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Keeping tabs on the City Council's activities so you don't have to

By Stephen Janis | Posted 8/24/2005

On the Council Agenda Aug. 15

Bill 05-0093: Convention Center Hotel Revenue Obligations

For better or worse, the City Council put Baltimore in the hotel business by approving a $305 million bond for the construction of 752-room Hilton just east of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Public Interest Grade: D+ Councilman Keiffer Mitchell Jr.’s (D-11th District) proposed, but never voted on, bill that would have appointed an independent advisory committee to study this deal would have gone a long ways toward making us feel better about this project.

Bill 05-0244: Ethics—Baltimore Development Corp.

In the wake of the debate over the city’s plan to build the convention center headquarters hotel, the Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-public agency that sold the hotel idea to the City Council, has come under scrutiny. This bill seeks to hold BDC employees accountable under city ethics rules—a major shift from the city’s current hands-off policy toward the agency, which has been run since 1996 as a nonprofit that “contracts” with the city to provide economic-development services.

Public Interest Grade: A People who negotiate deals on behalf of the citizens of Baltimore should be subject to the city’s ethics laws.

Bill 05-0248: Baltimore Affordable Housing Program

Lays the groundwork for administering $59 million in affordable-housing development money pledged by the administration to mollify critics of the convention center hotel—most notably, the community activists and affordable-housing advocates behind B.U.I.L.D., who raised a ruckus when the hotel was first proposed, noting that the city should have committed the funds to affordable housing a long time ago.

Public Interest Grade: C+ The city loses points not for pledging this money 20 years ago, and for making taxpayers spend $305 million to get it.

Bill 05-0075R: Investigative Hearing—Establishing the Utilization of Unused Prescription Medications Pilot Program

In 2001 The Journal of Family Medicine estimated that $1 billion worth of unused prescription drugs are thrown away each year. Councilman Kenneth Harris Sr. (D-4th) proposed this resolution asking the city to investigate the possibility of distributing unused prescriptions to residents. It’s based on similar programs in Oklahoma and Louisiana, both of which collect unused prescription medicine from institutions such as nursing homes and hospitals and distribute them to low-income and uninsured individuals.

Public Interest Grade: B+ for concept.

City Council Fact of the Week:

This week’s City Council meeting was moved across the hall from its regular quarters in City Hall to the Curran Room while a leak was being repaired in the ceiling of the body’s usual meeting place. The move marked one of the council’s infrequent returns to the chambers that, almost a century ago, was the home of the council’s “upper house,” back when it was a bicameral legislative body. The council did not convert to a single body until in 1922.

City Council Quote of the Week:

“My parents told me to look in the mirror every morning. I brought that mirror with me, and I’m looking at it now, and it’s telling me to vote no.” —Council Nicholas D’Adamo Jr. (D-2nd) on his reason for voting against the convention center hotel financing bill, while gazing into a mirror with NO written on it.

Next City Council meeting: Sept. 19

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