Stories selected by our newsroom that impacted the greater Baltimore region in 2023.

Photo illustration of former Baltimore police commissioner Michael Harrison on left and current police commissioner Richard Worley on right.
Photo illustration of former Baltimore police commissioner Michael Harrison on left and current police commissioner Richard Worley on right. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos by Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Baltimore police chiefs

Is the Baltimore Police Department ready to return to in-house leadership? That’s the bet Mayor Brandon Scott made when he chose 25-year veteran Richard Worley to lead the department following the resignation of Michael Harrison. For the past decade, with the exception of Darryl De Sousa’s three-month stint before he resigned and later went to federal prison, the Baltimore Police Department has been led by commissioners imported from other agencies. Harrison, who spent four and a half years in the post after a career in New Orleans, was seen as a calming force who focused on reform, though the murder rate remained at record highs. In Worley, Scott went with a trusted ally dating back to his time as a councilman representing Northeast Baltimore when Worley was a commander in the Northeastern District. Less polished than his predecessors, Worley scuffled out of the gate, but can point to a 20% reduction in homicides — to below 300 victims, for the first time since 2014 — in his first year. — Justin Fenton

Photo illustration show three performers in a drum line.
Photo illustration show three performers in a drum line. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photo by Hallie Miller/The Baltimore Banner)

BOPA

You may not have known its name before, but chances are you’re now maybe a bit too familiar with BOPA, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, after a few high-profile scuffles this year. The arts council, which works with the city to stage large events and support local creatives, lost its leader in January after Mayor Brandon Scott called on Donna Drew Sawyer to resign over the organization’s failure to stage the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. Then the organization found itself in the unwanted spotlight again when City Council members grilled them publicly about their effectiveness, the board’s decision to authorize a large severance payout to Sawyer and their unsuccessful attempt to trademark Artscape. The free outdoor arts festival finally returned in 2023 after a too-long hiatus, but not before the last-minute cancelation of headliner Kelly Rowland and of a whole day of programming due to the rain. But all that said, Artscape is back. Maybe BOPA’s good standing in the community it serves will follow. — Hallie Miller

Photo illustration shows circular CFG Arena logo next to photo of Bruce Springsteen performing in front of audience.
Photo illustration shows circular CFG Arena logo next to photo of Bruce Springsteen performing in front of audience. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos by Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

CFG Bank Arena

The 61-year-old downtown arena has enjoyed new life thanks to a $250 million privately funded makeover and made Billboard magazine’s list of top-performing venues with a capacity of less than 15,000. Opened as the Baltimore Civic Center in 1962, the arena went through several name changes but hadn’t been renovated since 1986, as city leaders debated whether to raze it and build a new one. Enter the Oak View Group, a California-based development and management company that signed a 30-year-lease with the city. The company gave the arena’s futuristic, Googie-style exterior a cleaner look while adding three dozen new suites, eliminating obstructed views and adding club-level bars and food spots. It also made it easier for acts to set up. Bruce Springsteen memorably rocked the house at an April 7 grand reopening, and Lionel Ritchie, Earth, Wind & Fire, Janet Jackson and New Edition later made stops. CFG Bank arena, General Manager Frank Remesch says, is back “on the radar every promoter and tour.” — Norman Gomlak

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Photo illustration shows David Bramble with view of Harborplace pavilions in background.
Photo illustration shows David Bramble with view of Harborplace pavilions in background. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos by Kylie Cooper and Paul Newson/The Baltimore Banner)

David Bramble

If you know David Bramble, you know he goes by Bramble, not Dave. The Baltimore native is trying to pull off the most ambitious deal in Baltimore: Redeveloping Baltimore. Bramble is a principal at MCB Real Estate, which formally took control of the aging twin pavilions in the city’s Inner Harbor this April, buying them out of receivership. Bramble announced his redevelopment plans this fall at a press conference with Mayor Brandon Scott and Gov. Wes Moore, but a group of architects panned the initial designs. In 2024, Bramble is expected to face a gauntlet of hearings involving multiple government hearings, plus a city-wide ballot question key to his plans. What could go wrong? — Giacomo Bologna

Photo illustration of Michelle Hines, Krystal Gonzalez, and Katika Travis.
Photo illustration of Michelle Hines, Krystal Gonzalez, and Katika Travis. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos by Jessica Gallagher and Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Krystal Gonzalez, Michelle Hines, Katika Travis

This year, the mothers of shooting victims, many of them children, shared their pain in heartbreaking detail. Grieving the death of her 18-year old daughter, Krystal Gonzalez brought a City Council hearing on the Brooklyn Day shooting to a halt in September. Gonzalez, whose daughter, Aaliyah, was one of two young people killed in the mass shooting, spoke about the lost promise of a bright future. She highlighted inaction by the Baltimore Police Department as the Brooklyn Day crowd grew to hundreds, many of them reportedly armed. She challenged the city’s leaders: “Is that your normal?”

Katika Travis, who lost her 16-year-old son, Bryson Hudson, in August when he was shot and killed in Northeast Baltimore, had this message for him: “I would’ve taken this pain for you.”

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Michelle Hines, whose 16-year-old son, Izaiah Carter, was shot and killed near Patterson High School in March, has channeled her grief into action, pushing for changes in the school system. Hines said: “I don’t want to hear about how there was another child killed when they should’ve been in school.” — Ben Conarck

Photo illustration of Lamar Jackson in uniform, holding helmet in one hand, other arm outstretched.
Photo illustration of Lamar Jackson in uniform, holding helmet in one hand, other arm outstretched. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photo by Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Lamar Jackson

In mid-January, when the Ravens’ chaotic 2022 season ended with a heartbreaking playoff loss to the Bengals, Lamar Jackson was nowhere to be found. The star quarterback, sidelined by a knee injury, had watched the game from the comfort of his home. Jackson’s contract was months from expiring; it was fair to wonder whether Baltimore would be his home for much longer. But after laboring through one of the most scrutinized offseasons in recent NFL history, the Ravens have achieved one of the most impressive regular seasons in franchise history. Jackson has been central to both. In late March, he announced a trade request. A month later, Jackson signed a record-breaking $260 million extension. He’s delivered on those expectations so far, emerging as an NFL Most Valuable Player candidate and leading the Ravens to the top of the AFC with a 12-3 record. Is a Super Bowl next? — Jonas Shaffer

Photo illustration of relatives of Henrietta Lacks raising their hands in celebration.
Photo illustration of relatives of Henrietta Lacks raising their hands in celebration. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photo by Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

Family of Henrietta Lacks

This year, Henrietta Lacks’ living relatives reached a historic settlement with a biotechnology company that for years has profited off its free use of regenerative cells taken from her decades ago without her consent. News of the agreement came after two years of litigation in federal court, on what would have been the Turner Station wife and mother’s 103rd birthday, a coincidence her family attributed to divine intervention. Settling a lawsuit typically marks the end of a legal battle. But in this case, it was the start of a fight that could ensnare untold numbers of other firms that do the same. Lawyers who represent Lacks’ descendants have said any company using her cells, known as HeLa cells, for research or product development without consulting or compensating the family might be the next target they “see in court.” At least one such lawsuit has already been filed. — Jessica Calefati

Photo illustration shows Roy McGrath and banner that says "Wanted by the FBI."
Photo illustration shows Roy McGrath and banner that says "Wanted by the FBI." (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos courtesy of the Office of the Governor and the FBI.)

Roy McGrath

Maryland’s political class braced in March for the federal fraud trial of Roy McGrath. What secrets might be spilled during the trial of the former top aide? The case included surreptitious recordings of state officials and the chance that former Gov. Larry Hogan himself would be called as a witness. McGrath, however, took off on the run, launching a weekslong manhunt across the Southeastern U.S. Events took a bizarre twist when an anonymous author published tell-all books from McGrath’s perspective. Was McGrath himself the mystery author? Was he fighting for his reputation while on the lam? Some things we’ll never know. Federal agents tracked McGrath’s cellphone to a Costco parking lot outside Knoxville, Tennessee. During the encounter, he was shot and killed. An autopsy and investigation concluded McGrath raised a gun to his head, putting agents in the line of fire, and shot himself at the same time that they opened fire.Tim Prudente

Photo illustration of Wes Moore looking determined.
Photo illustration of Wes Moore looking determined. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photo by Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Gov. Wes Moore

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore arrived in Annapolis in January with plenty of pomp and optimism: a camera-ready newcomer to politics eager to help the state “win the decade.” The 45-year-old Democrat quickly drew national attention and was tabbed as a potential future leader in the party. Moore won some relatively easy victories in his first legislative session — tax breaks for veterans, a paid service program, tax credits for the working poor — and has been in demand on the interview circuit. But closing out the first year of his term, the challenges are piling up for Moore. The up-and-down negotiation of a new Orioles lease finally got resolved at the eleventh hour, but only after intense public scrutiny and an intervention by the Senate president. Crime, particularly involving young people, remains a top concern for Marylanders, and Moore is yet to offer proposals to address it. At the same time, his administration is pushing massive cuts in highways and transit projects and also facing down an overall budget shortfall. And Moore will be fighting to make sure that the federal government’s decision to build an FBI headquarters in Maryland withstands opposition from Virginia officials. — Pamela Wood

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Photo illustration of John Angelos celebrating an Orioles victory on left and four Orioles players hugging on the right.
Photo illustration of John Angelos celebrating an Orioles victory on left and four Orioles players hugging on the right. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos by Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Orioles and John Angelos

One of the indelible images of 2023 will be John Angelos soaked in champagne and beer, taking a celebratory swig from the Orioles’ Homer Hose, surrounded by young stars such as Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson as the team returned to the playoffs. But off-field drama overshadowed the franchise, largely of Angelos’ own making. From the perplexing saga with team announcer Kevin Brown, to grousing to The New York Times about finances, to nearly a full year of roller-coaster lease negotiations, the Orioles CEO has often taken the headlines away from his talented baseball team. A resolution to the Camden Yards lease keeps the Orioles in Baltimore for more than a decade, and fans are undoubtedly hoping the 40-year World Series drought is set to end as the young stars continue to rise (and baseball’s top prospect Jackson Holliday could make his debut). But there are many more questions about Angelos going into 2024, including the persistent rumors that his family might be looking to sell the franchise. — Kyle Goon

Photo illustration of Jada Pinkett Smith.
Photo illustration of Jada Pinkett Smith. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photo by Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Jada Pinkett Smith

The true measure of Jada Pinkett Smith’s cultural impact in 2023? She made news without her name being spoken, as the not-so-secret target of “Selective Outrage,” Chris Rock’s Golden Globe-nominated Netflix special filmed live at the Hippodrome, in the actress and host’s hometown. And like a queen, Baltimore School for The Arts graduate Pinkett got the last word. Rock’s performance retribution to being slapped by her husband Will Smith was the prologue to the release of her memoir “Worthy.” Critics claimed she overshared in the book and extensive press tour, with much speculation about the current state of her marriage and the wisdom of her candor. But with an appearance at Enoch Pratt Free Library this fall, where Smith showed up to extoll the messy but loyal nature of their union, proved that none of us really know what’s happening in anyone’s lives, or what makes them happy. — Leslie Streeter

Photo illustration of Angel Reese speaking at an event, microphone in hand.
Photo illustration of Angel Reese speaking at an event, microphone in hand. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photo by Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Angel Reese

Very few Marylanders can claim the type of success that LSU basketball star and Baltimore native Angel Reese experienced in 2023. The 6-foot-3, 21-year-old forward was a unanimous first-team All-American selection last season after transferring from the University of Maryland. In Baton Rouge, she quickly earned the moniker “The Bayou Barbie.” Reese led the Tigers to their first women’s basketball national championship and was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She earned the ESPY Award for best breakthrough athlete, threw out the first pitch at an Orioles game and recently signed an endorsement deal with Reebok, in what the brand said was a new strategy to reclaim its spot near the top of sports and pop culture. A model and major social media influencer with an Instagram account that boasts over 2 million followers, she is estimated to be one of the top earners among college athletes from name, image and likeness deals. — Alejandro Danois

Photo illustration of Catholic activists and survivors, left to right: Jean Hargadon, Liz Murphy, Del. C. T. Wilson, David Lorenz, Teresa Lancaster.
Photo illustration of Catholic activists and survivors, left to right: Jean Hargadon, Liz Murphy, Del. C. T. Wilson, David Lorenz, Teresa Lancaster. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos by Kaitlin Newman and Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Del. C.T. Wilson

Del. C.T. Wilson tried year after year to persuade his fellow lawmakers to reform Maryland’s civil statute of limitations around child sexual abuse, only to confront the Catholic church’s influence in Annapolis. The Southern Maryland Democrat revealed the abuse that he suffered as a boy, but his attempts at reform still stalled. Wilson’s effort was backed this year by a Maryland attorney general’s report that laid bare the history of clergy sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. With the help of survivors, advocates and a law professor ally, he brought about the passage of Maryland’s landmark Child Victims Act. The bill lifts the statute of limitations for lawsuits over old instances of abuse. Two days before the bill took effect, the Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy. — Tim Prudente

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Photo illustration of an angled view of the side of a school bus.
Photo illustration of an angled view of the side of a school bus. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photo by Daniel Zawodny/The Baltimore Banner)

ZUM

Forgive me for grabbing the low-hanging fruit here, but Zum didn’t exactly zoom out of the gate with its start in Howard County this school year. The Silicon Valley-based company came to Maryland to operate almost half of Howard County Public Schools’ bus routes for the next couple of years. The tech startup flaunted an arsenal of gadgets and gizmos from proprietary bus tracking and navigation software to brand new, state-of-the-art buses, as part of their promise to solve the school district’s bus driver shortage. But it wasn’t enough — at least not at first. The chaotic beginning to the school year that left thousands of kids without a ride and fractured some parents’ trust in the district’s top brass and a company they thought bit off more than it could chew. Though Zum has righted the ship and is getting all the kids it said it would to school on time, the whole fiasco prompts the question: Did we need tech to disrupt yet another industry? — Daniel Zawodny

Honorable Mention

Photo illustration of four turkeys and a screenshot of a video showing a blurry animal running through a Baltimore alley.
Photo illustration of four turkeys and a screenshot of a video showing a blurry animal running through a Baltimore alley. (Laila Milevski/The Baltimore Banner. Original photos courtesy of Liz Baer, Cami Colarossi and Paula LaVere.)

The B’more ‘Roo and the Rogue Turkeys of Towson

Did you spot a wild kangaroo in West Baltimore this year? A 73-year-old woman who lives near Druid Hill Park called animal control in the autumn after she spotted what she believed was a baby kangaroo in the alley behind her home. The resident, Victoria Howard, mentioned the ‘roo to a family member, who told a friend, who posted about it on the hellscape formerly known as Twitter, sparking a social frenzy. While authorities never did spot a kangaroo hopping through West Baltimore, there is unquestionably a goofy group of animals marauding through Towson. Five young female sister turkeys had been let out of their pen at Cromwell Valley Park to forage in late October when a wild male bearded turkey caught their beady eyes. The sisters, whose wings had not yet been clipped, flew off with the male, and the polygamous posse — who are not afraid of humans — have been appearing a churches, a school and backyards near Providence Road ever since. — Julie Scharper