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

By Daniel Haggerty | Posted 5/3/2006

On the Council Agenda April 24

Bill 05-0051 Illegal Signs-Penalties—Private Enforcement Further discourages the posting of various illegal signs and advertisements (particularly of the WE BUY HOUSES variety) on public property by doubling civil penalties.

Public Interest Grade: B Introduced more than a year ago, on Feb. 28, 2005, this bill essentially deputizes all citizens, granting them authority to remove illegal signs. It promotes proactive residential action with an incentive to share collected fines with individually designated community nonprofit organizations. Although there are some issues regarding the ability to actually collect and fairly distribute such funds, the city needs all the help it can get in combating promotional litter. Vigilantes with scissors, unite.

Resolution 06-0169R Baltimore City Celebration of 2006 National Volunteer Week, April 23-29 Recognizes the countless individuals throughout Baltimore and the nation who volunteer their time and talents to needy causes. Beyond a mere recognition of such generous individuals, the resolution also requests the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth, and Families to compile a database of individuals who would like to volunteer their time and services within the city.

Public Interest Grade: A As the resolution notes, in 2005, the collective efforts of volunteers across the country amounted to $280 billion in total value hours. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, of the approximately 40,000 people in the U.S. who sought to volunteer in 2005, only 8,000 actually found meaningful opportunities. A comprehensive database would be an essential tool to help ensure that Baltimore does not squander such valuable resources. In the spirit of the resolution, the city should recruit volunteers to assist with the initiative.


Mary Pat Clarke

City Council Quote of the Week

“There is not a single district in the Baltimore Police Department that is up to ‘authorized strength.’” —Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District), citing information she recently learned that supports previously introduced resolution 06-0166R, which encourages Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm to transfer more police officers from specialized units to uniformed patrol. In fact, Councilwoman Clarke said that the Northern District, which she called the most poorly staffed of the nine, is currently 30 officers short of its “authorized strength” of 165 officers.

City Council Fact of the Week

Sure, we all had the lecture in grade school on “how a bill becomes a law,” but do you know how it works in our City Council? Briefly and in general: After a bill is introduced at the “first reading,” it is assigned to a committee, which then holds a hearing to consider agency recommendations and take public testimony. During the “second reading,” the committee reports its recommendation to the council, which then debates and amends the bill and takes an initial vote. At the “third reading,” the council takes a final vote on the bill. If the vote fails, the bill goes no further. Successful votes are passed on to the mayor, who may either sign the bill or veto it.

Next City Council meeting: May 1 at 5 p.m.

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