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

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 2/20/2008

On the Agenda for Feb. 11

08-0046 Firearms--Reporting Theft or Loss First District Councilman James Kraft introduced this bill to require that city residents report to police loss or theft of any gun. Failure to do so within 48 hours would be considered a misdemeanor subject to a $250 fine.

Public Interest Grade: A As Kraft explained, the idea is to be able to better track guns used in crimes. Right now, if a gun used in a crime is traced back to a legitimate owner, he or she can say it was stolen, leaving investigators with a dead end. The city, state, and nation could do more to track guns, but the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers have blocked reasonable legislation for years. As Mayor Sheila Dixon works to get guns off Baltimore's streets, we hope to see more actions tracing gun sales into the city and charging those trafficking firearms illegally.

08-0018R--Informational Hearing--Bureau of Accounting and Payroll Services--Payroll Activities This calls on the finance and human resource directors, along with the payroll chief, to explain why so many city workers have gotten fouled-up paychecks in recent years.

Public Interest Grade: A Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says her office has received numerous complaints from employees about "overpayment, underpayment, and nonpayment" of wages and salary. City Paper has heard of several cases as well, including a glitch with a reimbursement check that nearly cost an employee his job when he was accused of trying to steal less than $50 ("Watching the Inspectors," Feature, Nov. 7). Rawlings-Blake described a case in which, she said, "an employee was paid pennies for a two-week period." It's inexcusable and ought to be fixed now.

08-0019R The Restoration of Federal Funding to the HOPE VI Program This is a resolution calling on Maryland's congressional delegation to stuff some funding into the federal housing program that showers money on cities like Baltimore. But it didn't pass because there wasn't a quorum to suspend the rules.

Public Interest Grade: B Sure, Baltimore needs money for housing. We still have our doubts, though, about the housing department's priorities and practices. The funny thing about this resolution is why it didn't pass immediately: The council's meeting was delayed by about 45 minutes because both Rawlings-Blake and Council Vice President Edward Reisinger were at a rally for Barack Obama, as were Bill Henry (4th), Sharon Green Middleton (6th), Belinda Conaway (7th), Helen Holton (8th), and Agnes Welch (9th). Eventually only Rawlings-Blake and Conaway made the meeting, leaving the council one vote short of the number needed to speed the resolution to passage. It was the second week in a row that the council did not suspend the rules, as is customary for a resolution, though this time it did not appear deliberate.

City Council Fact Of The Week

The council's Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee will hold a hearing on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, 08-0013R, on March 11 at 10 a.m. in the council chambers.

City Council Quote Of The Week

"I won! We've got to teach this to [13th District Councilman] Warren [Branch]. This is how we're going to decide things from now on!" --14th District Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, after learning the rules of rock-paper-scissors from a young man in the audience while waiting 45 minutes for the council meeting to start.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.

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