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

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 9/26/2007

On the agenda for Sept. 17

07-0783--Supplementary Tax Increment Loan Fund Capital Appropriation--Department of Housing and Community Development--$85 million The first in a series of ordinances introduced to begin "Phase II" of the transformation of the city's east side to accommodate the Johns Hopkins biotech park development.

Public Interest Grade: Undecided The grade one gives this measure depends greatly on one's attitude toward East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI), the nonprofit charged with shepherding the project through, and its work on the project so far. The $85 million, fronted through government bond sales, will go to the now-familiar "acquisition of property," "site removal," and "relocation of businesses and/or residents" in the Hopkins-dominated zone north of Madison Street. The money will be repaid, if all goes according to plan, by the new taxpayers who'll move into the much more valuable properties after the high-tech prettification. Mayor Sheila Dixon has planned a new public school with the excess funds (and two old school buildings, Henderson and Luther Craven elementaries, are going to EBDI). So, if you're a renter in the way of redevelopment, you'll probably give this a D-. If, on the other hand, you're a developer, contractor, or planning professional hooked to the deal, it's a solid A+ for you. Either way, progress marches on.

07-0327R--Informational Hearing--Is Legalization of Drugs the Answer for Baltimore City? The resolution's sponsor, 12th district City Councilman Bernard "Jack" Young, made a wobbly speech declaring, "it's just a hearing asking for a dialogue," as if to inoculate himself and the council against charges that they're somehow pro-smack.

Public Interest Grade: A Everybody with eyes and ears knows the "War on Drugs" is a colossal failure, at least in terms of 1) discouraging drug use; and 2) promoting safer streets and healthier people. As a method for social control, however, the drug war has been effective as hell. It has marginalized three generations of inner-city residents and locked up millions of young, mostly African-American men while bolstering both a militarized police culture and a "drug treatment" industry that spends billions recycling addicts through ineffective detox programs and overpriced group housing. You bet we ought to talk about it.

07-0329R--An Invitation to Engage in Constructive Dialogue--Baltimore City Youth: Why Are Some of Your Pants Hanging So Low? Sponsor Helen Holton (8th District) pitches this as a dialogue and a query, but her disapproval comes through loud and clear, as she says of baggy-jeans aficionados, "How are we to respect them?"

Public Interest Grade: F What Holton fails to consider is that baggy jeans are an aid to law enforcement. Last year the Wall Street Journal listed a half-dozen or more cases in which suspects, ranging from a purse snatcher to armed robbers, literally tripped on their own falling pants while running from cops. As noncriminals have nothing to fear from this phenomenon, city officials ought to encourage the wearing of baggies.

City Council Quote of the Week

"I firmly believe that this is a cry and an indication of a need that is not being met in their lives." --Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, regarding baggy-pants fashion.

City Council Fact of the Week

The council handled a 94-item agenda in less than an hour.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 1 at 5 p.m.

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