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

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 9/24/2008

On the Agenda for Sept. 15

Bill 08-0204--Zoning--Liquor Stores: Packaged Goods Would adjust the zoning law to require liquor store owners to get City Council permission for expansion.

The Read: Fourth District Councilman Bill Henry, who introduced the bill, says a corner bar in his neighborhood bought an adjoining building and told neighbors it would be a dining room for a restaurant, which was fine with them. But then the space was converted it into a liquor store, which is not fine with the neighbors but is, apparently, fine according to existing city law. The bill would prevent that kind of thing from happening in the future.

Bill 08-0205--Plastic Bag Prohibition Would prohibit grocers and other shops from using common plastic grocery bags, mandating recycled paper or reusable bags instead.

The Read: It's back. First District Councilman James Kraft introduced a similar bill last year ("Jim Quixote," Mobtown Beat, March 12). It had public hearings, committee meetings, input from store owners, unions, environmentalists, legal scholars and the pope, who issued an encyclical last March regarding the subject (kidding!). Among other (mostly unflattering) things, the people told Kraft they wanted the city's Commission on Sustainability to handle this matter, so, he says, "I have introduced what I call the pure bill." He expects it will emerge from the commission early in 2009.

Resolution 08-0063R--Public Information Campaign--"Dirt Bikes"--Unregistered motorcycles and similar vehicles Asks the police and transportation commissioners to develop a public-information campaign explaining which two-wheelers are OK and which are banned.

The Read: Sixth District Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton introduced the bill, explaining that both the citizens of her district and (apparently) the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration are confused about Baltimore City's ordinance (Councilmania, March 5). Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake adds, "There certainly needs to be more education on specifically which vehicles are prohibited and which are allowed." FYI, dirt bikes = N.G., but Vespa scooters and mopeds = OK

Bill 08-0096--Public Parks, Squares, etc.--Closure Requirements This would make it impossible for anyone to get a permit to close a public park for more than three days without City Council approval.

The Read: Good idea, all council members agree. The bill is a response to last year's gold chain-link fence fiasco of an art project surrounding the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon (Councilmania, April 16). But it turns out, according to the city's law department, that the city charter forbids the council from meddling in the parks department's business. The council passed the bill to Third Reader, despite the disapproval of the city attorney and the director of parks and recreation. "It was a . . . shock to this body to find out that this body has no legal authority to tell the parks department how to manage their space," 11th District Councilman William Cole says.

City Council Quote of the Week

"If we can't decide when to close a park, how can they ask us to approve the sale of properties?" --12th District Councilman Bernard "Jack" Young, commenting on the law department's opinion that the council has no authority over city park closings.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 6, at 5 p.m.

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