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

By Daniel Haggerty | Posted 10/4/2006

On the Council Agenda Sept. 25

Resolution 06-0220R Informational Hearing--Baltimore Police Department Policy--Recording of Custodial Interrogations Requests the Baltimore police commissioner report to the City Council on the department's policy regarding the use of video and audio recordings in interrogations.

Public Interest Grade: A As the resolution notes, 238 agencies in 38 states already use such technology during custodial interrogations. According to various studies, the practice streamlines the trial process by creating a "clear and conclusive" record of the interrogation and also protects citizens from false charges and police officers from false accusations.

Resolution 06-0219R Informational Hearing--City Process--Auctioning Cars Off Before Their Time? Requests that the director of the Baltimore Department of Transportation report to the council on current policies regarding auctioning off automobiles that have been towed.

Public Interest Grade: BAccording to the resolution, in 2006 10,176 of the 46,501 cars towed by the city were sold at auction. Many of the owners, however, were not properly notified of the proceedings, and it is reported that hundreds of cars have been wrongfully sold. Although abandoned cars are an eyesore and pose many risks for our communities, citizens cannot be punished for insufficient or total lack of communication on the part of city agencies. The city needs to work with transportation officials and the police department to ensure the proper safeguards are in place to protect citizens' private property. Our only issue with this City Council effort is that it's just a resolution, which holds no real authority--we'd love to see some legislation pass that would actually force the city to change its handling of towed vehicles. Honk if you want your car towed and sold without your knowledge.

City Council Quote of the Week

"I don't want anyone to think we're sneaking slots in." --Council Vice President Stephanie Rawlings Blake (D-6th District), referencing Bill 06-0489, which would provide funding for renovations to the Hooper Center/Casino Building located in Patterson Park. As Rawlings Blake clarified, "casino" simply describes the building's structure, not its intended use.

City Council Fact of the Week

Council Demographics: In the Baltimore City Council, eight of the 15 members (53.3 percent) are women, including Council President Sheila Dixon and Vice President Stephanie Rawlings Blake. Compared to the city council demographics of other large cities on the East Coast, Baltimore is unique in its female-member majority. As a comparison, in Washington women occupy four of 13 seats (30.8 percent). In New York, women hold 17 of 51 districts (33.3 percent). In Philadelphia, women control six of 14 seats (42.9 percent). (Note: There are currently two vacancies on the Philadelphia City Council that will be filled by special election in November.) Interestingly, however, in each of these other three cities, as in our own, the head of the city council (president, chair, speaker, etc.) is female.

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