From Gilmor Homes to Park Heights, Baltimore Tries to Heal the Pain of Crime and Corruption

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A street named after a 2015 homicide victim and a landmark settlement over a sex for repairs scheme at a city housing project mark a deal of both communal healing and concern

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TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: It was a solemn plea for peace. Another community in Baltimore under siege, and grieving in the wake of loss, in this case for a homicide victim, a man named Kendal Fenwick. The 24-year-old father of three lived in Park Heights. Last December, he built a fence to keep out drug dealers, and was shot dead in retaliation.

SHARON GREEN MIDDLETON: This moment is to recognize a young life that tragically left our community too soon.

GRAHAM: And so city leaders unveiled a street in his name, a gesture full of symbolism in an unusual recognition in a city where the body count continues to grow.

COMMISSIONER DAVIS: Kendal in life and in death will–is making the city better.

SPEAKER: Blood ties and bloodlines compare nothing to where love lies.

SPEAKER: Most of all, have us come together as a community.

GRAHAM: Just the night before, seven people were shot, and four killed. And yet later in the day, another example of the city’s communal pain addressed by city officials, this time in the form of a settlement.

CARY HANSEL: In terms of what we’ve been able to accomplish working together for the victims of sexual harassment in public housing in Baltimore there is a class action resolution, which means that our clients who started the case as individuals consented to have the relief spread to everyone.

GRAHAM: A potential $7 million for at least 19 women who were asked to provide sex in exchange for repairs at the city’s troubled Gilmor Homes housing project.

PAUL GRAZIANO: This goes way beyond the individual situations. It is systemic changes that will ensure that the, that every resident in public housing can live in peace and dignity, and not have to worry about, one, getting maintenance work done, and two, certainly not the atrocious behavior of a small group of people who inflicted indignities of indescribable nature on these women and others who have been represented.

GRAHAM: But even amid promises of reform, housing commissioner Paul Graziano admitted the department’s much-maligned management had emerged unscathed. In fact, not a single employee outside those directly implicated in the scheme were punished.

STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN: What has been changed internally to ensure that people who bring complaints forward are actually seriously investigated? Because that was one of the big problems, it seems, with these particular incidents, is that women were ignored. And what have you made, any structural changes or any changes to your process for processing those kinds of–.

GRAZIANO: Well, one thing we’ve done is we’ve sent out letters to every single–we’ve sent out two letters to every single resident in the Housing Authority, and we have advised them of a hotline number that goes directly to our investigations unit and to general council’s office.

JANIS: Were any people who ignored complaints or brushed them aside disciplined? Or similarly, to the people who were, you know, precipitating these problems, was anybody in that chain of command disciplined?

GRAZIANO: We’re still looking at those situations. There was one person who had actually retired.

GRAHAM: It’s a lack of accountability that makes some skeptical about a city and its leadership trying to heal wounds that still remain open.

PERRY HOPKINS: We need to start addressing the major priorities of, the needs of the community. A need is something that you can’t live without. You can live with a broken doorknob, but you can’t live in the winter with no heat.

GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham, Stephen Janis, and Megan Sherman reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.