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

City Council Quote of the Week

"We must keep Flipper happy."

--Councilwoman Helen Holton (8th District), in explaining 08-0081, a $500,000 bond bill for the National Aquarium.

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 5/28/2008

On the Agenda for May 19

08-0120 Transfer $14,609,694 to the Police; 08-0121 Transfer $4,396,306 to the Police; 08-0122 Transfer $1,375,312 to the Fire Department; 08-0123 Transfer $6,224,688 to the Fire Department

The story: It's the end of the fiscal year, time to fork over $25 million in supplemental funding to the police and fire departments for "unforeseen" overtime expenditures. Longtime city government watchers are familiar with this scene. Every year, the police ask for $5 million for overtime and end up needing $20 million or more. Why we don't just budget $20 million for it is anyone's guess. That said, this year the police department's overtime expenditures are down, though the fire department's are up. Both departments are chronically short-staffed, they say; Baltimore's police department is around 2,900 people, union president Paul Blair Jr. estimates, not counting the 30 or so deployed to Iraq. The roster is supposed to number 3,200.

08-0127 Accident and Disabled Vehicle Towing This will revise the laws regarding tow truckers who tow cars that have crashed.

The story: "This bill will stop what is a potential insurance scam," says sponsor Councilman Robert Curran (3rd District). He explains that cars towed after an accident--particularly those driven by people who were incapacitated in the crash--are supposed to be hooked by towing companies on a list maintained by the city. Those companies charge fees set by ordinance. But other companies--and Curran did not name them--monitor police radio scanners and try to get to the accident scene before the official guys. Distracted cops seldom notice, so the wrecked cars disappear into these companies' yards and garages, whereupon their owners' insurance companies ransom them out for $600 or $800--six or eight times the typical charge. "It's not a potential [fraud], it is happening right now," Curran says. "We're trying to come much more in line with the way things are done in Baltimore County and other jurisdictions around us."


Mayor Sheila Dixon signed Bill 08-0070, the "Padlock Law," which redefines a property as a "public nuisance" if it receives two police citations--not convictions--for drugs, gambling, prostitution, stolen property, or "persons who engage in a crime of violence on or near the premises" over 24 months, allowing the city to close it down for up to a year. The relevant new language reads as follows: "Two reports by police officers, written in the regular course of business, of a premises' having been used for activities described in paragraph (1) of this subsection are prima facie evidence that the premises are a public nuisance." As they say in the legal world: Govern yourself accordingly.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for June 2 at 5 p.m.


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