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The News Hole

Sheila Dixon's Civics Lesson

Posted 4/5/2006

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Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon announced last week that “Dixon Day,” a two-hour event, will be held on Wednesday, April 12, from 6 till 8 p.m. at the Mary E. Rodman Recreation Center, 3600 W. Mulberry St.

The event, which will feature Dixon talking to city residents, is “is really an effort to educate residents about city government,” says Angela Fraser, a Dixon aide. At Dixon Day, Dixon is expected to “talk about . . . what the different [city] agencies are, what roles they play in city government,” Fraser says.

Dixon, who depicts herself as a stickler for “process,” has lately been in the news for allegedly advocating that Comcast rehire a company that employed her sister, and for funneling $600,000 in city computer work to a former campaign aid, without a city contract. State prosecutors are investigating.

Dixon has staged Dixon Days before, Fraser says, for the past several years. But those events were quiet. “We’re making more of an effort this year to reach out to as many neighborhoods as possible,” she says, adding that this is her first time organizing Dixon Day.

In addition to the April 12 Dixon Day, Fraser says three additional Days of Dixon have been tentatively planned, for June 7, Aug. 23, and Nov. 8, at locations to be determined. “I’m trying to get a pretty good turnout of community residents,” she says. “The target for this one is 50 to 75 people.”

Talking the Talk

Remember what they were saying about electricity deregulation in Annapolis seven years ago?

“I can’t get through an electric utility deregulation bill such as the one before the Assembly this year without the expertise of the BGE lobbyist.” —then-Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (The Sun, Jan. 24, 1999)

“Three years is nothing in the lifetime of a homeowner. What happens after three years if the rates all of a sudden go up 20, 25 percent?” —then-Gov. Parris Glendening (The Sun, Feb. 4, 1999)

“Unfortunately, this legislation fails in many respects to protect the interests of Maryland’s residential customers. If no fix is forthcoming, residential customers might consider saving now for the increases they will face in their electric bills in the not-so-distant future.” —Michael J. Travieso, then the state’s people’s counsel, advocating for residents before the Maryland Public Service Commission (The Washington Post, April 3, 1999)

Query Letter >>>

Who’s Your Pop-Pop?

Dear City Paper:

What are the laws for grandparent visitation rights in the state of Maryland?

Mary, Berlin, Md.

According to Family Law statute 9-102 of the Maryland Code, courts may “consider a petition for reasonable visitation of a grandchild by a grandparent” and grant those rights provided it is “in the best interests of the child.”

But according to Jane Murphy, a professor at the University of Baltimore Law School and director of its Family Law Clinic, it isn’t always quite that easy. Murphy says that before 2000 “it wasn’t very difficult, really, for grandparents to get visitation, even in the face of parental opposition.” But the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case Troxel v. Granville changed that. Now, Murphy says, “the courts are required to give deference to parents who oppose the visitation, particularly when it’s a matter of a parent wanting more limited visitation and the grandparent wanting more extensive visitation.”

Some exceptions are made—particularly if the grandparent can show his or her absence harms the child.

“So, for example, if a grandparent had been extensively involved in child-rearing, and the parent decided all of a sudden to cut off all visits, I think that’s a situation where the court would be willing to interfere,” Murphy says. “But if a fit parent makes a reasonable decision about limiting visits, the court is going to go along with that.”

So grandparents have the right to ask for visitation, but there’s no guarantee they’re going to get it.

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