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

Frank Klein

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 3/26/2008

On the Agenda for March 17

Bills 08-0072-08-0086--Bond Issues for city schools, parks, buildings, museums, etc.

The Story The City Council, without comment, referred to committee 15 separate measures totaling $125 million for major art institutions and for city economic development and infrastructure projects. If approved by the voters in the next election, the taxpayer-backed, tax-exempt bonds will include $750,000 for the Baltimore Museum of Art, $30.5 million for community development, $15.3 million for economic development, $3 million for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, $500,000 for the Everyman Theatre, $1 million for the Lyric Opera House, $300,000 for the Maryland Zoo, $400,000 for the Maryland Science Center, $300,000 for the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, $500,000 for the National Aquarium, $600,000 for Port Discovery, $12.5 million for public buildings, $16 million for the Department of Recreation and Parks, $43 million for city schools, and $350,000 for the Walters Art Museum.

Resolution 08-0029R Opportunity Budget--Next Phase is Agency Status Resolution calls for a new budget line for youth after-school and summer programs.

The Story During the last three years, a network of youth-services programs has been funded through surpluses in the city's budget. This year there will be no surplus, so sponsor Mary Pat Clarke (14th District) is asking Mayor Sheila Dixon and the city's finance director to create a line item for the programs in the city budget. "So in hard times, children first," Clarke says.

Resolution 0030R End the War in Iraq This resolution urges the "prompt withdrawal" of U.S. military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, with the money saved being put toward job creation, "universal health care," school funding, and assistance for those facing mortgage foreclosure.

The Story Besides the several hundred thousand excess deaths in Iraq, including 4,000 U.S. servicepeople, the war in Iraq has cost about $1 trillion dollars so far. Resolution sponsor Bill Henry (4th District) broke down the cost by state, saying Maryland's share of the war cost would be $60 billion: "I was asked by a colleague why I was bothering to do this. I said, `Think about how much easier our agenda would be if Maryland had $60 billion to spend on our needs.'" The state budget is about $30 billion a year.

Resolution 0031R Informational hearing--Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City Asks the Liquor License Board to come in and explain why so many city liquor establishments flout the law and what might be done about it.

The Story Baltimore taverns are not always what their license says they are. Some act more as liquor stores--but with late-night and Sunday hours--and keep the bar or lounge area full of liquor cases. This is an old story, but the resolution's introduction by City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake prompted several council members to complain about the scofflaw "BD 7" liquor license holders. "When I first saw this resolution I was so elated I wished I had thought of it before you," said Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton (6th District). She singled out the 5100 block of Park Heights Avenue as a trouble spot. Councilman William Cole (11th District) thanked Rawlings-Blake and opined that in some neighborhoods "most BD 7 establishments are operating as liquor stores."

Resolution 0032R Informational Hearing--Neighborhood Self-Service Transaction Kiosks Calls for a study of the benefits of installing in public buildings machines that people could use to pay parking tickets and other municipal bills and fines using cash and other payment methods.

The Story According to the resolution, introduced by Rawlings-Blake, Chicago and Milwaukee have already installed these machines (think of them as sort of reverse ATMs) in libraries and police stations, making it convenient for the "unbanked" population to pay city fines and fees without having to leave work to go to City Hall in the middle of the day. The resolution estimates that the machines could save the city money while offering convenience to the dunned. "I think this is an excellent, excellent bill," enthused Councilman Nicholas D'Adamo Jr. (2nd District). "It's nothing for people to come downtown to pay a bill or a parking ticket and leave and find a ticket on their car."


Resolution 08-0013R Request for Support of State Legislation--Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act This resolution was amended to allow the council to go on record in support of any bill--not just this session's General Assembly bill (SB 290)--that would give legal imprimatur to civil unions between gay or lesbian couples. Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector (5th District) said the open-ended nature of the resolution troubled her, in that a future legislator could put a very different bill under a similar title. She voted against the resolution, as did Bernard "Jack" Young (12th District) and Warren Branch (13th District). Agnes Welch (9th District) abstained.

The trans fats prohibition bill (08-0034) passed unanimously.

City Council Quote of the Week

"There's not too much about the 5100 block of Park Heights Avenue that reminds me of Cheers." --City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, on why it's time for the Liquor License Board to crack down on taverns that illegally operate as late-night liquor stores.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for April 7 at 5 p.m.

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