master of techno-thriller novels.
Photos by Jed Kirschbaum, Barbara Haddock Taylor, Karl Merton Ferron, Doug Kapustin, Lloyd Fox, Algerina Perna, Colby Ware, Brendan Smialowski, Amy Davis, Kevin Rector, Kenneth K. Lam, Gene Sweeney Jr., Chien-Chi Chang, Erin Cox, Jerry Jackson and Kim Hairston for the Baltimore Sun; additional photos by Gary Cameron/Retuers, Greg Flume/Getty Images and Howard County Police.
Icons by Blake Thomas, Majo Ox, Alex Fuller, Lemon Liu, Andy Fuchs and Matt Crum via The Noun Project