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By Daniel Haggerty | Posted 3/29/2006

On the Council Agenda March 20

Resolution 06-0160R

Investigative Hearing: Publicly Owned Municipal Electric Utility

With concerns mounting over estimated utility rate hikes of up to 72 percent, this resolution invites the city’s director of public works and director of finance to study the feasibility of creating a city-owned electric utility to protect residents from soaring electricity costs. The City Council requests that the report be presented to council members in 90 days.

Public Interest Grade: C+ Rate hikes are due to take effect July 1 (94 days from today). As Councilman Bernard “Jack” Young (D-12th District) indicated, the city must take swift action—especially since the average daily temperature in July is 91 degrees and senior citizens and other populations vulnerable to heat-related sickness or death may not be able to afford the higher rates, and thus may not be able to afford air conditioning this summer. As noted in the resolution, there were 11 heat-related deaths in Maryland in 2005 and 27 in 2002. This resolution is a step in the right direction, but as temperatures and rates rise, time is running out.

Resolution 06-0156R

In Support of State Legislation—(Senate Bill 897/House Bill 1486)-Procurement—Commercial Nondiscrimination

Lends support to the passage of a state “Commercial Nondiscrimination Policy,” which would ban any form of discrimination on the part of businesses contracting with the state and implement a system for complaints, investigations, and sanctions resulting from alleged violations.

Public Interest Grade:B+ Baltimore adopted such a policy Feb. 14, and the state should follow suit. The General Assembly needs to take all steps necessary to eliminate any form of discrimination, especially when granting contracts for goods or services. It is hard to believe such practices still exist. It is harder to believe such legislation doesn’t already exist.

Nancy Hinds, vice president of public affairs for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, addressed the City Council regarding “In Celebration of Women,” which, according to BACVA’s web site, is a national campaign created to attract female visitors to Baltimore. Taking place from National Women’s Month in March through Mother’s Day in May, the three-month celebration commemorates the achievements of Baltimore’s most notable women. Men and women alike can obtain more information from the group’s site at www.baltimore.org/women, including a downloadable “passport” containing a variety of “buy one get one free” offers from many of the city’s artistic, cultural, and historical attractions and institutions.

Next City Council meeting: April 4 at 5 p.m.

City Council Quote of the Week

“First we were in the hotel business, now we want to be in the utility business. I don’t think a publicly owned electric utility is the answer.” —Councilman Keiffer Mitchell Jr., D-11th District, in response to a question from City Paper regarding his “no” vote on Resolution 06-0160R, which seeks to investigate creation of a city-owned utility company. Mitchell acknowledged the seriousness of impending rate hikes and indicated he will be introducing a bill in the near future to propose alternative solutions to the problem. In particular, Mitchell says he is concerned with the city’s new energy tax, enacted in 2004.

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