The Baltimore Banner and WYPR’s best collaborations of 2022

Published 12/27/2022 6:00 a.m. EST, Updated 12/27/2022 9:10 a.m. EST

In May 2022, The Baltimore Banner and WYPR entered into a joint operating agreement, allowing the nonprofit organizations to collaborate on journalism projects. This year, we’ve partnered on investigations, ongoing coverage, podcasts and on-air series. Read and listen to some of our collaborations from this year.

Maryland Health Department mismanaged contractor, overpaid $223.5 million in claims, audit finds

The Maryland Department of Health offices in Baltimore.

An October audit blasted the state health department for not holding a major contractor accountable, even after it cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments and millions in lost federal dollars. The Maryland Department of Health in 2019 hired administrative services provider Optum to process payments for the state’s behavioral health care system, providing addiction and mental health services for low-income Marylanders. The five-year contract with one two-year renewal option totaled $198.2 million.

But the audit found the state never vetted any of Optum’s subcontractors, ignored warnings about the vendor from a current customer, and failed to test the system used to process providers’ claims before launching it.

How Baltimore County is betting big on the Security Square Mall site

Security Square Mall in Baltimore County is undergoing a reimagination.

Baltimore County officials are placing a $10 million bet on the future of rundown Security Square Mall. For decades, it was an economic driver in Woodlawn on the county’s west side.

WYPR Baltimore County reporter John Lee joined Nathan Sterner to talk about the plans for Security Square, which included reporting from The Banner’s Taylor DeVille.

Maryland’s monkeypox response fell short compared to Washington, D.C., but state officials optimistic

Vials of single doses of the Jynneos vaccine for monkeypox are seen from a cooler at a vaccinations site.

Information on the monkeypox outbreak has been changing quickly. Some Maryland residents have hit snags in getting the vaccine. However, public health officials are optimistic about how the outbreak is being contained. WYPR health reporter Scott Maucione joined Nathan Sterner to learn about the outbreak, which included reporting from The Banner’s Hallie Miller.

What’s the controversy with the Roland Water Tower in Hoes Heights? | The Maryland Curiosity Bureau

Have you seen that Rapunzel-looking brick tower next to the Hoes Heights neighborhood in North Baltimore? It just got restored, and everyone agrees it looks beautiful. That’s pretty much where the good feelings end. Now there’s a bitter argument over what’s going to happen to the little plot of land around the tower. Baltimore Banner reporter Jasmine Vaughn-Hall joins the podcast to unpack how a seemingly innocent planning project has re-aggravated some long-standing racial wounds in a historically Black neighborhood.

A ‘Banner’ update on Baltimore’s food scene | On the Record

“On the Record” host Sheilah Kast speaks with Banner food reporter Christina Tkacik. In the wake of the pandemic, restaurants are dealing with the pressures of inflation, supply-chain delays, and the labor shortage. Tkacik says these pressures may be reflected on menus.

Plus: At restaurants across the city, chefs and crew share a staff meal before dinner service. Banner reporter John-John Williams takes us behind the scenes of “family meal,” and the talented cooks serving up homestyle dishes. Read the full story here, and check out photos of family meals being prepared.

Health department pulls requests to outsource services at Western Maryland Hospital Center

Google Maps view of Western Maryland Hospital.

The Maryland Department of Health withdrew its requests to a state spending board on Wednesday that would have given the agency broad powers to approve two health care contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to outsource staffing at Western Maryland Hospital Center. The agency will still pursue the contracts for the Hagerstown facility by standard procedures. They plan to present their chosen vendor, or vendors, to the Board of Public Works late November to early December, according to health department Secretary Dennis Schrader.

Schrader said the agency partly made its decision based on concerns Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, shared in advance of the meeting. The comptroller, one of three voting members of the Board, confirmed he was “very troubled” by approving such a large sum without knowing who the vendor was.

Midday in the Neighborhoods: Allendale resident Betty Fenner-Davis, at home again

For the return of the “Midday in the Neighborhood” series, produced in conjunction with The Baltimore Banner, Banner reporter Jasmine Vaughn-Hall joins the show to talk about the story she and Clara Longo de Freitas wrote about people living in their childhood homes in Baltimore. Betty Fenner-Davis, a fashion and costume designer and Allendale resident, was featured in the story, and she also joins the show.

What’s with the abandoned coffin of Mathilda Lorenz?

It appeared one day, inexplicably. An empty coffin, nestled in the woods on the bank of Stony Run Creek in Wyman Park. An engraved nameplate read, “Mathilda Lorenz, died July 26, 1882, aged 18 years, 2 months, and 1 day.” The neighbors were baffled. And then, a few weeks later, just as strangely, the coffin disappeared. Baltimore Banner reporter Julie Scharper became obsessed with this stubborn local mystery, followed a winding trail of breadcrumbs, and she joins us this episode to reveal what she discovered.

Reflections on life-long Little Italy resident Mary Ann Campanella

In another installment of “Midday in the Neighborhood,” produced in conjunction with The Baltimore Banner, the show turns its focus to Little Italy.

Baltimore Banner neighborhood reporter Clara Longo de Freitas and Little Italy resident Mary Ann Campanella join the show. Campanella is featured in a Banner story that Clara and Jasmine Vaughn-Hall wrote about people who are living in their childhood homes.

Why are there so many deer everywhere?

They’re wandering through yards, snacking on gardens. They’re hanging out in neighborhood parks. They’re strolling down the middle of the streets. Deer are everywhere. Or, at least it feels that way if you live up and down the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., corridor. Is this normal? Banner reporters Hallie Miller and Liz Bowie have been reporting on the state’s deer population, and they join us this episode to answer the question: Why are the deer surrounding us, and what should we do about it?

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