Mayor Brandon Scott endorsed Angela Alsobrooks in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin when he retires.

Alsobrooks, who has served as Prince George’s County Executive since 2018, is one of several prominent Democrats seeking to replace Cardin. Scott is in a competitive race of his own and faces former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and businessman Bob Wallace, among other candidates, in the Democratic primary.

“She understands what our city needs better than any other candidate in this race,” Scott said Tuesday at at the Zeta Center in Northwest Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood.

For years, Scott has frequently said in public remarks that Maryland has the best Congressional delegation in the country. But “right now, we don’t have any — not a single woman — in our congressional delegation, which once had the powerful Barbara Mikulski,” he said.

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It’s time for Maryland to lead the way and elect a Black woman to the U.S. Senate, Scott said, noting that the legislative body could have no Black women in its membership once Sen. Laphonza Butler of California’s term expires.

Scott is the latest leader to endorse Alsobrooks. Gov. Wes Moore, Comptroller Brooke Lierman, Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and State Senate President Bill Ferguson have backed her, as well as U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Steny Hoyer.

Alsobrooks faces Rep. David Trone in the race for Cardin’s seat. Trone has greatly outspent his opponent, after loaning the campaign nearly $10 million of his own money earlier this year.

“Spending money is not the same as doing what I did this morning, which is to walk on Belair Road with a council member in communities to hear about issues and concerns,” Alsobrooks said at Tuesday’s news conference.

Asked by reporters whether she would endorse Scott in his primary race against Dixon and Wallace, Alsobrooks declined to answer.

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The primary is May 14.

— Emily Sullivan

Trone launches more ads

Speaking of that U.S. Senate race, Democratic candidate David Trone is putting his massive amounts of money to work with new ads.

Trone, the Congressman and wealthy founder of Total Wine & More, recently dropped a spot focused on education and another targeting Spanish-speaking Marylanders.

In the education ad, several people identified as teachers say that Trone will fight for public school funding.

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“I’m a pretty stiff grader. David would definitely get an A-plus,” says one. Trone recently was endorsed by the National Education Association after being recommended by Maryland’s public teachers’ union.

The Spanish-language ad quickly runs through Trone’s background growing up on a farm, founding his retail liquor chain and working in Congress.

All told, Trone has run 10 different ads since he launched his campaign in May.

— Pamela Wood

Everyone wants to talk about permit reform

Getting a construction permit in Baltimore can be a bureaucratic headache.

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While the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development has prioritized reforming the outmoded system — crucial for development and tackling Baltimore’s vacant homes — those hoping for a streamlined process will have to wait. New software revamping the process isn’t expected to launch until December 2024, housing officials said this week, a delay from their earlier projection of February.

While Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy maintained in a City Council hearing Tuesday that the new software system will dramatically change the permitting process, several council members weren’t convinced. Members Robert Stokes, Odette Ramos, Mark Conway and Zeke Cohen each said they believe the city’s permitting work is understaffed, pointing to complaints they hear from contractors and residents.

“In an ideal world, instead of having 70 folks in your office, we’d have 140,” said Conway at one point, “because we’ve just got that much development going on, that much investment happening across the city.”

Kennedy, though, mostly brushed off suggestions from council members that the city should budget many more employees for her permitting staff, maintaining that she has more of a software problem than a people problem.

“I’m gonna stand by saying that there is a huge amount of this that is technology-based,” she said. While Kennedy didn’t dismiss completely the suggestion that permitting could benefit from additional hands, she also pointed to ways that their 15-year-old software strains the capacity of her existing team.

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Housing officials said the agency has gone from processing around 26,000 permits a year to more than 40,000 last year without bolstering its staff or upgrading its system, a volume that has caught up with them today. The software upgrade costs $5.7 million, including $3 million in federal pandemic aid.

Earlier this year, The Baltimore Banner reviewed nearly 1,000 responses to a housing department survey on permitting, which, taken together, illustrated how poor communication and the outdated software have backed up the process. Nearly 4 out of every 5 respondents to the survey called the city’s permitting process difficult. Others used more colorful language, describing the process as “ridiculously inept” and “a loop of death.”

For at least another year, when the upgrade is slated to come online, contractors are stuck with the current system, which Kennedy likened to a fragile work of art that must be carefully handled and maintained.

“I often describe it as that we are gently holding a very delicate piece,” she said, cupping her hands at the mic. “If we slightly drop it, it could explode and cause some serious problems for us all.”

— Adam Willis

New TV gig for former Lt. Gov. Steele

Michael Steele, the former Republican politician-turned-TV-pundit, is getting his own show.

MSNBC, where Steele already is a contributor, announced that Steele will be one of three hosts on a new weekend show called, appropriately, “The Weekend.”

Steele, who was lieutenant governor to Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. from 2003-2007, will co-host the show with Symone Sanders-Townsend and Alicia Menendez. It will air from 8-10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

“I am excited for the conversation and what I know will be good trouble!” Steele wrote on social media.

— Pamela Wood

See the first family’s holiday decorations

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and his wife Dawn Flythe Moore are continuing the tradition of hosting a public holiday open house at the historic governor’s mansion in Annapolis.

This year’s open house will be on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

“Bring your families, check out the decorations, enjoy some homemade cookies and maybe even get a Tucker sighting,” the first lady said in a video announcing the open house.

Tucker, of course, is the Moore family’s outgoing pup (full name: Tucker Balti Moore), who was adopted from the Maryland SPCA in Hampden. While the governor’s approval rating is 53%, we’d venture that Tucker’s rating would be much higher.

The first family encourages guests, if they’re able, to bring unwrapped toys for children in need.

— Pamela Wood