We Need You! Join the Bulletin Team

72-06-10 masthead
An early Bulletin masthead from June 1972

By Co-editors Jean Lee Cole and Peter Van Buren

Faithful readers of the Bulletin have no doubt witnessed our growth over the past few years. To help sustain this new, bigger, more colorful, and better Bulletin, the MRIA Executive Board seeks to expand the Bulletin production team. 

With the help of a few more neighbors, one of Baltimore’s longest continually-running neighborhood newsletters can continue to serve the community by broadcasting news and telling our stories.

We seek to fill the following roles:

Managing Editor (total time commitment: 7-10 hours per month, concentrated between the 15th and 25th of each month).

In the middle of each month, the Managing Editor sends an email reminder to the list of regular contributors soliciting submissions, and then collects and organizes submissions as they come in and distribute to the Editor and the Calendar Editor as needed. The Managing Editor works with the Editor to finalize the stories that will run in each issue and uploads draft copy into individual WordPress stories. Skills required: strong organizational skills; ability to collaborate and function as liaison between writers, editor, and MRIA leadership; proficiency with WordPress (easy to learn). Understanding of journalistic style and how to construct stories a plus.

Calendar Editor (total time commitment: 2-4 hours per month, concentrated during the last week of the month).

The Calendar Editor ensures that calendar listings (approx. 10 items per month) contain all necessary information for each event, including date, time, location, and event description. He or she will upload the events to the Bulletin website using the calendar plug-in in WordPress. 
Skills required: strong organizational skills; ability to edit for brevity, clarity, and consistency; proficiency with WordPress (easy to learn).

Business Manager (total time commitment: 10-15 hours per year, concentrated between October-January).

The Business Manager solicits renewals for sponsorship contracts in October of each year; finds new sponsors if necessary; bills all sponsors for the membership year beginning Jan. 1; and ensures that invoices have been paid. 
Skills required: organizational and people skills; knowledge of neighborhood businesses and organizations.

These new members of the production team will assist Peter and Jean, who will continue in their roles as Editor (Peter) and Production Editor (Jean). The Editor is responsible for leading the publication, conveying its general attitude and tone, and determining what content is and is not appropriate for the Bulletin. The Production Editor copyedits all articles for both style and substance, edits images for optimal effect for online publication, and updates the website menus and archives with the publication of each issue.

If you have the time and skills to contribute to the cause, email us at bhbeditormail@gmail.com.

MRIA Supports Neighborhood Charging Station for Electric Vehicles

Charging a Nissan Leaf By Bill Hamilton

The Mt. Royal Improvement Association board has tentatively endorsed plans to install two charging stations for electric vehicles at the edge of Sumpter Park, on Robert Street near Jordan Alley.

Kevin Morris, a Bolton Hill resident, told the board that the Electric Vehicle Institute (EVI), a local nonprofit, is working with the city to install stations at city-owned facilities. Chargers have already been installed throughout the Baltimore area, including Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park and Canton waterfront parks, and at Pratt branch libraries. 

Through grants and sponsorships, EVI covers the costs for installation and maintenance of the stations at no cost to the surrounding neighborhood. And Baltimore City pays for the electricity used to charge cars at the stations with no charge to the drivers.

As many as four EV ports could be accommodated at the proposed location in Bolton Hill, although MRIA proposed asking for only two at this point, with the parking spaces at the stations restricted to vehicles while actively using them. MRIA Board members voted for a general endorsement of the plan, but will revisit specifics of the issue once a letter of endorsement is submitted for final approval.

According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, 5,089 plug-in vehicles were based in the state as of three years ago. It’s not clear how many there are in the neighborhood, but Morris said a half-dozen or more people have approached him in support of installing an EV station, saying they have an electric car or plan to purchase one.

“I have long wanted an electric car, and have been researching how to make urban EV ownership feasible,” Morris said. Through his research, he discovered that “Baltimore is one of the most progressive cities in the country in terms of promoting and enabling electric vehicle ownership.” Morris hopes to buy a Tesla next year.

Locally, plug-in stations have been installed at several garages for paying parkers, including three stations in the UB-Maryland Avenue garage and two at the Fitzgerald garage, but only the first 15 minutes are free. There also are standard wall outlets available for paying parkers at the Charles Theatre garage. Other public charging locations around town include the West Baltimore MARC station, Lexington Market, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Baltimore Public Works Museum and the Hotel Indigo. MICA has several stations for faculty and staff on campus parking lots.

In addition to federal tax incentives of up to $7,500, Maryland purchasers of plug-in electric vehicles have been eligible for an excise tax credit of up to $3,000. The state also offers a $900 rebate for buying and installing wall connectors for individuals; $5,000 for businesses or state or local governments; and $7,000 for retail service station dealers. Between 2008 and December 2016, cumulative sales of electric vehicles in the U.S. totaled 570,187, representing 28.1% of the global light-duty plug-in stock. As of December 2016, the U.S. had the world’s third-largest stock of plug-in passenger cars, after China and the EU.

Preliminary Findings from Lighting Survey

By Barbie Klik and Jim Prost

Everyone knows that there are dark areas in Bolton Hill after the sun goes down. And the MRIA Safety Committee has heard about lots of reasons. Trees are obstructing the lights. There aren’t enough street lights. Neighbors don’t turn on their outside lights.  

While everyone thinks they understand the reasons, we wanted hard data. The Safety Committee developed and distributed an online survey, and now have data from some 200 residents who answered four simple questions.  

The survey is still open (see below), but we have begun sorting through the responses and wanted to report some preliminary findings. On the positive side, approximately a fifth (20%) of the respondents said their block is well lit (4 or 5 stars on survey). 

The 80% who felt their block was poorly lit were able to identify reasons why. 

By far, the most common reasons identified for inadequate lighting were not enough city street lights (63%) and lights that are obstructed (53%). Approximately 23% of the responses noted that lighting could be improved if house front lights were turned on(The survey allowed for more than one reason to be selected, so percentages total more than 100%.)

The Committee is continuing to collect results and review the data. We will then map the data to identify differences among subsections of the neighborhood, and evaluate the more than 70 detailed comments received.

We will utilize this information to formulate an action plan. We have already begun to examine potential lighting options and are starting to engage partners. For example, BGE has an innovative B-More Bright Initiative and a Smart Energy program, and the Baltimore Historic Society may be a source for grant funding.

The Committee will provide regular updates at monthly MRIA board meetings.

The survey platform is still open, so if you would like to contribute to this effort, please take a few minutes to complete it online

Bulletin Seeks New Team Members

Front Page Jan-Feb 2015 Bulletin
Front page of the Jan-Feb 2015 Bulletin–printed on paper.

The Bolton Hill Bulletin is seeking new volunteers to be part of its production team, including a new production team leader to take over for Peter Van Buren. After three years leading the Bulletin, Peter will step down in January of 2018. Both Peter and current co-editor Jean Lee Cole intend to stay on as members of the new production team, but the work has grown substantially and additional hands are needed.

In addition to a team leader, other roles include an advertising manager to coordinate the sponsors, a calendar editor to manage event postings, and assistant editors/beat reporters to produce articles for the newsletter’s sections, which include MRIA Matters, Neighborhood News, Social Justice, and Health & Safety.

Volunteers can expect about 2-5 hours work per month. People with experience or interest in writing, WordPress, photography, sales, and neighborhood journalism, are all needed; a commitment to adhere to deadlines is essential. Peter and Jean will provide training and support for the specifics of each role.

Please email your interest to bhbeditormail@gmail.com, and join the MRIA’s Communication team.

Changes in Production

Producing MRIA’s monthly newsletter has always been a group effort. Over the years, team members have changed and the roles have evolved, particularly as the Bulletin moved online in January of 2016.

In January 2015 when Judith McFadden retired as editor and Peter assumed the role, the Bulletin was printed double-sided on a single sheet of legal paper. This format allowed for copy totaling around 1,500 words per issue.

When the Bulletin moved online, tasks changed, as the WordPress platform handled the layout, while the need to print and mail disappeared. This greatly reduced both production expenses and the time between finish and delivery, while dramatically increasing the amount of information that could be covered. Issues now arrive about a day after the issue is finished, and include 11 to 15 articles with a total word count of 6000–7000, a fourfold increase.

The online formal also accommodates color graphics, photos and videos, as well as an interactive calendar with details on local events and links to much more information around the web. None of these were possible with the print Bulletin.

Margaret DeArcangelis of MRIA’s Membership Committee still makes sure each issue goes out to the most current list of members, while Jean Lee Cole stepped up as co-editor in the summer of 2015. Jean shared Peter’s vision of moving the Bulletin online; together they made the new website a reality in just 4 months.

Jean and Peter now share the responsibility for producing the Bulletin throughout the year, handling all the roles from advertising to copywriting, and from calendar management to website maintenance. They could use some help. Come join the team!

Be a Citizen in the Know: the Criminal Justice System and Community Impact

Both violent and property crime have been on the decrease over the past six months. Nevertheless, because we often see an uptick in crime as the temperature rises, the MRIA Safety Committee wants to remind readers of the role the entire community can play in the criminal justice process.

Below are major crime data (assault/robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary) for the last six months (mid-November – mid-May) for the 132 Central District post, encompassing all of Bolton Hill, parts of Reservoir Hill and some areas west of Eutaw St.

BH crime stats 11/16-5/17

What can the community do to mitigate the impact of crime? Most importantly, do what you can to avoid becoming a victim. The Safety Committee has collaborated with Midtown to offer four self-defense classes, which will be held at locations throughout Mt Vernon and Bolton Hill. Anyone can enroll for these classes.

In the instance when a crime does occur, it’s important for the community to be engaged in the process at every stage. They can elect judges and submit community impact statements; but they can also play an important role as attentive and active observers. To have the greatest impact, citizens must stay informed about a very complicated process.

Victims, of course, are at the center of any case, because it is up to them whether or not to press charges. The victim also makes certain that the charges and police reports are accurate and complete.

It is essential that victims remain engaged in the judicial process, even though doing so can be emotional and at times traumatic. Without the victim present, charges can be dismissed. As Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis reported at the May MRIA meeting, more than 50% of cases involving guns are dismissed because the victim does not show up for the trial.

Perhaps the most important thing the community can do when an arrest is made and a court date set is to encourage, support and empower the victim. Victims of crimes, as well as their representatives and witnesses, have rights that include:

  • The ability to receive crisis intervention help;
  • Notification of dates and times of court proceedings;
  • The ability to seek protection from harm or threats of harm arising out of the prosecution of the case;
  • Information about financial compensation, criminal injuries compensation, and social services available to victims and their representatives;
  • Assistance in seeking employer cooperation to minimize loss of pay or other benefits resulting from their participation in the criminal justice process;
  • Ability to address the court or submit a victim impact statement to the court.

During the preliminary hearings and the trial itself, the victim will be consulted but community impact is not considered. However, they can be called upon to offer community impact statements once a defendant has been convicted, during the sentencing process.

It is important for community members to remain engaged throughout the course of a trial in order to be able to most effectively argue the community impact during sentencing. Commissioner Davis pointed out that in gun-related arrests that resulted in a conviction and the imposition of a sentence, the sentence was suspended in 60% of the cases in Baltimore City.

Community members should also keep in mind that judges are elected officials, which gives citizens the opportunity and responsibility to assess their performance in managing the judicial process through the power of the vote.

MRIA Briefs for May

Linda with key
Linda Rittelmann receives the key to the Parish Hall from outgoing MRIA President Michael Marcus.

At MRIA’s Annual Meeting in May, President Michael Marcus announced that he was stepping down from his position, as he and his wife Victoria are moving to Sacramento, CA.

Michael ceremoniously passed the key to the Parish Hall on to Linda Rittelmann, who will assume the role of MRIA President.

In addition to Linda, the current Executive Committee consists of First Vice-President David Nyweide, Second Vice-President Kendra Parlock, Past President Steve Howard, Treasurer Barry Blumberg, Secretary Kellie Wellborn, and General Counsel Lisa Robinson.

At May’s meeting, the membership elected the slate of Board Members put forward by the nominating committee. They also heard from Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis.

MRIA Annual Membership Meeting 2017
Commissioner Davis addressing MRIA’s Annual Meeting in May.

Reminders:

MRIA Annual Meeting

Members are encouraged to attend, and all neighbors are invited to, the MRIA’s Annual Meeting. This yearly meeting replaces the regular monthly Board Meeting every May on the first Tuesday of the month, May 2.

Held in the Upper Parish Hall of Memorial Episcopal Church, come early for the social hour starting at 7:00 pm. The main meeting starts at 8 pm. Please enter the Parish Hall on the Lafayette St. side.

See this related article in May’s Bulletin for more details.

Commissioner Kevin Davis to Speak at MRIA’s May Meeting

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is the guest speaker for MRIA’s annual membership meeting on May 2.  

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis will be the guest speaker at MRIA’s Annual Membership Meeting, which will be held on the first Tuesday of the month, May 2.

The Annual Membership Meeting also features MRIA elections and a social hour at 7 pm featuring treats from local vendors including Dovecote Café, the Avenue Bakery and the Wine Source.

The business portion of the meeting will begin at 8 pm with the election of new board members and officers. 

The slate being nominated for the three-year term ending in 2020 includes Lisa Scott, Peter Van Buren, Patrick Ward, Alexis Mogul, Jessica Wyatt, Joe Palumbo, Bill Hamilton, Doug Kelso, and Marjorie Forster.

The officer nominees are: Linda Rittelmann, President; David Nyweide, First Vice President; Kendra Parlock, Second Vice President; Barry Blumberg, Treasurer; Kellie Wellborn, Secretary; Lisa Robinson, General Counsel; and Steve Howard, Past President.

MRIA business will be followed by the guest speaker for the evening, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

Please plan to attend this fun and informative evening. As usual, the meeting will be in the upper hall at Memorial Episcopal Church; enter on the Lafayette Street side.

There is no charge for the event, and all are welcome to attend, whether you are a member or not.

That said, if you’d like to join or if you have not yet renewed your MRIA membership, now is a great time to do so. You can do so online here.

Renew Your MRIA Membership Now

MRIA logoIt’s spring, which means it’s time to renew your MRIA membership. You can renew or become a new member online. It’s easy and quick.

Why become a member of the Mount Royal Improvement Association? Because MRIA helps make Bolton Hill the great place that it is.

Do you ever wonder why Bolton Hill’s parks and medians look so welcoming? It’s because generous neighbors put in a lot of personal time, energy and money to make it happen. MRIA helps pay for some of the costlier supplies that these neighbors need to keep our green spaces up to snuff.

MRIA also provides a forum to resolve conflicts within the neighborhood and also provides funds for legal aid when necessary.

We host an annual crab feast to thank the police officers and fire fighters who keep us safe and the Midtown Community Benefits District crew who keep us green and clean. 

We also support the annual summer concert—Boltonstock—that brings our neighborhood together. Plus, the Association makes small monetary contributions to other events and projects in the neighborhood that benefit all.

Last but not least, MRIA produces the Bolton Hill Bulletin each month.

Annual dues are very low—only $20 for tenants and $30 for homeowners.

Thanks to all those neighbors who are currently members, along with a special thanks for those who contribute extra funds toward their favorite projects. If you are not yet a member or have not renewed for this year, you can do so online. As a member, you will receive an email with each issue of the Bolton Hill Bulletin, MRIA’s monthly newsletter, which includes a calendar with neighborhood events as well as coverage of major MRIA initiatives, neighborhood news, and volunteer opportunities.

If you have moved into the neighborhood in 2017, you are welcome to a complimentary first-year membership. You will also receive an invitation to the annual New Neighbor Party which takes place every winter. 

If you are unsure if your membership is current, please check for your address on this list. Organized alphabetically by street name, this lists the addresses for all residents who have paid their FY 2017-18 MRIA dues as of April 29.

Questions? Email the Membership Committee at members@boltonhill.org.

Big Bucks from Bowls of Beans at Chili Dinner Fundraiser

We were stunned last year when MRIA turned an evening’s worth of chili into over $3,500 in donations for the Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School North Bay summer camp fund. At this year’s chili dinner fundraiser, we blew away last year’s totals.

This year’s event, held on April 19 at Brown Memorial church, raised a grand total $6,195.

“On behalf of the Mount Royal School, we would like to thank the MRIA and local community for your amazing support in helping us send students to North Bay Outdoor Adventure Trip again this year,” said Principal Job Grotsky. “Because of your generous support, every sixth grader wishing to go is now able to. This is over 60 students afforded the opportunity to learn about the restoration efforts to save the Chesapeake Bay.”

Principal Grotsky’s sentiments were echoed by the President of the PTO, Stacy Wells, who said “WOW, I am speechless. Amazing. Thank you.”

Photos by Powell Perng

The overwhelming success of the event, surpassing even the committee’s ambitious goal of $5,000, was the result of strong efforts of MRIA’s Churches and Schools committee members. Marjorie Forster, Barbara Francis, Patrick Francis, Hannah Logue, and Powell Perng were aided by Linda Rittelmann, Carla Witzel, Victoria Patch, and Tunji Williams on the day of the event. Andrew Parlock was the great raffle announcer.

Save-A-Lot donated chili supplies, H&S Bakery donated dozens of rolls, and Blacksauce Kitchen donated pulled chicken and four large double pans of biscuits (which went REAL fast!). Neighbors Linda Rittelman and Don Palmer each donated batches of their own world-famous chili, and Monty Howard designed the posters.

Andrew Parlock shouted down the crowd of adults and kids to raffle off the fine offerings donated by local merchants including Art of Attraction, b Bistro, Earth Treks Climbing Gym, Epitome Barber Shop, On the Hill Café, Park Café, Roland Park Driving School, and the Charles Theatre, plus watercolors from artist Martha Dougherty.

A special thanks goes to the Bolton Hill Grocery, Sutton Sandwich Shop, and MRIA for their generous monetary donations to the fund. 

Brown Memorial Presbyterian donated the space and all the dining supplies, as well as setup and cleanup help. They even helped with promotion by distributing flyers to the congregation. Many neighbors graciously supplied homemade desserts.

Neighbor Barbara Francis said, “We hope the 6th graders have a fabulous experience and send pictures. We were happy to have this opportunity to participate in the life of the school and were gratified by the outpouring of support from the community.”

Safety Committee: Camera Project

By Barbie Klik

The Bolton Hill Camera Project

Do you have a surveillance camera on your property? If so, please tell us about it.

The Mount Royal Improvement Association Safety Committee is working to identify and map private surveillance cameras in Bolton Hill. When crimes occur, surveillance footage – not just of the crime itself, but also of suspects’ movements nearby – can help police track down perpetrators.

But police don’t always know if such footage is available, and the camera owners may not know that their footage could help solve a crime and lead to an arrest. Critical footage can even be erased without the owners knowing that they have it.

MRIA’s Safety Committee wants to bridge that gap by making a centralized database of surveillance cameras that police and citizens can use to help solve crimes in our neighborhood. The information you provide will be curated by the committee and made available to law enforcement.

The strength of a community is measured by how well we work together. You may have installed a surveillance camera to watch over your own home, but it may not have occurred to you that if we pull these resources together, we can create an invaluable tool that improves our collective security – and acts as a deterrent to future crime.

If you have a surveillance camera and want to help make your neighborhood safer, please send the following details to BoltonHillCams@gmail.com:

  1. Name and property address.
  2. Location: does your camera (or cameras) face the street, rear of the home, side, or a combination?
  3. Is your camera registered with CitiWatch?
  4. May the MRIA Safety Committee or law enforcement contact you? And if so, what is your preferred method of contact?
  5. Contact information.
  6. Details about your camera or setup you care to share: make/model, location (eye level, overhead, etc.), night vision capability, range/scope of camera frame, data storage, any other pertinent details.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact MRIA Safety Committee Co-chair Richard Dunfee (dunfeer@verizon.net) or John Heltman (johnheltman@gmail.com), leader of the Camera subcommittee. Other members of the subcommittee are Patrick Francis and Linda Stirling.

Crime Statistics

Crime has declined since January, both February and March we saw a 65% and 47% decrease in serious crimes in February and March, respectively. 

Safety Committee May Crime Stats

Remember:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings.  If you see something suspicious, call 911!
  2. Keep outdoor lights on. They help everyone feel more comfortable when out on the streets.
  3. Go on a charm offensive by welcoming everyone you see in the neighborhood. Building relationships is one of the best deterrents to crime.

If you are a victim of a crime, first get to a safe location and call the police. Then, report the crime to the Bolton Hill Email Network, BHEN@Boltonhill.org. Provide specifics so others can be on the lookout.

MRIA Votes in Opposition of Arena Plan for State Center

State Center rendering
Rendering of the proposed State Center complex at Howard and MLK.

Governor Hogan recently proposed the building of an arena at the State Center site as an alternative to the proposed development that is currently under litigation. At the March MRIA Board meeting, the MRIA Board voted unanimously to oppose the arena plan. 

John Kyle, Bolton Hill resident and president of the State Center Neighborhood Alliance, briefed everyone on the current status of the State Center redevelopment before the vote. 

After more than a decade of unprecedented community, state, and developer engagement, Governor Hogan led the state Board of Public Works to cancel all contracts last December and then sued the developer. The developer responded to the lawsuit in kind. This litigation will probably take two to three years to resolve.

Meanwhile, the governor decided to move ahead with a $30,000 task force to study the site as the location for an arena. Another study from several years ago already concluded that it was an unfavorable arena location. Moreover, representatives from the surrounding neighborhoods are not included on the task force.

Objections from nearby residents are detailed in a front-page story in the April 1 edition of the Sun, as well as through numerous op-eds and letters to the editor. Many elected officials support State Center redevelopment, including City Council President Jack Young, Councilman Costello, and Mayor Pugh. 

John highlighted some key consequences if State Center redevelopment does not proceed:

  • State employee jobs could be transferred to other areas of the state.
  • Abandoned State Center buildings could sit unoccupied indefinitely.
  • Private-sector jobs that would be created by the new development would no longer generate state tax revenue.
  • The full-service grocery, which had been a proposed use for the Armory building, would not be developed.
  • Proposed transit-oriented development would be scuttled.

The State Center Alliance is now trying to bring the administration and developer back to the table. MRIA has been a longtime supporter of State Center redevelopment plans, and following John’s updates, the MRIA Board voted unanimously to oppose an arena at the State Center site.

On March 20, Councilman Costello sponsored a resolution supporting the State Center Development, which was unanimously adopted by the City Council.

What You Can Do to Help State Center Redevelopment

Sign the petition. After all this time, folks may have lost sight of the good things that will come from redevelopment. As a reminder, project developers have launched an online petition that will enable West Baltimore voice its need for a full-service grocery store and desire for redevelopment of the State Center site. Sign the petition here.

Write, call, or email Governor Hogan to encourage him to restart negotiations and implement the plan. Remind him that the plan has been 10 years in the making and has the full support of the surrounding communities. Showing widespread support will apply more pressure for the State to return to the table.

For more information and to get involved, like the State Center Neighborhood Alliance Facebook page, visit the developer’s State Center website or follow @StateCenterLLC on Twitter

Revamped Safety Committee Gets to Work

By Barbie Klik and David Nyweide

MRIA’s newly revamped Safety Committee, including representatives from the Midtown Benefits District, Prince Hall Grand Lodge, and the Lyric as well as Bolton Hill neighbors, has already been hard at work.

At their first meeting in late February, the committee reviewed several programs in need of support, and formed subcommittees to address these needs.

  • Court Watch, led by Carol Bickford and Jim Prost, will ensure community presence in court for serious cases.
  • Lighting and Crime Stats will be led by Ron Gray and Maria Wawer.
  • Personal Safety Seminars will be led by Rich Dunfee and Michelle Wirzberger and organized in partnership with MICA, police department, and Midtown.
  • Video Cameras, led by Linda Stirling, John Heltman and Patrick Francis, will create a camera survey and map to document which areas of the neighborhood are covered by private cameras.
Tree trimming March 18
The Lighting and Crime Stats subcommittee trimmed trees around street lights in March.

The Lighting & Crime Stats subcommittee will work with the City to improve lighting based on the lighting survey that was completed last yea. They will also launch a neighborhood lighting program with incentives for people to light the fronts of their homes.

In March, a group of neighborhood volunteers led by David Nyweide trimmed trees on selected streets throughout Bolton Hill. With support from both the Midtown Benefits District and Baltimore City, the group focused on trees identified in the lighting survey to improve nighttime lighting just in time for spring leafing.

As for Crime Stats, Major Jones reported at the March Board Meeting that there had been a total of 20 crime incidents this year in the the first two months vs 23 last year for the same period. Bolton Hill is part of the Central District, which is one of two city districts to see a reduction in overall crime recently.

The subcommittee reviewed the last 5 months of crime stats in our police post, which includes Bolton Hill and small sections of Reservoir Hill and Madison Park. Overall, they saw a dramatic decline in violent crimes over the last 8 weeks, as shown the graph below. 

Note: The information provided only includes arrests made within the month of the crime, and ancillary arrests are not always linked to all crimes committed by a single perpetrator. 

The Bulletin will continue to publish updates, including crime stat reports. from these subcommittees as each group evaluates and organizes efforts in these areas.

MRIA’s Safety Committee meets regularly on the last Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend and get involved. Meetings are held in different locations from month to month—see their event listing on the Bulletin calendar for more information.

Neighborhood News Briefs

The Bulletin Beefs Up 

Please welcome two new writers to the Bulletin volunteer staff: Gretta Brueck, who wrote the piece on Chainlines last month, and Claire Weber, who edited the Samaritan Community article in this month’s issue. We hope to see lots more of their work in upcoming issues.

The Bulletin could always use additional volunteers, including reporters, photographers, writers, and editors. If interested, please email us at bhbeditormail@gmail.com.

Changing MRIA’s Tax Status  

In order to allow tax-deductible contributions, MRIA is looking into changing the organization’s tax status from a 501(c)4 to a 501(c)3. We will keep membership informed on this effort.

Inaccurate Water Billing

At the March MRIA meeting, Larry Nunley from the Department of Public Works discussed recent changes to the city’s water bills. Being new to his post, Mr. Nunley wants to ensure that any concerns about water and other public works issues are addressed quickly. 

He encouraged everyone to reach out to him directly if they encounter a public works-related issue. You can either email him at Larry.Nunley@baltimorecity.gov or call his cell, 443-534-5074. (If it’s an emergency, always call 911.)

He explained that the DPW are installing new water meters that they are Wi-Fi-connected. As the new system comes online, it may initially create inaccurate bills.  He encouraged everyone to examine their bills to make sure it isn’t a duplicate. 

As billing switches from a quarterly to monthly cycle, consumers will find the new bills more transparent, as the fees for infrastructure, storm water, and the bay recovery are listed separately. Should you notice unusual charges, make an appointment with DPW to figure out whether your bill is higher than average.

Share Your Bolton Hill Story

At the March MRIA meeting, Single Carrot Theatre Artistic Director Genevieve de Mahy announced that they are creating a show called Promenade Baltimore. In June, Single Carrot will take the company on a bus to collect stories from the streets and neighborhoods of the city we all love.

She is looking for Bolton Hill residents to share and record stories to be played while the bus drives through our neighborhood. If you have a story to tell, contact our neighborhood liaison, Steven Skerritt-Davis, at swdavis80@gmail.com.

Terracotta detailing on Robert Street.
Terracotta detailing on Robert Street.

Terracotta Project

Don’t forget the Architectural Terracotta Residency project that will be happening at MICA from May 27 to June 17.

Bolton Hill residents are invited to submit photographs of historic architectural stones in or on their homes, along with stories or histories relevant to their home’s architecture. These will provide context for the artists’ consideration during the residency.

Please send photos and other submissions with your name to professor Mat Karas at mkaras@mica.edu with the subject heading “Bolton Hill Terracotta Project.”

You can also become a partner with MICA and the Bolton Hill ceramic residency by making a gift in support of the project at www.mica.edu/give or by calling 410-225-4259.

Eat a Chili Dinner to Send Kids to Camp This Summer

The MRIA Churches and Schools Committee will host its second annual Chili Dinner on Wednesday, April 19, 5-8 p.m. at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Park Avenue and Lafayette. 

Come and enjoy delicious homemade chili (meat and vegetarian available), cornbread, a bake sale and raffle.  

Tickets are only $10 per person, but you are always welcome to give more. Children 12 and under are admitted free.  

This fundraiser supports Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School’s weeklong outdoor educational program that every spring sends all sixth grade students to Northbay Adventure Camp, an environmental science and character education program in Cecil County. Last year’s event generated over $3,500 for the trip. The goal this year is $5,000.

With this year’s school budget crisis, such efforts are particularly needed. Join the tasty fun and lend your support.

Unified Purpose on Display at Town Hall Safety Meeting

Town Hall Safety Meeting
Panel addresses audience at the Town Hall Safety Meeting held last month.

By Barbie Klik, Safety Committee Chair

On February 1st, about 240 neighborhood residents and MICA students gathered to discuss how we can make Bolton Hill a safer community.

Facilitated by Reverend Grey Maggiano of Memorial Episcopal, the event was attended by Mayor Catherine Pugh, Commissioner Kevin Davis, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Councilman Eric Costello and others. The Town Hall Meeting notes includes a full list of panel guests and other details.

During the two-hour gathering, many ideas were exchanged and everyone walked away with a shared sense of purpose and strategies to make Bolton Hill safer. 

MICA President and Bolton Hill resident Sammy Hoi kicked off the event by describing how the community can engage MICA security. Hoi and MICA Security Director Marlon Byrd explained that MICA security guards, including both armed, off-duty police officers and unarmed officers, generally have four guards on neighborhood streets at all times. Although MICA guards do not have jurisdiction off of MICA property, they will assist any resident who requires assistance.

club cars
Midtown Benefit District’s new “Club Cars” will be on the streets in March.

Bolton Hill is one of the four neighborhoods covered by the Midtown Benefits District (MBD). Executive Director Michelle Wirzberger explained that they spend 21% of their budget on safety, some $250,000 annually, including 17 off-duty BPD officers who patrol the neighborhoods on a rotating basis.

MBD just received a small fleet of Club Cars to supplement its current security patrol capabilities. Used in conjunction with the Segways already in use, these cars will allow MBD officers to increase their patrol capacity by about 25%. Look for them on Bolton Hill’s streets beginning in early March.

State’s Attorney Mosby gave an impassioned description of the effects that community impact statements and community involvement can have during the criminal sentencing process. She explained that because her office has no control over sentences, community involvement at sentencing is the best way to influence the outcome for violent offenders.

State’s Attorney liaison Ashe Smith monitors the arrest and trial proceedings for violent crimes in the neighborhood and alerts the MRIA Safety Committee when sentencing is scheduled so that we can organize residents to show up. Mr. Smith reminded the audience of the importance of having victims testify at a trial, as many cases are thrown out due to a lack of witnesses.

Focusing on the juvenile justice system, Gavin Patashnik, Chief of Juvenile Justice for the State’s Attorney’s Office, outlined various diversion programs for juveniles, and encouraged the neighborhood to get involved with them.

In particular, Mr. Patashnik mentioned the excellent youth programs at Reservoir Hill’s St. Francis Neighborhood Center.  Coincidentally, the MRIA Social Action Task Force highlighted this organization, along with the Kids Safe Zone, during February’s Party with a Purpose. He also mentioned the Reading Partners mentoring program, another local organization which SATF has promoted and supported. See related article here. (See related article on St. Francis Neighborhood Center in this issue.)

Although laws limit the information that can be shared with the community regarding a specific juvenile crime, Mr. Patashnik noted that here too impact statements are effective for guiding sentencing. If the community is concerned about a crime involving a juvenile, Mr. Smith should be notified with the case number, so that he can advocate for our interests. Without such notification, the State’s Attorneys usually becomes aware of a case much later in the process due to the special rules governing the juvenile justice system.

Commissioner Davis, Chief Robinson and Major Jones of Baltimore City Police reiterated that if you see suspicious activity, call 911. Try to provide as much detail as possible, including height, hair characteristics, and clothing, especially descriptions of shirts and shoes, since a coat or sweater can be easily discarded.

Moreover, they reminded us that most crimes are based upon opportunity. Watch your surroundings and walk confidently, while avoiding the distraction of earbuds and displaying your phone as little as possible.

Police Lieutenant Samuel Hood III discussed CitiWatch, encouraging neighbors to send crime video directly to him via email to Samuel.hood@baltimorepolice.org. Include the date and location of incident, your name, address, email, phone number, description of perpetrator. Type and color of shoes are important, as are the clothes under the jacket.

The night finished with a discussion of the Community Conferencing Center by Founding Director Lauren Abramson. The group facilitates many mediation efforts, but a main focus is restorative justice. Similar to Truth and Reconciliation programs, the volunteer program brings together perpetrators, victims and both sets of families/supporters to discuss the crime and appropriate punishment. This approach has been shown to reduce recidivism and, more importantly, help victims of crime get closure. (See related article on Community Conferencing in this issue.)

The event is already producing results as more neighbors met recently to ramp up the work of the Safety Committee. Email Barbie at barbie.klik@blackrock.com if you are interested in working on this committee. And stay tuned for updates on these efforts in the Bulletin.

Safety Recommendations from MICA Security, BPD, and MRIA:

  • Keep porch lights on at night.
  • Install lights near garages, back fences, parking areas, dark spaces.
  • Trim trees and shrubs that can be used to hide criminal activity.
  • Install private cameras.
  • After you report a crime, also send the information to BHEN (linda.rittelmann@gmail.com) to ensure that the neighborhood is on alert. 
  • Walk with a dog or another person or use the Companion App.
  • Carry a whistle or a boat air horn.
  • If you are inside your house and hear a whistle, look outside to determine if someone needs help.  Call 911 immediately. Help if it is safe to do so. 
  • Don’t talk on cell phone or use ear plugs while walking during the day or night.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Engage with people on the street. Make eye contact and say hello. 
  • Report suspicious behavior to police using 911 (not 311).
  • Always lock your car doors and remove any and ALL items from the car—even empty fast food bags or trash. Any items left in the car can tempt criminals. 
  • Join COP (Citizens on Patrol)*.
  • Follow court cases; go to court during trial; file an impact statement with the court.
  • Get to know your neighbors at block parties and other neighborhood events. 
  • Get involved. 25% of city residents are living in poverty, and you can take social action. Join Big Brothers/Big Sisters or the MRIA Social Action Task Force

*COP is increasing the number of groups walking the neighborhood, at night and in the mornings. Barry and Barbara Blumberg coordinate an evening walk every Thursday evening starting from 1329 Bolton (410-669-0175 or theblumbergs@earthlink.net).

Jonathan Claiborne leads a walk every Monday evening beginning at the corner of Bolton and Lafayette (jeclaiborne10@gmail.com), and Jack Brown leads a walk on Monday and Wednesday mornings (reach him at NextDoor). 

Community Conferencing Reduces Crime and Empowers Communities

Dr. Lauren Abramson spoke to February’s Town Hall Safety Meeting about her work with a new method for providing resolution to victims and perpetrators in the aftermath of crimes. We wanted to learn more about her Community Conferencing Center.

Lauren Abramson and the Community Conferencing Center
Lauren Abramson and the Community Conferencing Center.

In 1994, Dr. Lauren Abramson attended a conference in Philadelphia and heard a talk on Transformative Justice by Australian David Moore. This led to participating in the first facilitator training workshops on restorative justice conducted in the United States.

As she learned more, Lauren became keenly interested in bringing community conferencing to inner-city Baltimore. She saw its potential to not only bring about important system reforms in criminal justice and education, but to also empower individuals, families and communities to resolve their own conflicts and crimes.

After years of work, the Community Conferencing Center (CCC) opened its doors in 2000. The CCC is the only broad-based conferencing program in a large American inner-city. Even more noteworthy, most its services are provided at no cost to participants.

Widely recognized for its use of restorative justice and conflict management strategies, the model developed by CCC has found success in a variety of settings, including criminal justice, education, community development and business, addressing a variety of issues and a wide range of populations.

They now serve as a hub for training and technical assistance in Maryland, working in over a dozen jurisdictions. With requests for assistance from other states as well as countries, the center works nationally and internationally to help communities establish similar restorative justice programs.

The Process Works

The CCC takes a radical approach: they provide ways for people to resolve situations and build community by sitting in a circle and talking with each other.

Based on the principles of conflict transformation and community justice, the CCC provides ways for people to safely, collectively and effectively prevent and resolve conflicts and crime.

This approach has been uniquely effective at resolving the conflicts around crime between the victims and the perpetrators. Nearly 20,000 people in Baltimore have successfully resolved their own crimes and conflicts using the CCC.

The results speak for themselves:

  • Over 95% of the community conferences conducted result in a written agreement, with an over 90% compliance rate.
  • Young people who participate in a successful community conference re-offend at a rate 60% lower than those who go through the juvenile justice system.
  • For juvenile felony cases diverted to community conferences instead of going through the court system, young people are half as likely to be re-arrested after 1 year, and a third as likely after 2 years.
  • Community conferencing costs a tenth of what it costs to go through the courts.

Community conferencing creates a fourfold benefit by holding offenders accountable and including victims in deciding outcomes, while lowering repeat offenders and reducing costs.

Learn more on the Community Conferencing website.

Join the MRIA Board

The Mt. Royal Improvement Association seeks new members for its Board each year. The Nominating Committee, chaired by Past President Steve Howard, is seeking interested neighbors who are interested in joining the Board.

If you or someone you know would be interested, please email Steve at stevehoward.howard@gmail.com.

DEADLINE for submissions is March 15, so write to Steve today.

The next MRIA Board Meeting will be Tuesday, March 7 with socializing at 7:30 and the formal meeting at 8 pm. Open to all.

Traffic Survey Needs Your Input

Many thanks to those of you who have helped MRIA’s Traffic Committee promote pedestrian and motorist safety in Bolton Hill by providing input through their online survey. If you haven’t yet taken the survey, it’s not too late!

Follow this link to complete the four-page survey.

Your responses will help MRIA prioritize safety initiatives and provide vitally important observations to support requests for traffic studies at problem intersections throughout Bolton Hill.

There is strength in numbers, so please help out.

If you’d like to get involved with the MRIA Traffic Committee, please contact Steven Skerritt-Davis, swdavis80@gmail.com.

Time to Renew Parking Permits

All current residential parking permits will expire March 31. You may renew and pay for your permits online at the Parking Authority website beginning February 20. Residents who are new to an RPP area must apply for permits in person. More information about residential parking permits is available here.

Permits and visitors passes are $20 each.

Purchase your permits online at least three days before you plan to pick up. Bolton Hill has scheduled two Neighborhood Pickup Days, Saturday, March 18, from 8 am to 12 noon, and Saturday, March 25, from 8 am to 1:30 pm, at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church on Lafayette and Park Ave. Enter at the Lafayette St. door.

You can also obtain your permits at the Parking Authority Office, 200 W. Lombard Street, Suite B, 21201. Office hours are 8 am–5 pm, Monday through Friday. Plus, the office will be open for one Saturday, March 18 from 9 am to 1 pm, and open late one night, Thursday, March 30 until 8 pm.

TIP: you can park for free at the Arena Garage (entrance at 99 S. Howard St.) with validation from the Parking Authority Office.

In addition to credit cards, the Parking Authority also accepts checks and money orders made out to the Director of Finance. Cash is not accepted. Whether at a Neighborhood Pickup or at the Parking Authority Office, you will need to present current documentation when picking up your permits. These documents include your current Maryland Vehicle Registration with an Area 3 address, plus one of the following that shows an Area 3 address:

  • Current driver’s license
  • Proof of residency, such as a current lease signed by all parties that is not month-to-month.
  • Proof of home ownership (settlement papers)
  • Utility bill in your name that is at least 30 days old
  • Official State ID card

If your vehicle is registered out of state, you must register your vehicle in Maryland before being permitted to purchase a parking decal, unless you are a full-time student or a member of the military.

Out-of-state students and military must purchase a Non-Resident Permit from the MVA and present it at pick-up for the decal to be released.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Parking Authority at rpp@bcparking.com or 443-573-2800, extensions 863, 845, or 851. You may also contact your Area 3 representative, Patsy Andrews, by email at pandrewsmd@yahoo.com.

When you pick up your passes, give a big thanks to Patsy, who has organized our convenient neighborhood pickup for many years.