The endorsement battle continues in the race to become Maryland’s next U.S. senator, with Angela Alsobrooks touting her latest major endorsement.

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones offered up her support to Alsobrooks this week, with an announcement at Gwynn Oak Park, the historic park in Baltimore County that was the site of an amusement park that was desegregated 60 years ago.

Jones, who is the first woman and person of color to serve as a presiding officer in Maryland’s General Assembly, noted that Alsobrooks — also a Black woman — would bring needed diversity and experience to the Senate.

“Like me, Angela is familiar with breaking glass ceilings and making history and delivering results for her constituents,” Jones said. “Like me, she understands the scrutiny and expectations that come with being a trailblazer, and she isn’t afraid to make tough decisions.”

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Jones noted that just as the Gwynn Oak amusement park merry-go-round is now on the National Mall, “today I’m here to help deliver another piece of Maryland history to Washington.”

Several elected Democrats from Baltimore County and Baltimore City stood in the audience applauding, and County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume joined Jones and Alsobrooks on stage.

Alsobrooks said she was so excited to receive Jones’ endorsement and to visit the park that she could “barely sleep.”

“We have a lot of work to do, but we do it better when we do it together,” Alsobrooks said. “And I can promise you that as your next U.S. senator, it will be my design every single day to make sure that I take with me to Washington, D.C. the families of Maryland — the ones who, like my family, are sitting at kitchen tables every day making difficult decisions for their children and for their parents.”

The other top contenders so far for the Democratic nomination are U.S. Rep. David Trone and Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando. No experienced Republicans have yet to enter the race. Candidates have until February to join the race, ahead of the May 14 primary.

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Moore hires chief performance officer

Maryland’s state government has its first-ever chief performance officer, who will work with top officials in Gov. Wes Moore’s administration to “design and implement strategies to enhance performance and service delivery to all Marylanders.”

Moore’s pick for the job is Asma Mirza, who spent the last 2 1/2 years at the White House, starting as chief of staff for the COVID-19 response team and more recently on the infrastructure implementation team as the deputy for infrastructure implementation management, according to her online resume.

Mirza also spent nearly seven years in the federal Office of Management and Budget and spent some time outside government in consulting.

“Asma’s expertise in leading through change and creating new approaches to solving big challenges will be an exceptional asset to our state and help deliver on our mission to build a stronger Maryland,” Moore said in a statement this week.

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The governor first publicly announced his plan to hire a chief performance officer a few weeks ago at the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City. In a speech that focused on forecasting difficult budget choices ahead, Moore said that the chief performance officer will be charged with “monitoring the progress that we’ve made and the progress that still needs to happen.”

Perry Hall Mansion could head to auction

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. is offering $250,000 to whoever will take the historic Perry Hall Mansion, and its many construction needs, off the county’s hands.

The County Council is considering the request to hire Atlantic Auctions, Inc. to sell the historic house — the northeastern county community’s namesake — after the county made various attempts to renovate it over more than two decades.

The property is on the National Register of Historic Places, recognized for its role as a gathering space for organizers to establish what became the Methodist Church in America. The landmark sits on what was once a plantation, where 18th century Maryland delegate and Methodist proclaimer Harry Dorsey Gough enslaved laborers to grow tobacco and raise livestock, and where oral histories of chains and a whipping post persist.

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During Tuesday’s council work session, property management chief Debra Shindle said the repairs needed now to make the mansion an inviting public amenity are too extensive, and the county has received little return on its investment to upkeep the mansion.

“There is some work that needs to be done immediately to this home that is going to require a large amount of money,” Shindle told council members. That’s why the county is proposing the $250,000 grant to any purchaser who has a plan to revive Perry Hall Mansion, with all its land use and construction restrictions, and maintain some public use there.

“The county felt very strongly that this could be a beautiful home, that someone could love and cherish and put it, vibrant, back into the community,” Shindle said.

The county would pay Atlantic Auctions $32,400 if Perry Hall Mansion is sold, and no portion of the sale price — a fee structure Shindle said is necessitated by the property’s low value. If it’s not sold, the county would pay the auctioneer $17,400, according to the purchase order.

The council is expected to vote on the purchase order and grant at its Sept. 5 legislative session.

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Backlash to proposed White Marsh crematory

Community opposition to a Baltimore County mortician’s plans for a new crematorium near a White Marsh neighborhood, outdoor restaurants and a day care has spurred a County Council proposal to ask Maryland’s General Assembly to consider regulating where crematories may be built.

The resolution sponsored by Republican Councilman David Marks asks Maryland lawmakers and the Maryland Department of the Environment to consider making recommendations to restrict pollutant-emitting crematories such as the one proposed on Philadelphia Road about 230 feet away from dozens of single-family homes.

During the County Council’s Tuesday work session, White Marsh residents who support the resolution said Maryland’s environmental regulation of crematories ignore public health risks such incinerators can pose. They want Maryland to undertake a study similar to reviews other states have performed to assess the possible health and safety hazards related to crematory emissions.

“This is a quality of life issue,” White Marsh resident Mark Hauf told council members Tuesday.

There are outdoor restaurants, cafes and “a day care literally right across the street from this proposal,” Hauf said. “It’s not right for our local businesses, it’s not right for the air we breathe.”

A representative of Evans Funeral Chapel and Cremation Service, which wants to build the crematory, told the council that crematories are “heavily regulated” in Maryland, and that state regulators do test and monitor emissions and “safety protocols.”

New crematory construction must receive approval from the state environmental agency. The department issues permits when it determines an applicant “can be expected to comply with state and federal air quality regulations,” according to the agency.

After several crematorium opponents spoke, council chair Julian Jones said he’d “like to remind everyone — the resolution is asking the state of Maryland to look at the issue [crematorium regulations] and recommend some requirements.”

“Most likely,” Jones added, “nothing’s gonna stop” the proposed cremation facility.

Baltimore County planners are still considering a July 2022 application for a limited exemption to build the crematorium, according to public development records. The council is expected to vote on the resolution during its Sept. 5 legislative session.

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