Ever since President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to chide Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) about the state of Baltimore, which sits in the heart of his district, political pundits have debated just how bad the city truly is.
CNN's Victor Blackwell got emotional when he heard Trump's comments about his hometown. A current Baltimore resident, however, confirmed one thing: the city really is rodent infested and Cummings has done nothing to help residents out over the last 20+ years he's been in office.
Turning Point USA's Chief Content Creator, Benny Johnson, hit the streets of Baltimore to talk to residents about their experiences and to set the record straight.
I am in Baltimore. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ district. I spent all day speaking with dozens of people who live in Rep. Cummings’ district. Some have lived here +60 years.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
I learned so much.
Before continuing, ask yourself: Do you want to know the truth?
Here it is…
*thread @tpusa* pic.twitter.com/dLrMXJlsWk
First off, Rep. Cummings has represented this district for +20 years. Everyone I spoke with knew him & was aware that he was beefing with @realDonaldTrump.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
I did not ask about politics - I asked about living conditions in this district.
That is all.
Here is what they said… pic.twitter.com/ZJQTpaSRVp
On being 'Rat Infested':— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
- *Every* person I spoke with *confirmed* that the district was rat infested
- This man told me that rats the “size of cats” run through his house regularly
- One woman told me rats have “taken over” her neighborhood
- One called it a "plague of rats" pic.twitter.com/Sccxl2qRjh
One of the most interesting things to come out of Johnson's trip: a resident showing him a flyer from the city of Baltimore asking residents to pick up trash to keep rats away. The kicker? This flyer was handed out in the last week.
"The best way to prevent rats is to cut off their food source and not provide hiding places for them," the flyer clearly stated.
Rodents are such an issue in Baltimore that the city has a dedicated "Rat Rubout Program."
One of Rep. Elijah Cummings’ constituents went inside their home and returned with this flyer from the city begging them to help with the rat infestation.— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
The flyer said that the trash & "animal feces" in the neighborhood attract the rats.
The flyer was delivered *this week* pic.twitter.com/G5bGUCUJoc
On trash in Rep. Cummings’ district:— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
- There is trash everywhere
- Filth & garbage piled up high in the street
- One building had a big sign that begged ‘DO NOT PUT TRASH HERE’ - below the signs were piles of rotting refuse
- Constituents blamed the trash for the rat infestation pic.twitter.com/UpIqJSCWsC
On crime in Rep. Cummings’ district:— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
- Every constituent said that murders, shootings, drugs run rampant.
- Many told me they were scared & do not go outside after dark.
- One elderly man, “It did not used to be this way. Now we kill each other. Why? Because no one has a job." pic.twitter.com/h221SnGXpd
On the abandoned houses in Rep. Cummings’ district:— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
- Constituents tell me crime, rats, trash, drugs, killings & crumbling infrastructure has forced many out.
- One woman told me she wished the city would just “demolish” her block
- Parts of the district look like a ghost town pic.twitter.com/EqOlei0KEl
One home had a 30 foot tree growing from the basement right through the roof. You could see it from the street. How long has this home been abandoned for a tree to take over the entire house and add *another* story?— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
It was very sad. pic.twitter.com/gwAqpS4gko
Parts of Rep. Cummings’ district look like a foreign war zone. Many homes are so decrepit, they are just crumbling to pieces. Every block I walked had a home with no roof. Some blocks have multiple homes that look like they had been through the battle of Leningrad. pic.twitter.com/rLTtpqfitV— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
Other blocks were just eerie. Row after row of abandoned shells of houses. No signs of life or occupancy anywhere. Just like the people who lived there had vanished. In a way - they have. pic.twitter.com/of2EvLZvEk— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
I want to end with this:— Benny (@bennyjohnson) July 29, 2019
Every person I spoke with in @RepCummings district was deeply kind to my crew & me.
Wonderful, beautiful people.
Here is what they all had in common: They feel abandoned by their politicians.
With a district like this - can you really blame them? pic.twitter.com/aLexSb8zQo
The sad part though? This isn't just an issue in Baltimore city. It's an issue in Baltimore County, which surrounds the city but doesn't include the city itself.
The County provided residents with these tips to help control the issue:
The following steps provide the basis for effective residential rodent control:
- Know your enemy. Review the Rat Facts.
- Be Aware. Inspect your property regularly for signs of rodent activity.
- Be neat. Keep your yard free of trash, debris, high grass or accumulations of building supplies. If you must store materials or equipment outside do so neatly. Organizing and/or elevating stored items helps to reduce harborage and allows you to inspect under and around them more easily.
- Don’t feed the Rats. You may not realize that pet food, dog manure, open garbage cans or cans without tight fitting lids or bags of garbage, bird seed or other food scraps left outside are an open invitation for rats to visit you and establish a home in your yard. Never put household garbage or food scraps in compost piles.
- Cut off their water supply. Dump pails, unused flower pots, toys or equipment in which water can accumulate (standing water also provides a breeding area for mosquitos during the summer months).
- Protect your home. Close any holes you find in the foundation of your house, eliminate cavities under steps, sidewalks, or porches. Close threshold gaps at exterior doors. Provide a heavy one fourth inch mesh screen over sump pump outlets or a tight fitting lid on your sump pump well.
- Think about your own activities. Be sure to clean up any outside eating areas. Minimize spillage around the Bar- B-Q. Greasy residue on a patio or porch or food residue allowed to build up on cooking equipment may attract rodents for extended periods of time. The feeding of wild animals such as birds and squirrels must cease and vegetable gardens or even fruit trees may have to be removed for rodent abatement measures to be effective.
- Don’t build in problems. Try to utilize construction methods that minimize or eliminate crawl spaces under decks or sheds. If building low to the ground is unavoidable utilize heavy one fourth inch wire mesh to close perimeter gaps. Remember rats can slip through spaces of one half an inch and are energetic diggers. Wire mesh should extend below ground at least 1 foot to deter tunneling.
- Communicate. Talk to your family and your neighbors. They may not realize that a problem exists. Rodent infestations must be addressed by everyone if they are to be successfully controlled or eliminated.
- Fight the Rat. When you see a rat, rat run, or rat burrow, take action immediately. The problem won’t just go away. Fill in the burrow to see if it is reopened, indicating an on going infestation. You should take measures to exterminate the existing population. Many bait station or trap products are available at local hardware and lawn and garden stores. You may wish to utilize a certified professional pest control operator. Just remember, any abatement must be accompanied by a continuing effort on your part to use The Rat Control Tips.
There's even a section in county codes and ordinances which talk about "rodent control." if Baltimore County finds a rodent infestation, abatement can occur.
"If the Code Official, the County Health Officer or the Director finds that a public health emergency exists because the infestation of a building, structure, dump, or other premises by rodents or other vermin is likely to cause disease to be spread to human beings, the Code Official, the County Health Officer or the Director may summarily abate the condition of infestation without prior notice to owners or occupants," the county code says.
In fact, the Baltimore County website has an entire section dedicated to "Rat Attack,"
"Rats are a community problem that must be addressed by all residents. When a rat infestation exists at one location it may easily spread to adjacent properties," the website states. "To help alleviate this problem, Baltimore County has hired a licensed exterminator to treat areas affected by this issue. We will be treating homes with alley access. Notification signs of when treatment will begin will be placed at the main street entrances of your community."
And no one can say this is a new problem. The website was last updated May 9, 2016. This has been on-going.
Why is this even up for debate? Baltimore residents have said their city is filled with trash and, as a result, rodents are infesting their city. The county has guidelines on their website to urge residents to take an active role in preventing the very infestations that are becoming so controversial. The county has hired an exterminator that does nothing but respond to rat infestations.
Nothing has changed in Baltimore. How many more residents need to step forward and say there's a problem before the mainstream media takes them seriously? How many more residents need to call out Cummings for being a failure before the mainstream media takes note and agrees with them?
Editors note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Baltimore was part of Baltimore County.