Friday, January 25, 2008

Does life imitate art?

I've been reading the Baltimore Sun a lot lately, and several times I've been struck by events in life that are analogous to events on "The Wire."

The first thing I noticed was that there are suspicions that the real Baltimore is juking the stats. The rate of violent crime is on the decline in Baltimore, while the murder rate is again on the rise (it has fallen every year since 1999, but spiked again in 2007). That's interesting, right? Public officials are quick to remind the public that most murders are perpetrated by young black men on other black men, the vast majority of whom are involved in the illegal drug trade. They allay the fears of the taxpayers by reinforcing the idea that some people's lives matter and some don't.

David Simon says Carcetti is fictional, but he may as well be Martin O’Malley. They look alike, they sound alike, and they are the golden boys of Maryland politics. They both have black female heads of city council. They even pull the same political maneuvers. Carcetti demanded that the bodies in the vacants be found before January, so he could blame those murders on Royce’s administration. When O’Malley took office in 1999, he commissioned an audit of that year’s crime statistics. Whereas Kurt Schmoke (the black incumbent who is secretly pro-drug legalization, just like Royce) had juked the stats to make 1999 look like the safest year in decades, O’Malley turned the statistics upside down (his own version of juking the stats). Whereas crimes were being classified as lesser, technically nonviolent offenses, O’Malley’s administration retroactively changed them, making 1999 the most violent year in Baltimore in twenty years. Of course afterwards, he could continue juking the stats just like Schmoke did to make it look like the rate of violent crime was going down. In 2006 O’Malley had the audacity to announce, in a city with a murder rate 7 times that of New York City, that he had been responsible for lowering the rate of violent crime by 40%. Are you fucking kidding me?

On to Wire parallel number two: the city is selling things at half price to developers, essentially robbing tax payers while rewarding developers who have made political contributions. Yesterday the Sun reported that a developer called "Fells Point Station" has purchased a long-vacant police station at 1661 Bank Street for $584,000, well under the building's appraised value of $1 million. While I doubt this is the first instance of this actually occurring, this is the first incident that has become widely publicized. Although the Sun's article on this was critical of the city government's actions, there was one bit that was confusing enough to some people to shut them up. The article lists the appraised value of the building at $1 million and then indicates that thousands of dollars of work will have to go into clearing out asbestos, lead paint, and other hazards. In the comments after this article, many people said it was OK to sell at that price because of the work that needed to be done. But what people don't seem to understand is that those things were factored into the $1 million appraised value. The city was robbed of $416,000. Why?

Because Daniel P. Henson (former city housing commissioner) and A. Rod Womack (CEO of CIMG, a developer) comprise "Fells Point Station." Henson gave $6000 to Sheila Dixon and Martin O'Malley, among others, and Womack has given $3000 to Democrats. A little bit of digging on the part of the Sun revealed that a Catherine Fennell is also employed by CIMG. She was the city's director of development until 2000, when she was forced to step down because it came to light that she was working for the city as well as a developer who had business with her office. What. The. Fuck.

On to parallel number three: guys being shot in a liquor store. This is kind of a stretch, but I don't care. The first thing I thought about when I read the Sun this morning and saw that two men had been shot in a liquor store on North Stricker Street was the incident with Snoop and Chris shooting up the liquor store in search of Omar. Now I know that some people might think that crap like that happens all the time in Baltimore, but that is not the case. Most Baltimore shootings occur in the streets and victims are found in the streets or alleys. You rarely hear about a shooting happening in a place of business (sometimes in a house, sometimes at a party, but rarely at a store).

While I do think these are just interesting coincidences, they're interesting nonetheless.

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