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

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 10/10/2007

On the Agenda for Oct. 1

07-0814 Bond Fund Capital Appropriation Transfer--Baltimore City Public Schools (Account #9904-129-086) to The Department of Housing and Community Development (Account #9910-587-037)--$1,500,000

Public Interest Grade: D Not for the transfer, but for introducing a million dollar transaction with no explanation. There were 10 "supplementary general fund operating appropriations" on the agenda, and each one, from a $1 million health department program to $65,000 to study the archives at the department of legislative reference, was explained, albeit briefly. Not so this bond transfer. Council Vice President Robert Curran (D-3rd) later said he didn't know what the money was for and suggested looking up the account numbers at the Department of Finance. (We e-mailed them: The money is for the repair and improvements to five charter schools.) The bill referred to the Sept. 26 Board of Estimates meeting, but minutes for that are not available for "45 days" according to the web site, and the web site only allows one to look at the immediate-past agenda. Thus, a citizen curious about what's happening here is forced into a paper chase. The council should identify spending bills' purpose in the header; the Board of Estimates ought to post minutes and past agendas online.

07-0829 Dangerous Animals--Required Restraints for the purpose of strengthening the restraint requirements for dangerous animals; and generally relating to animal control and protection

Public Interest Grade: D It doesn't make sense to make new laws where the existing laws are unenforced. In July Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (D-7th) introduced a law that would deny new dog licenses to keepers of "vicious dogs." (Councilmania, July 25). Like any of them ever had licenses. This bill, sponsored by Agnes Welch (D-9th), might be worse, in that it proposes confining dogs that have attacked humans "unprovoked" to a 6-by-4-foot steel cage, its construction amply detailed in the bill. But who decides what's "unprovoked?" And who is going to inspect these cages?

(No Bill Number) Resolution from the Floor: Investigative Hearing: Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Public Interest Grade: A The most interesting action the council took last week was a debate over a resolution that was not introduced. Councilwoman Helen Holton (D-8th) tried to schedule an "investigative hearing" into Baltimore Housing's use of an "affordable housing trust fund." As The Sun (and the Abell Foundation) reported recently, the city Housing Department has used much of the $59 million fund to demolish old public housing stock and has no plans to build new units for the poor. The council debated procedural issues with the majority voting against a motion to allow Holton to introduce her resolution. "We have occasionally allowed people to put from the floor if it's time sensitive," says Council Vice President Robert Curran (D-3rd), citing Holton's resolution the previous week on Active Aging. "This could be submitted two weeks from now. . . . the investigation's not going to go away." Curran voted no, but supporters, including Keiffer Mitchell (D-11th) and Jack Young (D-12th), noted that the housing department is spending these millions right now. "The longer we wait," said Young, "the more money is being dipped out of that affordable housing trust fund."

City Council Quote of the Week

"We have the opportunity not to respond with a knee-jerk reaction, but instead with a considered reaction." --Council President Stephanie Rawlings Blake, in stamping out Councilwoman Helen Holton's attempt to introduce a resolution from the floor calling for an investigative hearing on why Baltimore Housing is using a $59 million "affordable housing trust fund" almost solely to demolish housing.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 15, at 5 p.m.

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