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

Mel Guapo

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 6/11/2008

On the Agenda for June 2

Bill 08-0082--Bond Issue--Port Discovery Children's Museum Loan--$600,000 This is part of a passel of bond bills to support the city's cultural institutions. The National Aquarium, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Maryland Science Center, Maryland Zoo, Everyman Theatre, and others get these taxpayer-backed dollars to make ends meet. All were on the third reader, and all had gotten favorable reports from the various city agencies. All passed and now go to the mayor.

The Story: Councilmen James Kraft (1st District) and William Cole (11th District) voted against the Port Discovery loan. "It's a really cool place," Cole says. "But in my own mind, I just don't think it rises to the level of those other cultural institutions" that receive city funding. Cole says he and Kraft raised the issue at the bill's hearing, asking questions about the demographics the nonprofit serves, "and whether they can really call it a museum." Cole says he's brought his kids to it, and his family likes the place a lot, but he says "it's a big indoor playground" and it's not free (like, say, the library). So he has a question of policy: "We have a lot of institutions around the city that would love to have consistent capital funding," Cole says, and the council ought to have clear guidelines about who gets what.

Resolution 08-0047R--Informational Hearing-Criminals--Revocation of Federally Subsidized Housing Assistance The bill asks for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano, State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy, and Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld to "address the City Council on the status of . . . interagency collaborative efforts" to keep criminals out of subsidized housing.

The Story: HUD's Section 8 voucher program allows the very poor (some of them, anyway) to get their rent paid by the taxpayers. They go to a landlord, get their rental unit, and pay up to 40 percent of their income in rent. The balance is handled by the voucher. According to the regulations, the voucher can be revoked "if the landlord determines" that the tenant has used drugs, committed a crime, or allowed guests to do so. No conviction in court is required under the regulations. But these evictions are seldom, says Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: "There are honest, law-abiding recipients of this program who essentially have become prisoners in their own homes." She wants the officials to explain why.

Upcoming Hearings: The council's Public Safety and Health Committee will review a couple of juicy bills on June 17, beginning at 10 a.m. 08-0046--Firearms--Reporting Theft or Loss (this would punish those who "forget" to report their gun stolen until after it turns up as a murder weapon; Councilmania, Feb. 20) is up first. Ten minutes later, according to the schedule, Chairman Bernard "Jack" Young (12th District) will hear Bill 08-0047 "Dirt Bikes"--Unregistered Motorcycles and Similar Vehicles--Forfeiture Proceeding, which would require anyone with a dirt bike to keep it locked down while in the city (Councilmania, March 5). Then at 10:30 the same day, Kraft's Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee will take up Bill 08-0063 Property Maintenance--Responsibilities of City as Owner or Operator, which would try to hold the city to the cleanliness standards it imposes on everyone else (Councilmania, March 12), and 08-0092, the bill requiring that address numbers be placed on the backs of houses. The next day, June 18, at 5 p.m., the council's Community Development Subcommittee, chaired by Councilman Cole, will take up the fabled "Inclusionary Housing Regulations" (this used to be called "affordable housing" and, before that, just "housing"). If you can't get to that one, you could tune in on Comcast Cable Channel 25.

City Council Quote of the Week

"I don't really have no regular announcements, but since you said I have this free TV time, I just want to say hi to all the 12th district." --Councilman Jack Young, thinking on his feet.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 21 at 5 p.m.

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